Nutritional Needs and the Many Types of Weight Loss Surgery

Bariatric surgery has been around since the 1950’s, however since that time there have been many improvements to the procedures that are used. One of these changes is the use of smaller incisions or no incisions at all. The less invasive that a surgery, the less time that is needed for recovery and the less chance of infections and complications that can endanger a patient’s life. The most common type of surgery is the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, which makes a small pouch from a portion of the stomach and then bypasses part of the small intestine. This is only one of many types of weight loss surgery that can be considered.

The Lap Band system is an adjustable surgical type where a silicone or other soft material belt is placed around the top part of the stomach, which allows for better hunger control and keeps portion sizes very small. The band is continually adjusted as the patient loses weight so that it remains effective. In addition, because the patient is at the doctor’s office frequently, he is held more accountable for his own weight loss, which may be more effective for some people. There are other types of this surgery which may have other names as well. The surgeon may try to place the band through a laparoscopic procedure, which may reduce actual surgery time down to about one hour and will eliminate the need to stay in the hospital. This procedure is not always possible, so an open surgery may be needed. There are a number of serious complications to consider. The band may slip, which can cause serious heartburn and vomiting, there can be bleeding or infection, or the band may erode into the stomach requiring a secondary surgery to remove it. The band can also deflate on its own in some cases.

The sleeve gastrectomy is used for patients who are considered too severely obese and therefore too serious a surgical risk. This procedure removes a large portion of the stomach, which is different from the other surgeries because they close off a part of the stomach but leave it in place. This type of surgery can be used as the first stage of weight loss for those who are morbidly obese or can be the only course of action for those who have less weight to lose.

An endoscopic procedure staples the walls of the stomach together. A plastic tube is inserted which bypasses the stomach altogether. This technique is in the research phase, but is showing some positive results with fewer complications and comparable weight loss overall.

In both surgeries, the food that is eaten bypasses the stomach altogether and goes straight to the small intestine, which means that a greatly reduced amount of nutrients and calories are absorbed. The small tube placement surgery is being considered as a means to help a severely obese patient reduce overall weight for his own safety before a more traditional weight loss surgery is used. The more obese the patient, the more dangerous the surgery.

Nutritional Deficits

In each of the surgeries, there are a number of deficiencies that are possible, especially in the surgeries that involve bypassing major parts of the digestive system. In the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, for instance, the deficiencies tend to be with iron, vitamin B 12, vitamin D and calcium. With the biliopancreatic diversion types of weight loss surgery, deficiencies in protein and fat soluble vitamins are common. Thiamine deficiencies are common in those patients who experience frequent vomiting. Iron deficiencies can lead to anemia, which can cause fatigue and muscle weakness, aches and pains and can increase your susceptibility to colds, flu and other infections.

It is important that these deficiencies be addressed with supplements, especially protein. The human body is comprised of thousands of proteins, from the makeup of our hair, skin and nails to the productions of enzymes and hormones that regulate digestion and metabolism, sleep and even ovulation. Protein is necessary to create and preserve lean muscle mass and can also help to control hunger. Protein is so important in the body that for the second phase of certain types of weight loss surgery, it is required to consume two ounces of a protein supplement every two hours while awake in addition to two ounces of other liquids that are consumed three times a day.

Protein supplements like shakes, powders and liquid protein shots will be discussed with your surgeon or nutritionist. There are a number of options which should be carefully evaluated even before surgery. It is a good idea to give a few of these options a taste test before your surgery is completed so you know which ones suit you the best. Profect, a supplement from Protica, is small (less than three ounces per serving) but has a high level of digestible protein (25 grams per serving). There are a number of fruit-based flavors to choose from and each serving has only 100 calories. In addition to protein, each serving of Profect has 100% of the day’s vitamin C and 10% of the daily supply of the B complex vitamins.

Protein is also important after surgery because it is used by the body in the healing process. It is for this reason that those who are recovering from sickness or surgery are encouraged to increase their protein intake to help the body heal. After weight loss surgery, the protein needs will increase greatly; however, it is vital to follow the recommendations of your nutritionist or surgeon for the exact amount that you need. It is also important to keep in mind that your protein needs will change as you lose weight and become more active as well.

Not only does protein help you to heal (it is part of the immune system itself), but it can also help to prevent infections as you recover. Any complications, such as infections or other illnesses, can delay your healing and can increase your risk of more serious problems maybe developing.

Severe deficiencies, especially protein deficiencies, can potentially lead to death if they are not addressed by supplementation. Kwashiorkor is a very serious, even life-threatening condition caused by extreme protein malnutrition. It is typically considered to be very rare in the Western world, however there are cases of it every year. In those who have had weight loss surgery, the condition can develop if they are neglecting their protein needs and not getting enough supplements.

No matter what kind of weight loss surgery that you have, it is important that you pay careful attention to the guidelines that are established for you by the surgeon and the nutritionist. You have to get the right types of nutrients in the right amounts, not only so that you can make your weight loss goals but so that you can stay healthy and strong as well.

The right supplements will keep you from having problems with deficiencies, not only with protein but with iron, calcium and the other vitamins and minerals that the body needs every day. In addition to these supplements, there are other guidelines that you will be given to speed your healing and minimize the risk of complications.

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