Frequently Asked Questions on Bariatric Surgery
Can I use over-the-counter vitamins after bariatric surgery?
After bariatric surgery, your body is especially vulnerable to vitamin deficiencies because surgery either:
- Reduces your body’s ability to absorb vitamins (malabsorptive procedures)
- Doesn’t allow your body to hold as much food from which to draw vitamins (restrictive procedures)
Smart shopping applies to bariatric vitamins just as it does with other buying decisions in your life. Rather than choosing a general supplement, we recommend taking vitamins that have been specifically formulated for bariatric surgery patients.
What happens if you don’t take your bariatric vitamins as prescribed?
Not routinely having your blood tested or ignoring your doctor’s supplementation guidelines can lead to significant problems up to and including death.
- Calcium deficiency – leads to osteoporosis
- Iron deficiency – can cause anemia (when your body does not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body), increased feelings of fatigue and hair loss
- Folate (folic acid) deficiency – can also lead to anemia
- Protein deficiency – protein is one of the most important components of your body as it makes up most of your major organs. Not getting enough can lead to a myriad of problems, including muscle deterioration, organ failure, gallstones and even death
- Thiamin (Vitamin B1) deficiency – affects the heart, digestive system and nervous system. If not caught and treated quickly, learning and memory could be permanently affected. Ultimately, coma and death could be the result
- Vitamin A deficiency – can lead to night blindness and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. During pregnancy after weight loss surgery, it increases the risk of night blindness and child mortality
- Vitamin B12 deficiency – can cause fatigue and tingling in the hands and can eventually lead to anemia and neurological disorders
- Vitamin D deficiency – can lead to liver and kidney disorders and bone softening diseases
- Vitamin E deficiency – causes neurological problems, and anemia and can cause wounds to heal more slowly
- Vitamin K deficiency – increases the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease and can cause you to bruise more easily
- Zinc deficiency – will give you brittle nails and can lead to hair loss
The only way to catch some of the above deficiencies is through regular blood tests. Symptoms that start to show are often confused with other bariatric surgery side effects, and even a physical exam from your doctor may not be enough for a diagnosis. In short, take bariatric vitamins very seriously.
Which is the better surgery for long-term weight loss?
All procedures can provide long-term success with weight loss. However, based on an individual’s underlying health status, it may be determined that one procedure is recommended over the others. This discussion occurs with Dr. Sebastien or Dr. Nelson. In all cases, the real key to lasting success is the effort you put into it. Bariatric surgery is a TOOL to success, it is not a cure.
What is Dumping Syndrome and is it serious?
Dumping Syndrome can happen following gastric bypass surgery and is when food gets “dumped” directly from your stomach pouch into your small intestines without being digested. The symptoms range from mild to severe. It is not a pleasant experience, but it is not life-threatening. It is triggered by foods that are high in concentrated sugars, dairy and/or high-fat foods. Common symptoms include sweating, nausea, dizziness, tiredness, cramps and diarrhea. These symptoms typically last about 30-90 minutes, depending on what and how much the person has eaten. The symptoms can mimic the flu. You can control this by making changes in what and how you eat. By controlling dumping syndrome, you will also be avoiding the foods that also cause weight gain.
Will the stomach pouch stretch so that the lost weight is gained?
As the new pouch/stomach heals, it will be able to hold more food but will not stretch significantly. It is more important to concern yourself with stretching the stomach by persistently overeating, grazing all day or by not chewing food well enough. This does not occur easily but occurs only by persistently overeating over a long period of time.
How long will it take me to recover from surgery?
Most people go back to desk-type jobs about a week after surgery. It generally takes about six weeks before the fatigue of surgery improves. It is important to move, eat and drink properly from the very beginning so you can maintain your energy until the six-week mark arrives. You are not allowed to return to the gym or to lift anything more than 10 pounds for one month following surgery.
What kind of nutrition program will I have after surgery?
We offer a comprehensive nutrition education program for all patients prior to surgery that provides instruction on what foods to eat as well as guidance in re-learning eating behaviors. After surgery, you will meet with the Registered Dietician each time you come in to see the surgeon. This will help to fine-tune those areas you may be having challenges with.
Do I need to follow up after having surgery?
After surgery, it is important to keep up with your follow-up visits. You will meet with the surgeon during your one-month; the six-month and one-year follow-up, then annually thereafter, FOR LIFE.
Additionally, you will meet with the nurse practitioner at your one-month, three-month, six-month, nine-month, one-year and 18-month visits, then annually FOR LIFE, at which time your labs will be reviewed and medication adjustments will be done. The labs will show areas of health improvements as well as areas of deficiencies that will need to be corrected.
My family thinks I am not eating enough, are they right?
Family members may voice concern about the small amounts of food and fewer calories that patients eat after bariatric surgery. The dietary program you will follow along with vitamin and mineral supplements is designed to meet your body’s nutritional needs. Protein is the most essential food you will need to eat after surgery.
Can I smoke after surgery?
Absolutely not! Smoking stimulates gastric secretions that can irritate the lining of the stomach. This irritation can cause chronic gastritis and ulcers in the stomach and small intestine. It can also lead to dangerous strictures of the stomach. The same applies to secondhand smoke.
I have heard that some people experience hair thinning or hair loss after gastric bypass surgery. Will this happen to me?
Any major surgery along with rapid weight loss produces stress on the body. Mild hair loss is often a reaction to this stress and usually occurs three to four months after surgery. However, the undereating of protein can also result in significant hair loss. Some individuals opt to take biotin to help with the growth of stronger hair, but the supplement does not prevent hair loss. Hair loss is temporary, it will grow back.
Why is exercise so important for me after surgery?
It’s important for everyone to exercise to the level of their ability. Even chair exercises count! Exercise maximizes weight loss and protects your muscles from breakdown. If you do not exercise properly, you may have significant muscle wasting and weakness. You will meet with an exercise physiologist that will help design an exercise program that is appropriate to you and your ability. Here are some reasons why physical activity is important to you:
- Exercise increases your metabolic rate, which can help you lose weight fasters
- Exercise is fat burning
- Exercise helps to alleviate constipation
- Exercise improves your mood and feeling of well-being
- Exercise causes a person to feel less hungry
Do I have to track or log everything I eat and drink?
To meet nutritional goals and promote weight loss, patients need to use a food tracker app or log, to monitor all intakes of food and beverages. This is a key component to success with weight loss surgery. This applies to both the weight loss phase and maintenance phase.
How do I know if I am eligible for weight loss surgery?
Rather than using weight, we use body mass index (BMI) as a criteria for surgery — excess fat in relation to height. Individuals are candidates for surgery if:
- Your BMI is greater than 40 or between 35 and 40 with major obesity-related medical problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea.
Do you have financing available?
Yes, East Coast Bariatrics at Halifax Health works exclusively with Prosper Healthcare Lending® for all your financing needs. You can apply before ever coming to an information session by visiting Prosper Healthcare Lending®.
From the time I start, how long will it take to get to surgery?
It depends upon your insurance requirements. Most insurance providers have a specific nutritional requirement you must complete prior to surgery. We will verify that requirement for you and design a plan with you. Most patients are in surgery as soon as they complete their requirements.
Will my insurance cover weight loss surgery?
Each insurance policy is different. As a courtesy, our insurance coordinator will verify your policy coverage and what requirements are needed to submit for final authorization.