Dietary & Nutrition Considerations after Bariatric Surgery
You’ve heard that the real work to lose weight begins after the surgical procedure. And while bariatric surgery does jumpstart your weight loss, the dietary program you will follow after surgery is key to weight loss success and long-term weight maintenance. Regardless of the procedure you undergo, your diet will be limited to some degree. However, we encourage our patients to look at it more as normalizing their food intake, rather than going on, what we traditionally consider to be, a diet. The long-term diet is restrictive, yes, but only when compared to your prior eating habits.
Early Dietary Changes
In the hospital and shortly after discharge, you will be placed on a clear liquid diet. This is any transparent liquid like water, broth, Gatorade/Powerade Zero, and any clear liquids that are sugar free, caffeine free, and carbonation free. The goal here is to jump start the weight loss process, but also to stay hydrated and allow the stomach to begin healing. In a week, you will transition to a full liquid diet. Your options will begin opening as you can eat certain soups, yogurts, hot cereals and more.
The soft food diet will begin about two weeks after your procedure and after your first follow up consultation with your bariatric surgeon. Your diet will still be restricted; however, you will be able to enjoy some foods you haven’t seen in a while. Refer to your post-operative packet to understand exactly what you can and can’t eat. However, as a rule of thumb, you should be able to eat anything that plastic fork tender or can easily be cut with a plastic fork. This can include well-cooked vegetables, certain stewed meats, soft cheeses, and well-cooked legumes.
During this time, you will be consuming protein shakes, which are important for maintaining muscle mass and helping your body recover from surgery. We recommend bariatric-specific protein shakes as they are formulated to follow your dietary requirements. However, with careful choices, you can also develop your own protein shake using commercial brands.
Longer-term dietary changes
After about six weeks, you will likely be back at work, fully recovered from the surgery itself and able to introduce regular food into your diet. As you start, it is important to go slow. Your body is not accustomed to these foods, so they should be introduced one at a time. Here, it becomes imperative to chew slowly and thoroughly. Not only will this help better digest the food with your new smaller stomach pouch, but it will also keep you from overeating. You will have a full list of foods to avoid, but these will include empty carbs, high sugar or high fat foods, fried foods, carbonated drinks and alcohol.
A note on hydration
No matter what stage of the of the diet process you’re in, you must stay hydrated, which involves at least 64 ounces of fluid each day. This will be hard in the beginning, but as you devote yourself to achieving this, it will become easier and easier. This is a critical part of the bariatric diet. That said, we recommend not drinking within 30 minutes before or after a meal. This ensures that you get enough nutrition through your food. It also reduces the risk of post meal discomfort in the form of dumping syndrome.
The nutritional component after bariatric surgery
For all its benefits, the gastric bypass and the duodenal switch procedure increases the risk of a nutritional deficiency because of the malabsorptive component of the procedure – bypassing a portion of the small intestine. As a result, all patients will take a daily multivitamin and may also need additional supplementation of calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Gastric bypass patients will need an additional supplementation of iron. Duodenal switch patients will need an additional supplementation of extra iron and fat soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, E, K). This will all be monitored in the follow up appointments after surgery. While gastric sleeve patients have a lower risk of nutritional deficiencies, they still require a daily multivitamin for the rest of their lives. Once again, blood levels will be checked regularly, and vitamin and mineral supplementation will be adjusted accordingly.
For more information on the post-operative diet, or if you are concerned about a nutritional deficiency, we encourage you to contact our Jacksonville office and get back on track.