Post-Bariatric Surgery Diet: Your Protein Needs

Bariatric procedures reduce the size or configuration of the gastrointestinal tract. That helps patients eat less and, therefore, reduces calories retained. Patients lose weight. But, without carefully following dietary guidelines that can have a bad side effect: malnutrition. The risk is low overall, but when it happens it’s usually protein level that suffers.

A post-bariatric surgery patient feels full sooner, and therefore stops eating sooner. That’s one of the basic goals of the procedure, after all, to curb appetite. To compensate, patients need to pay closer attention to the amount and type of solids and liquids consumed, to make sure they get adequate protein.

Protein is essential for a variety of vital metabolic processes. Whether the source is animal or vegetable matter, proteins get broken down in digestion into amino acids. The body then uses the buildings blocks to synthesize new proteins. Those are used to build cells and muscle tissue, and for many other essential needs.

But inadequate intake isn’t the only potential problem. Several procedures affect absorption rate or efficiency. Lowering that part of the ‘equation’ can have the same effects discussed above. The risk is highest during the first weeks after surgery when the patient is on a strictly liquid diet. Luckily, it’s easy to get adequate protein from liquids when adhering to your nutritionists guidelines.

Liquid protein supplements are often very tasty and can easily supply all your daily protein needs. There are a dozen brands on the market, each offering many different flavors. Your nutritionist can recommend several for variety. Some are shakes, others are a soup or broth, and still others come in the form of liquid or powdered protein supplements.

After the first few weeks post-surgery, when patients transition to semi-solids then solid food, life can get a little more complicated. With the appetite curbed, it’s important at this stage to track carefully how much of what type of food you eat.

Sugary desserts add calories also encourage Bariatric Dumping Syndrome. Avoid them. Pastas supply needed carbohydrates, but should be eaten in moderation. Many colorful fruits and vegetables offer essential vitamins and minerals. Even so, protein sources are a must. Supplements are great. They supply protein without making you full. But solid protein supplements have to be used more carefully and weighed against the protein quantity gained from eating foods.

Roughly half the food eaten should be high in protein to ensure you get the 60-70 g (men) or 45-55 g (women) needed daily. The needed amount could come from special puddings and yoghurt, purees, gravies, eggs, cheese, and ó later ó meats like chicken and beef.

Getting the right amount of protein is most likely to be especially challenging during the first month after your bariatric surgery. The rule of thumb is to eat protein-heavy foods first to ensure you get what you need before you feel full. Your other nutritional needs (vitamins and minerals, …) are easier to supply from other supplements without causing digestive problems.

Follow nutritional guidelines carefully and you’ll be one of the many thousands who are very pleased they had bariatric surgery.