Success after surgery depends on several factors, such as eating behavior changes, physical activity, attending support groups, yearly follow-up appointments and taking the recommended vitamins and minerals.
Avoiding Nutrient Deficiencies in Bariatric Surgeries
Bariatric surgery is effective because it decreases the size of the stomach allowing the person to get full off small portions. Some surgeries may also reduce absorption of calories and nutrients. Even when eating a very healthy diet, supplementation is essential to ensuring a healthy, successful weight loss and preventing nutritional deficiencies.
“We recommend to start supplementation right away after surgery,” Leslie Edwards, MS, RDN, LD, CPT, clinical dietitian at the UC Health Weight Loss Center states. “Chewable or liquid form is preferable for the first three to six months, then you’re able to switch to a capsule—if tolerated and if desired. We are sharing our supplement recommendations to prevent micronutrient deficiencies below, but first, it is important to describe the functions of some important vitamins and minerals.”
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
Vitamin B1 (thiamin) helps the body turn carbohydrates into energy and has an important role in the growth, development and function of cells. Thiamin deficiency can cause neurological issues that could be permanent if not treated quickly.
After bariatric surgery, your body will require at least 12mg of thiamin. That is 10 times more than what you needed before surgery.
Vitamin B12 helps keep your body’s blood and nerve cells healthy. Absorption is significantly decreased after surgery, so higher doses are needed. People who are deficient may experience tingling and numbness in fingers and toes or may feel tired and confused.
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin in red blood cells and myoglobin that provides oxygen to muscles. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia—symptoms include lack of energy, hair loss, brittle nails, poor memory and a lesser ability to fight off infections.
Folate is needed for red blood cell formation, cell growth and function. It is especially important for women who are or may become pregnant, as it plays a key role in a baby’s development. A folate deficiency will often be presented with other deficiencies and symptoms including weakness, fatigue, irritability, headache and shortness of breath.
Calcium is an important mineral that makes up much of the structure of bone and teeth. It plays a role in other functions like growth, reproduction, blood clotting, muscle contraction and hormone secretion. Calcium deficiency symptoms include numbness and tingling of the fingers, lethargy, muscle cramps and convulsions.
Vitamin D is another micronutrient needed for strong bones and teeth, as it helps your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, which causes soft and brittle bones. Bariatric surgery is associated with a decrease in bone mass and an increase in fractures.
Vitamin A is involved with vision, reproduction, immunity and cellular communication. Vitamin A deficiency is presented as xerophthalmia, which dries out the eyes and can lead to night blindness if left untreated.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps immunity and is important for the proper function of many of your organs. Vitamin E deficiency can cause nerve and muscle damage that can result in loss of feeling in the arms and legs, muscle weakness and vision problems. Decreased immune function can also occur.
Vitamin K plays a role in blood clotting, bone metabolism and regulating blood calcium levels. A lack of Vitamin K can impair bone health and could lead to excessive bleeding risk in severe cases.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient involved in cell growth, DNA synthesis and building proteins. It also plays an important role in reproduction, immune function and wound repair. Zinc deficiency can cause taste changes, poor appetite, impaired immune function, hair loss and difficulty concentrating. Although getting adequate zinc is important, it is equally important to not over-supplement, as excessive zinc intake can impair absorption of other minerals, especially copper.
Copper is more than just a metal commonly found in electrical wiring—it is also present in the body in very small amounts and is used to carry out many important functions. Copper is used to make energy, connective tissues and blood vessels and supports healthy immune and nervous systems. Deficiencies are rare but can cause extreme fatigue, connective tissue disease and impaired immune function.
The Best Vitamins & Supplements to Take After Bariatric Surgery
Post-surgery vitamins and supplements will become an important part of your daily routine for the rest of your life. This new routine will provide your body with the nutrients needed for healthy and safe weight loss. At the UC Health Weight Loss Center, we provide patients with a plan that fits their unique needs.
Since everyone’s post-surgery supplement needs vary depending on age, sex, nutrition history and procedure type, our registered dietitians will provide guidance and support when choosing a daily routine. We offer two options:
Option 1: Bariatric Multivitamin + Calcium
Taking a bariatric multivitamin can help to minimize the number of supplements you need to take every day. Bariatric multivitamins contain all the appropriate nutrients and amounts for someone after their bariatric surgery. In addition, calcium chews with vitamin D are also recommended. Both supplements can be purchased without a prescription online or in-store.
Calcium supplements should be spread out between two to three doses throughout the day, because your body can only absorb a limited amount of calcium at one time. It is also recommended to separate your multivitamin supplement from your calcium supplement for around two hours for best absorption of both.
Option 2: Over the Counter (OTC) Vitamin/Mineral Supplements
Vitamin and mineral supplements that are not bariatric surgery-specific can also be purchased over the counter. The required supplements would include a double-dose multivitamin, vitamin B12, vitamin B1, calcium with vitamin D and potentially additional iron.
Why No Gummy Vitamins after Bariatric Surgery?
You’ll want to avoid purchasing gummy-textured multivitamins, because they do not contain the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals to support your post‑surgery dietary needs.
Support for your Weight Loss Journey
As you heal and change, it’s important to visit your bariatric team at least once yearly to check nutrition labs to ensure your body continues to get the proper nutrients. If you begin to experience a weight loss stall, or just have questions about your journey, we are here to help. Call us at 513-939-2263.