The decision to pursue weight loss surgery is a momentous one. Not only is the surgery itself a major procedure, but the lifestyle changes that go along with it can also be overwhelming. However, the more bariatric patients understand what to expect regarding bariatric surgery and bariatric nutrition, the better prepared they'll be to succeed.
These 10 commonly asked questions are a great starting point when it comes to equipping your patients with the knowledge they need to reach their health and weight loss goals following bariatric surgery.
A: Beginning two to three weeks before the procedure, most surgeons will put their patients on pre-operative diets. This helps make the surgery safer by reducing abdominal fat and shrinking your liver, which can reduce the risk of complications.
Additionally, your insurance company may require you to follow a physician-monitored diet in the months leading up to the surgery. This is usually to promote food education and ensure compliance.
A: Because the body has trouble absorbing several important nutrients after surgery, you will need to take multivitamins for the rest of your life to reduce these deficiencies. Additionally, you may also require higher doses of iron, calcium, vitamin D, or other vitamins and minerals. Yearly lab checks will help determine your supplement needs.
A: Bariatric diets follow a staged approach as you recover and ease back into eating solid food. Patients begin with clear liquids before moving onto other liquids. When your body is able to tolerate the liquids, you will be able to move onto pureed foods and then soft foods. About eight weeks after surgery, most patients return to solid foods (although all foods must still be diced or chopped.).
The speed at which you progress through these stages depends entirely on how your own body heals and adjusts.
A: According to the Mayo Clinic: “Three to four months after weight-loss surgery, you may be able to start eating a normal healthy diet, depending on your situation and any foods you may not be able to tolerate. It's possible that foods that initially irritated your stomach after surgery may become more tolerable as your stomach continues to heal.”
A: Most doctors recommend avoiding certain foods because they may lead to pain, nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms. These include nuts and seeds, popcorn, stringy or fibrous vegetables, dried fruits, carbonated beverages, granola, tough meats, breads, and fried foods. Some of these may be tried again under the guidance of your physician. Listening to your healthcare team and your own body will help facilitate best results.
Additionally, you may initially be sensitive to certain foods, such as dairy products and spicy foods. Introduce these foods to your diet gradually and in small amounts.
A: Protein is the most important component in the post-surgical diet, with most patients requiring between 60 and 80 grams of protein daily. Protein should be part of every snack and meal you eat. In addition to helping you fulfill your nutritional needs, protein can also help you feel fuller for longer thereby further supporting your weight loss goals.
A: According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS): “The body needs additional protein during the period of rapid weight loss to maintain your muscle mass. Protein is also required to have a healthy metabolism. If you don’t provide enough protein in your diet, the body will take its protein from your muscles and you can become weak.”
The good news? There are many different ways to get protein into your diet. Our pick? Achieve from Rational Foods. Not only is each pouch packed with 20 grams of protein, but it’s also portable, shelf-stable, and made with real, organic ingredients.
A: Dehydration is the most common cause of hospital readmissions following weight loss surgery. Shoot for 64 ounces of fluid a day and plan to drink throughout the day — even when you’re not thirsty. (Drinking with meals, however, is cautioned against, as this can accelerate the passage of food through your system and cause you to be hungry sooner.) If you are unable to drink enough fluid to stay hydrated, talk to your doctor.
A: Most doctors recommend avoiding caffeine for the first month after surgery because your stomach may be sensitive to it. Also, keep in mind that caffeine is often an ingredient in high-sugar, high-calorie drinks. So while your surgeon or dietitian may approve caffeine after the first 30 days or so, you should still proceed with caution when choosing beverages.
A: While this may not technically be a nutrition question, it’s a huge piece of the weight loss puzzle. Most physicians will recommend starting gentle exercise — such as short walks — right away. While starting slow is important, you can progress from low impact to more rigorous workouts over time. In addition to following your doctor’s advice, listen to your own body.