Bariatric surgery is a viable treatment option for those who are at risk of health problems due to obesity. It can increase your chances of having a longer and healthier life. But there’s a risk of complications and you must be therefore prepared to change your lifestyle.

There’s a risk for a patient to get mineral and vitamin deficiency, and malnutrition after a bariatric surgical procedure. For this reason, patients are required to take bariatric vitamins, supplements, and minerals for the rest of their lives. Everyone who has undergone bariatric surgery receives supplements of calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, and iron prescribed. Being properly nourished before this type of surgery is important but this is just as important after the surgery.

Patients get advice from a health care team and dietitian on what and how to eat. Following these tips can help them avoid malnutrition but also avoid gaining weight. In this post, we look at some of the reasons why taking supplements after bariatric surgery is important.

Why We Need Supplements

The main reason why you need vitamins and minerals after bariatric surgery is because your body produces less stomach acid than before the operation. This is problematic because stomach acid helps the body absorb vitamins and minerals from the food you eat.

After the surgical procedure, the area that absorbs nutrients is smaller. A smaller area means that less amount of vitamins and minerals can be taken up which are so important for both body and mind. Below we list some of the most important vitamins and minerals you need to supplement your diet with daily after bariatric surgery.

Iron

Iron is needed to transport oxygen from the lungs to the body. But after bariatric surgery, the body has a harder time absorbing the iron you get in you through food. It has to do with the reduced production of stomach acid, but also because you eat smaller portions than before.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps to form red blood cells. It is also a necessary vitamin for the functioning of the nervous system. Just like iron, stomach acid helps to capture vitamin B12 but is something that the body produces less of after bariatric surgery.

Calcium

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A large part of the calcium you get in you is absorbed in the part of the intestine that is disconnected during a gastric bypass. Since calcium is what keeps your skeleton both healthy and strong, it is important to replenish it.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a crucial role in how your body picks up calcium and phosphate, which are important for a strong skeleton. The sun’s rays and the vitamin D you get through food are not always enough to cover your need for vitamin D. In fact, many people already have low levels of vitamin D before bariatric surgery – so they need to supplement it through pills.

Folic Acid

It is not possible to talk about folic acid without also mentioning folate – it’s like two sides of the same coin. Or yes, two different forms of the same B vitamin. You get folate through foods such as cabbage, beans, fruit, and berries.

Folic acid, on the other hand, is an artificially produced folate. As the uptake of folate and folic acid deteriorates after the bariatric surgery (the uptake takes place in the part of the intestine that is bypassed by a gastric sleeve or bypass), it is important to make sure that you get it. Folic acid and folate are important for cell division to function normally, the structure of amino acids (the building blocks of the body), and in turn the formation of red blood cells.

Thiamine

Thiamine helps carbohydrate metabolism as well as nerve and muscle function to operate normally. If you have had a bariatric surgery procedure, you might suffer more easily from thiamine deficiency if you lose weight quickly, have a low energy intake, or are bothered by vomiting. Forgetting vitamins and minerals can also lead to thiamine deficiency, so make sure to keep taking your supplements on time.

Zinc

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Last but not least, you need zinc to boost your immune system and to form proteins, RNA, DNA, and carbohydrates. You also get zinc by consuming meat, dairy products, whole grains, cheese, and nuts. Getting healthy food in you is, therefore, an important thing to think about – both before and after a bariatric operation.

Final Thoughts

Reviewing your vitamin and mineral levels together with your bariatric team is crucial if you want to avoid feeling tired, weak, or just downright “out of it”. Ensuring the abovementioned nutrients reach your body is essential to staying healthy and preventing fatigue and muscle weakness, and even serious conditions like anemia or memory loss.

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