Post-Bariatric Procedure Diet: Vitamins & Minerals

Bariatric surgery is just the first step in a long-term weight loss process for the morbidly obese. What comes after the operation is equally important. Post-bariatric surgery patients follow a carefully worked out diet, one that always incorporates recommendations for vitamins and minerals to take.

Certain vitamins and minerals are essential to general health so getting the right ones is a must. Sometimes that’s challenging, especially for someone who may not have paid close attention to health and nutrition. For many patients, consuming adequate amounts of Iron, Vitamin B12, Calcium and Vitamin D can be particularly tough.

Luckily, it isn’t too hard to solve that problem. You can begin by adopting a realistic view of what you absorb through normal, post-op eating and drinking. Since the procedure creates a feeling of fullness far sooner than is experienced before the surgery, patients eat far less. That’s one of the basic goals, after all. But it also means gaining fewer vitamins and minerals from food and drink than before.

For example, an ordinary One-A-Day vitamin will usually not be enough any longer. That type of supplement is designed to be taken by people who eat normal amounts, and have an average metabolism. Post-bariatric surgery individuals not only consume less but typically absorb fewer nutrients, too, as a result of changes to the digestive tract.

Only a consultation with a nutrition specialist, always part of the bariatric team, can produce the right diet for you. But following are a few of the generic needs of the ‘average’ post-bariatric surgery person:

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is vital for bone formation and muscle maintenance, as well as proper heart muscle function and good blood clotting. Post-surgery patients require on average between 500-600 mg three times daily. (Supplements should be taken at least an hour before or after any iron supplements. Calcium competes with iron for absorption by the body and it might be flushed before being adequately absorbed.)

Vitamin B-12 is essential for forming blood cells and aids proper nerve function. Nutritionists typically recommend a 500 mcg tablet taken daily, often dissolved under the tongue, though some patients receive monthly B-12 vitamin injections instead.

Iron is just one essential mineral. Among other important biochemical roles, it forms the center of a hemoglobin molecule, a key part of red blood cells. Those cells are the body’s basic method for transporting oxygen around the body to its tissues. Get too little and you can suffer from anemia. That’s easy to avoid by taking a daily iron supplement tablet.

Along with that iron tablet, taking Vitamin C is often recommended, since it helps the body absorb the iron. It has numerous other beneficial properties. A 500 mg tablet taken daily helps promote wound healing and reduces the odds of infection.

Zinc is another essential mineral. Some patients absorb it less efficiently after a bariatric surgery. It also aids wound healing and supports the immune system, but performs several other vital biological functions. A 10-20 mg tablet taken daily is enough for most people. Since it’s possible to consume too much, take care to follow your nutritionist’s recommendation.

That’s true of your entire diet, including vitamins and minerals. Some of them (such as Vitamin C) flush out of the body when taken in excess (usually in urine). Others, like Vitamin A, can cause problems if you take too much. You’ll develop a plan tailored to you in consultation with your nutritionist and your bariatric physician.