Recovering from bariatric surgery? After your operation, you'll be told to follow a special diet, limit your activity levels, and take various medications to support the healing process. But did you know there are some lifestyle changes you can make to ensure you stay well in the long term too? And they’ll also help you make the most of your surgery, whether you had a gastric sleeve, band, or bypass.
On average, weight loss surgery can result in a 50-70% reduction in excess body weight over three years. If you've spent your life struggling to reach a healthy weight, it really can be a gamechanger. However, bariatric surgery isn't a standalone treatment and there are some other things you'll need to do to reach and maintain your dream weight. And – most importantly – stay healthy and happy while you're doing it.
From modifying your diet, to how to boost your nutrient intake now that your stomach is smaller and you can't absorb as many vitamins and minerals from your food. Here are 5 essential tips to support your future health:
1. Choose the right supplements after gastric sleeve, band, or bypass surgery:
Whether you opt for a gastric sleeve, bypass, or band operation, the amount you can eat afterwards will be substantially reduced. Your stomach is usually around the size of an egg! This means less surface area in your digestive system to absorb the nutrients from your food. While both these factors are essential for weight loss, together they do have the side effect of limiting the minerals and vitamins you get from what you eat. This can lead to deficiencies that might have a negative effect on your general health.
The good news is, this is very easily remedied by taking a multivitamin supplement. Ideally, make your supplement transdermal, like our handy vitamin patches. Our bariatric page is here. All the active ingredients are delivered into your bloodstream via the skin, completely avoiding the stomach and gut. So, whichever type of surgery you've had, you know you’ll be getting the vitamins and minerals you need, and your surgery won't have any impact on how effectively the supplement works. The dream!
Which supplements should you be taking?
A Multivitamin is a fantastic catch-all to make up for any nutrients you may not be able to get as easily from your diet after your surgery. The Multivitamin Plus patch is a comprehensive, broad-spectrum supplement, that contains the 25 essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need to prevent deficiencies and feel your best. This is your must-have, and then, depending on which type of surgery you had, there are some other hero supplements we'd recommend.
If you had a gastric sleeve:
You'll also need to top up your B12 and Vitamin D3 levels. Evidence shows your digestive system's ability to absorb vitamins B12 and D3 is reduced after bariatric surgery like a gastric sleeve. Both these vitamins are crucial for good health, so it's well worth popping on a B12 Plus and Vitamin D3 patch, as well as your Multi vit, to help keep your levels where they should be, and boost your energy and immunity.
If you had a gastric bypass, your food will now skip the part of your bowel where essential minerals calcium and iron are best absorbed, so we would recommend using both our Iron Plus and Vitamin D3 and Calcium patch in addition to your Multivitamin and B12. A gastric band can have a similar effect, so if you've had this type of surgery, we'd also recommend the Vitamin D3 + Calcium patch alongside your Multivitamin and B12 Plus.
2. These foods are a must if you've had a gastric sleeve, band, or bypass surgery:
As already discussed, your stomach becomes much smaller after a gastric sleeve or other bariatric operation. Initially, you may only be able to manage a few tablespoons of food, so, you don't want to fill yourself up with food that doesn’t have much nutritional value. High in protein and low in carbohydrates and sugars is a good rule of thumb. Aim to get at least 60 to 80g of protein per day. Eggs, meats, fish, chicken, tofu, milk, cottage cheese, and Greek yoghurt are all excellent sources of protein.
The Centre For Bariatric Support has a dedicated bariatric recipes page with all sorts of yummy dishes that are suitable for you here. And don't forget to stay hydrated – 1.5 to 2 litres of fluid per day is ideal. But because your stomach is so much smaller, it’s recommended you don’t drink with your meals. Keep a bottle of water handy outside of meal times and take regular sips.
3. But make sure you avoid these things:
Now you know what should be on the menu, it’s important to make sure you’re not consuming things that could have a negative effect after a gastric sleeve. Starch-heavy foods like rice, bread, and pastries can sometimes cause blockages in your new stomach and are low in protein. They can also be a trigger food for people who have had eating disorders. If you can’t go without bread, it will be much easier to chew and digest if it’s toasted. Try topping it with something like avocado, or egg, to up the protein quota and nutritional value.
It’s best to swerve foods with large kernels such as popcorn and rice cakes, because they’ll be hard for you to digest now. Lots of post-op patients also recommend not using drinking straws, avoiding ice in drinks, and keeping away from fizzy drinks and chewing gum. All these things can introduce excess air into your surgically created pouch and cause pain and discomfort. You can read more about what to avoid on the NHS website here.
4. Look after your mental health too:
After a gastric sleeve or other surgery, it can be easy to put all your focus on your body, but don't forget to take care of your mind too. Bariatric surgery can be emotionally draining and it's important to make sure you seek support if you're feeling overwhelmed. Lots of patients find it helpful to talk with other people who have had weight loss surgery. The charity WLSInfo has both in-person and online support groups open to anyone who has had this type of surgery, regardless of where you had it. Click here to find your local group.
For many people, depression and anxiety and eating disorders are closely linked. So, as well as looking after yourself physically in the years after your operation, take some time to heal mentally too. If you think you suffer from anxiety or depression and you'd like to seek treatment, your GP is a good starting point to help recommend the best pathway for you. Talking therapy, mindfulness, CBT, and exercise are all ways to improve your mental health.
5. Start a regular exercise routine:
To feel your best, everyone (regardless of whether you've had a gastric sleeve or bariatric surgery) should aim for 30 – 45 minutes of exercise a day. Not used to exercising? Don't panic, it doesn't need to be a full-on workout. If you're a fitness newbie, start by taking a walk for 15 minutes in the morning and then 15 minutes in the afternoon. Start at a pace you're comfortable with and then build up to a brisk walk. As time goes by your fitness will improve and you can introduce a jog, or run, if you're comfortable with this.
Even a brief period of activity each day has so many wellbeing benefits. It will kickstart your weight loss and help you maintain it, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, strengthen your bones and muscles, and even improve your brain health. Well worth making the effort for!