While gastric bypass is the gold standard for weight loss, it does come with an increased risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Bariatric surgery is all about improving your health, and a big part of improving your health is proper nutrition. This includes vitamins and minerals.
This is the first post in a three-part series that will look at:
- Why vitamins and minerals are essential after bariatric surgery.
- What types of vitamins and minerals will be needed after surgery.
The next two posts will look at:
- What to look for when buying vitamins and minerals.
- Signs and symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
- How to avoid toxicity and overdose.
Why vitamins and minerals are essential after bariatric surgery.
In addition to limiting food intake by reducing the size of the stomach, gastric bypass reroutes the digestive system so food bypasses parts of the intestines where some vitamins and nutrients are normally absorbed. Because of this, patients must take supplements to avoid deficiencies.
If you’ve had gastric sleeve surgery, you don’t have the capacity in your stomach to consume enough food to get adequate amounts of key nutrients. Digestive enzymes may be reduced which limits the breakdown of food as it passes into your digestive tract.
If you’ve had gastric bypass surgery, you’ve got capacity issues and malabsorption. Your body can’t extract all the nutrients it needs from your meals. Most bariatric surgeons require patients to take supplements once, or even twice a day, and follow up with blood work to catch any deficiencies. But what vitamins and nutrients do you need to be supplementing?
What types of vitamins and minerals do I need after surgery.
There are more than two dozen nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. Most of these, you only need only a trace amount of to stay healthy. Others, such as fat-soluble vitamins(A, D, E, K), B-12, and minerals like iron and calcium, require more and are more likely to come up short, particularly among bariatric patients.
Fat-soluble vitamins are dissolved in fats. They are absorbed by fat cells that travel through the small intestines and are distributed through the body through the bloodstream. Excess fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and fatty tissues for future use.
There are four types of fat-soluble vitamins and they each offer different benefits:
Vitamin A is important to bone and tooth formation, and vision. It keeps the intestines working properly and contributes to immune and cellular function. Egg yolk, milk, liver, cheese, and butter are all rich in vitamin A. We also get vitamin A from plant sources including dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale), carrots, squash, yellow maize, mangoes, and papayas.
Vitamin D encourages the absorption and metabolism of phosphorous and calcium which aids in the development of teeth and bone. Vitamin D is found in foods such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Smaller quantities can be found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Milk is also fortified with vitamin D. Vitamin D3 is synthesized in the skin after exposure to sunlight.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant. It helps fight infection and keeps red blood cells healthy. You can find Vitamin E naturally occurring in vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
Vitamin K is essential to blood clotting and keeping bones healthy. Vitamin K is primarily found in green leafy vegetables, cabbage, and cauliflower. Smaller quantities can be found in fish, meat, and some fruits.
Vitamin B-12 is used for proper nerve functioning, making red blood cells, and producing DNA and RNA. You can find Vitamin B-12 in animal protein sources such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
Iron is essential to transport oxygen throughout the body. If you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Without those healthy red blood cells, your body can’t get enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen in the body causes fatigue and can affect everything from your brain function to your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. Iron is also necessary to maintain healthy cells, hair, nails, and skin. Iron can be found in fortified cereals, red meat, dried fruit, and beans.
Calcium is necessary for almost every function in the body. From maintaining strong teeth and bone to carrying messages between the brain and the body, we would be unable to function without adequate calcium in the body. Calcium can be found in dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage), fish (canned sardines, salmon), and grains (bread, pasta). Calcium is also added to some foods like breakfast cereals, fruit juices, soy and rice beverages, and tofu.
Post-op, vitamins, and minerals have to be part of your daily routine for the rest of your life. In the next two posts, we will look at what you should be looking for when you are purchasing vitamins and the signs of both deficiencies and overdose. Keeping your vitamin and mineral levels steady is an important part of your follow up care after bariatric surgery.