Care After Bariatric Surgery
Committing to Healthy Choices
Bariatric surgery is a tool to aid in weight loss, but is not a cure. To successfully lose weight and maintain this weight loss, people who have bariatric surgery must commit to healthy eating and regular physical activity for the rest of their lives.
Meal Plan, Water Intake, Vitamin and Supplements
Immediately after surgery, you will eat liquefied or pureed foods for the first few weeks. You will then slowly add in soft food and, eventually, regular foods. Because your stomach will be smaller in size, it will only hold a few tablespoons of food at first. Over time, the stomach will expand slightly. It is important to eat small amounts so as not to stretch out your stomach. You can do this by eating 6 small meals a day. It is also important to eat slowly — over 20 to 30 minutes — and to chew each bite well so that your stomach isn’t overloaded, which may cause vomiting or stomach pain.
Drink water — about 8 cups a day — approximately 30 minutes after you eat and don’t drink anything with your meals so that the fluid doesn’t fill up your stomach. It is important to eat enough low-fat protein (fish, eggs, pork, lean beef, and low-fat dairy products) as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A nutritionist can help you choose a balanced meal plan to follow every day.
Furthermore, it is important to take vitamin and mineral supplements for the rest of your life to prevent or treat nutritional deficiencies that may occur. These may include a multi-vitamin, calcium citrate (calcium carbonate is poorly absorbed), vitamin D, vitamin B12, and possibly folic acid and iron.
Physical Activity Based on Your Health and Fitness Level
Your doctor will work with you to find the best physical activity regimen, based on your health and fitness level. Your doctor may have you start out with walking every day and then add in other aerobic activities like swimming or bicycle riding. Weight training is another essential part of a physical activity routine and will help increase your muscle mass, strengthen your bones, and increase your metabolism. With all physical activity, it is important to start out slowly and gradually increase it over time.
For the first few months after surgery, you may be given an acid-blocking medication to prevent stomach and bowel ulcers. In addition, for the first 6 months after surgery, you may be given a medication to prevent gallstones, which can be caused by rapid weight loss. Many of the medications you needed before surgery will be discontinued. Bariatric surgery may put diabetes, hypertension and abnormal cholesterol numbers into remission.
People who have bariatric surgery may benefit from support groups and behavioral counseling to help keep the weight off. For example, if a person previously used food to cope with negative feelings or stress, it is important to find healthy coping strategies to use after surgery. Also, this life-altering surgery sometimes causes emotional changes and changes in your relationships with family and friends; thus, it may be helpful to seek a therapist to help you through this transition.