Getting Key Nutrients Vital Part of Care after Weight Loss Surgery

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Weight loss surgery is an option for people who suffer from obesity. When diet and exercise alone aren’t making the changes you need, weight loss surgery might be the solution.

Over the years, weight loss surgery has become a more common way for some people to combat obesity and the chronic conditions associated with it, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Off Site Icon (ASMBS). As more people undergo weight loss surgery, it creates a growing need to educate patients about post-surgery care.

Eating a specific diet and following an exercise plan – both approved by your physician – is extremely important, according to the Food and Drug AdministrationOff Site Icon (FDA). 

After weight loss surgery, the body isn’t able to absorb some nutrients as effectively, including calcium, folate, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and protein. All these are important because they help your body function properly. 

According to the National Institutes of Health Off Site Icon (NIH), each of these nutrients benefits the body in the following ways:

  • Calcium – Calcium is used to build strong bones and teeth. It is also needed for muscle movement and for nerves to carry messages between the brain and other parts of the body. Calcium also helps blood vessels move blood through the body and to help in the release of hormones and enzymes throughout the body.
  • Folate – The body uses folate to make DNA and other genetic material, and it is needed for cells to divide.
  • Iron – The body uses this mineral to make hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. It also helps make myoglobin, which is a protein that gives oxygen to muscles. Iron is also needed to make some hormones and connective tissue.
  • Vitamin B12 – This nutrient helps nerves and blood cells stay healthy and helps make DNA.
  • Vitamin D – This nutrient helps the body absorb calcium to help maintain bone strength. It is also needed for muscle movement and to help fight off bacteria and viruses. 
  • Protein – Referred to as the building blocks of life, proteins are in every cell in the body. This nutrient is important because it helps the body repair cells and make new cells. It also supports growth and development in children, teens, and pregnant women.

Because of changes to the body and strict diet – especially in the first month or two after surgery – it can be easy to get too little of any or all of these nutrients, causing a deficiency.

When you have deficiencies in these nutrients, according to the Obesity Action CoalitionOff Site Icon (OAC), it can cause problems including:

  • Calcium – leg cramps, gum disease, or tooth decay
  • Folate – anemia, fatigue, headaches, or weakness
  • Iron – fatigue, hair loss, dizziness, anemia, heart palpitations, ice eating, or pica (an interest in eating things that are not food, such as chalk or paste)
  • Vitamin B12 – anemia, dizziness, fatigue, or numbness (especially in hands and feet, starting in the fingers and toes)
  • Vitamin D – hip pain, hearing loss, osteomalacia (bone softening)
  • Protein – hair loss, decreased energy

Follow up visits with your doctor are important so your nutrient intake can be monitored to help avoid a deficiency. If you do need to increase some nutrients, your physician might recommend taking a variety of vitamin and mineral supplements

You can also increase your nutrient intake by increasing certain foods in your diet. According to the NIH, nutrient-rich foods to add to your diet include:

  • Calcium – milk, yogurt, cheese, kale, broccoli, sardines, salmon, and fortified foods such as cereal, fruit juice, rice, and tofu.
  • Folate – asparagus, oranges, orange juice, Brussels sprouts, spinach, mustard greens, peanuts, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, whole grains, and fortified products such as cereal, breads, and pasta
  • Iron – lean meat, seafood, poultry, white beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, peas, nuts, raisins, and fortified foods, such as cereal and bread
  • Vitamin B12 – naturally found in a variety of animal foods, including clams, beef liver, fish, meat, poultry, milk, fortified cereals, and other dairy products
  • Vitamin D – salmon, tuna, mackerel, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, fortified milk, fortified cereal, and other vitamin D fortified foods and drinks, such as orange juice and yogurt
  • Protein – meats, eggs, milk, fish, beans, soy, legumes, nut butters, and some grains, including wheat germ and quinoa.

Choosing to have weight loss surgery is a big decision. Once you follow the steps to have the surgery, it’s important to continue taking steps afterward to help you be successful on your new road to better health.

For more information about nutrition needs after weight loss surgery, talk with your doctor or visit Premier Weight Loss Solutions.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.