Immediately following bariatric surgery, the liquid phase begins. This diet phase, which includes consuming only clear liquids, protein shakes, soups, and milk for approximately 14 days, is extremely important and plays a huge role in helping patients heal properly, but it isn't always the easiest to follow.
Many post-op patients find it frustrating to follow such a strict, limited diet. Luckily, registered dietitians can make the liquid phase for bariatric surgery easier to follow and less frustrating by providing patients with a comprehensive look at what exactly they can or can't eat.
After bariatric surgery, the body needs time to heal. Consuming only liquids, according to the patient manual published by Tufts Medical Center, allows the body to naturally adjust to the smaller stomach whether a lapband, gastric bypass, or gastric sleeve procedure was performed.
In addition to helping the body to heal, the liquid phase for bariatric surgery is necessary to help the patient adjust to a new diet regimen. Post-op bariatric surgery patients eat less because they feel fuller faster. Starting with a liquid only diet allows the patient to slowly transition back to normal eating. The slow transition back to solid foods helps dramatically reduce uncomfortable side effects, such as stomach pains and nausea, which many patients experience after bariatric surgery.
The liquid phase for bariatric surgery can actually be broken up into two separate sections. There is the first part, which starts immediately after surgery and lasts five to seven days. This phase is the clear liquid phase. After the clear liquid phase, a patient transitions to a liquid only diet that includes thicker liquids. The thicker liquid phase lasts approximately two weeks after the patient has stopped clear liquids.
The options provided to patients will vary depending upon what stage of the liquid phase they are in.
Options for the clear liquid phase, according to an article published by The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, include:
The goal of the clear liquid phase is to provide nourishment while working through any nausea or vomiting that occurs immediately after surgery. This dietary phase is also designed to focus on keeping patients hydrated. Proper hydration not only speeds up the healing process, but it helps to prevent other health problems.
The options expand once a patient enters the full liquid phase for bariatric surgery. The options, according to an article published in The Ochsner Journal, for fully liquid stage include:
Another great option for food during the full liquid phase for bariatric surgery is nutritious meal replacement pouches, like Achieve from Rational Foods. Made using organic fruits and vegetables and containing 20 grams of protein, these meal replacement pouches provide patients with all the nutrition they need to continue with the healing process.
Post-op patients in the liquid phase for bariatric surgery like meal replacement pouches like Achieve because they taste just like real food. They don't taste artificial, have a weird aftertaste, or feel chalky or chunky in consistency. In fact, it makes the patient feel like they are consuming real, solid foods. Patients are more likely to follow this strict liquid diet if they feel as if they are consuming 'real' food that they enjoy.
Considering how important the liquid phase for bariatric surgery is to the recovery of a patient, it’s important to do everything you can to encourage compliance with this dietary stage. Providing patients with multiple options increases the likelihood that they will comply because it allows patients to find flavorful liquids that will prevent them from getting frustrated and wanting to stray from their diet.