Bariatric surgery represents one of the best chance millions of people have to lose weight and live better. However, weight loss surgery isn’t a “magic bullet' or cure-all. Rather, it’s a tool — one that requires proper management on the part of patients.
There’s a lot of information (and misinformation) out there about bariatric nutrition following weight loss surgery. Unfortunately, weeding through all of it can be time-consuming and overwhelming.
The good news? We’ve gone ahead and done the work for you. Here are 10 'need to know' things about bariatric nutrition.
Bariatric dietary guidelines are designed to best support success following weight loss surgery. The closer patients adhere to these guidelines, the more likely they are to be successful in reaching their weight loss and weight management goals.
Depending on the type of bariatric surgery, post-op patients gradually advance through stages designed to acclimate their bodies to a new way of eating. “How quickly you move from one step to the next depends on how fast your body heals and adjusts to the change in eating patterns. You can usually start eating regular foods about three months after surgery,” says the Mayo Clinic.
While adapting to a new way of eating can be challenging at first, it gets easier with practice. In fact, many post-op patients report that eating a bariatric diet eventually feels like a natural part of their daily routines.
Says UCSF Medical Center, “It is important to know that following surgery, your stomach size is very small - less than 1/4 cup, or about the size of an egg. The opening that allows food to pass out of your stomach is also very narrow. For this reason, it is important to take only two to three sips or bites at a time of any new food and then wait 10 minutes before taking more. This will help you learn your limits and tolerance.”
Post-op patients should be drinking between six to eight cups of fluids a day to avoid dehydration. However, this should happen between meals, not during.
Explains the Mayo Clinic, “Drinking liquids with your meals can cause pain, nausea and vomiting as well as dumping syndrome. Also, drinking too much liquid at or around mealtime can leave you feeling overly full and prevent you from eating enough nutrient-rich food.” Caffeine, carbonation and alcohol are off-limits for bariatric patients.
The only way to know if a new food will cause you discomfort after bariatric surgery? Take it slow. In general, post-op patients should commit to eating and drinking slowly in order to avoid dumping syndrome.
Bariatric surgery isn’t a magical cure for obesity. Rather, it’s a tool. Maintaining a food journal can help post-op patients understand and adjust their eating habits in order to get the most out of the procedure.
Supplements are part of the new way of life for bariatric patients. Advises UCSF, “You must take the following supplements (multivitamins, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and/or folic acid) on a daily basis to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Please remember that all pills must be crushed or cut into six to eight small pieces. You are not able to absorb whole pills as well as before surgery, and it can be difficult for the pills to pass through your new anatomy.” A full nutritional solution? Achieve from Rational Foods.
Protein provides a breadth and depth of benefits to bariatric surgery patients, including everything from aiding wound healing to helping the body maximize fat burning. It can also curb hunger while helping the body function at its best. While the long-term post-surgery protein intake recommendations may vary from patient to patient, it is imperative that these guidelines are met. Because of this, experts often recommend eating protein first during meals.
And while protein shakes are often discouraged because of their artificial ingredients and high sugar content, real food bariatric products like Achieve can be invaluable protein sources.
While much of a post-op patient’s attention is focused on nutrition, exercise is also an important piece of the weight loss puzzle. Working out following bariatric surgery supports weight loss as well as overall health and wellness.
Looking for more helpful guidance on bariatric nutrition following weight loss surgery? The Bariatric Food Pyramid for WLS patients is a handy resource.