- Bariatric surgery can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies, making it crucial to supplement your diet with essential vitamins and minerals.
- Recommendations may include vitamins B, D, and A and supplements containing zinc, iron, calcium, and omega-3.
- A registered dietitian can tailor a nutrition plan to your unique needs, monitor your nutrient levels, and provide ongoing support for a successful post-surgery experience.
Understanding which vitamins and supplements you may need after bariatric surgery is important for your recovery and overall health.
The risk of nutritional deficiencies increases after surgery due to changes made to your stomach and in some cases your digestive tract.
Consequently, taking a multivitamin and supplement containing vitamins B, D, and A, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and zinc may be essential.
This article explores why you need vitamins after bariatric surgery, how to choose the right ones, and how a registered dietitian may help manage your nutrition.
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, is a medical procedure designed for individuals with severe overweight or obesity who have been unable to lose weight by other methods.
This procedure may help them lose weight and manage health problems linked to being overweight.
During the surgery, bariatric surgeons change how the stomach and in some cases, the digestive system work to limit the amount of food a person can eat by making them feel full faster or limiting the number of nutrients the body can absorb.
The primary goal of bariatric surgery is to help people lose excess weight and improve their overall health.
Types of Bariatric Surgery
Several types of bariatric surgeries are available.
The type of surgery that is best for your situation depends on several factors your bariatric surgeon will discuss with you.
- Gastric Bypass (Roux-en-Y): The stomach is surgically divided to create a small pouch which limits the amount of food you can eat. The small intestine is rerouted to bypass part of the digestive tract to further decrease calorie absorption. Gastric bypass is highly effective but can lead to malabsorption of certain nutrients. Reversal of this surgery is sometimes possible, but rare.
- Sleeve Gastrectomy (Gastric Sleeve): During this procedure, the surgeon removes a large portion of your stomach, leaving a smaller, banana-shaped stomach. The reduced stomach limits the amount of food you can eat, and you will feel full quickly after meals. This surgery is not reversible.
- Gastric Banding (Lap-Band): A surgeon places an adjustable band filled with saline around the upper part of your stomach. The band limits the amount of food you can consume. This surgery is the least common because it is associated with more complications and less weight loss. However, it is reversible.
Nutritional Deficiencies After Bariatric Surgery
Nutritional deficiencies are a common concern after bariatric surgery because of the changes made to the structure of the digestive system and/or its ability to absorb nutrients.
Several recent studies give insight into common nutritional deficiencies associated with bariatric surgery.
A study from 2021 evaluated 209 people before, during, and after their gastric sleeve procedure.
They found that many people with obesity already had nutritional deficiencies before surgery and that these often predict deficiencies that will be present after surgery.
This finding highlights the importance of starting nutritional counseling before surgery.
A study in 2019 examined the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in people having bariatric surgery.
They found that people who undergo gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy surgery have a high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency before and after surgery.
A study from 2021 investigated the prevalence of zinc deficiency in people before and after different types of bariatric surgery. They found that zinc was a common deficiency before surgery and typically increased after surgery.
According to experts, the most common types of malnutrition a person may experience after bariatric surgery may include:
- Thiamin (B1).
- Vitamins A, E, K, and D.
Vitamins and Supplements to Take After Bariatric Surgery
Even if you are following a healthy diet, supplementing is necessary to ensure you experience healthy weight loss and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Multivitamin/Multimineral Supplement With Iron
Taking bariatric-formulated multivitamins and mineral supplements is important after bariatric surgery and helps reduce the sheer number of vitamins and supplements you need daily.
Typically, bariatric multivitamins and supplements have all the nutrients you need after bariatric surgery.
They should contain sufficient amounts of:
- Thiamin (B1).
- Vitamins A, E, K, and D.
Vitamin B12 is essential for the health of your nerves and blood cells.
After bariatric surgery, you may not absorb enough vitamin B12.
You may feel tired or weak if you don’t have enough vitamin B12.
Sometimes, it can also cause neurological problems such as tingling in the hands, problems with balance, or confusion.
Your surgeon may recommend taking vitamin B12 orally or by injections.
Your body needs calcium for strong bones and proper muscle and nerve function.
Your bones and teeth may weaken if you do not have enough calcium.
You may also experience muscle and nerve function complications, like muscle cramps.
Calcium citrate is the easiest form of calcium for your body to absorb after bariatric surgery.
Your doctor may advise taking your calcium two hours apart from any vitamin or iron supplement because it may decrease iron absorption.
Vitamin D3 helps your body absorb calcium, and together, these two nutrients help keep your bones strong.
Your body also needs vitamin D3 to help muscle and nerve function, and your immune system uses vitamin D3 to help fight off sicknesses.
If you do not have enough vitamin D3, your bones may become thin, weak, and deformed. Your muscles may also lose strength.
Iron is a mineral your body needs to make hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen.
It is also an important part of making hormones.
If you get low on iron, you may also get low on red blood cells.
This deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, and upset stomach.
Your immune system uses zinc to fight off viral and bacterial infections, and it helps make DNA for each of your cells.
Zinc is also essential for your ability to taste and smell.
If you do not have enough zinc, you may experience slow wound healing, get sick more often, and lose your taste and smell.
Vitamin A is important for your vision, ability to fight off sickness, and reproductive health.
Your lungs and heart also depend on vitamin A.
Without enough vitamin A, your vision may decline and eventually lead to blindness. You may also be more susceptible to illnesses.
Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that your body cannot make.
You can only get omega-3 through the food you eat or supplements.
Because you may not be able to eat as much food after bariatric surgery, your surgeon may discuss taking an omega-3 supplement.
Omega-3 helps make up the membranes surrounding your cells, which are essential for your brain and eye health. You can also get energy through calories from omega-3s.
Other systems that rely on omega-3 include your lungs, immune, and endocrine.
Other Supplements and Vitamins to Consider After Bariatric Surgery
In addition to the essential vitamins and minerals we’ve discussed, your bariatric surgeon may also recommend taking other supplements based on your specific needs.
If you have trouble getting enough protein in your diet, your surgeon may suggest adding a protein supplement to your daily routine.
Some people struggle with constipation after bariatric surgery.
If this is the case for you, your surgeon may suggest taking a fiber supplement daily.
Benefits of Taking Vitamins After Bariatric Surgery
Following your bariatric surgeon’s recommendations for supplements after bariatric surgery has several benefits such as:
- Preventing nutritional deficiencies.
- Enhanced energy levels.
- Support for healthy weight loss.
- Improved bone health.
- Strong immune system.
How To Choose The Right Vitamins
Deciding which supplements and vitamins to take can be overwhelming.
But with the help of your dietitian, they can help you identify any potential deficiencies and guide you in the right direction.
Bariatric surgery can be an effective tool for weight loss.
However, it requires careful attention to nutrition.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common due to the decreased food intake and in some cases limited absorption of nutrients.
With the right vitamin and mineral supplements and guidance from a registered dietitian, you can maintain your health and experience healthy weight loss.
How a Dietitian Can Help
Working with a registered dietitian specializing in nutritional needs after bariatric surgery can help you safely lose weight while improving your health.
Your dietitian can create a vitamin and mineral supplement plan that meets your body’s nutritional needs.
Get started today by contacting a Nourish dietitian.
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