The Do’s and Don’ts of Bariatric Surgery Recovery

Weight loss success after bariatric surgery requires a commitment to several lifestyle changes, including adopting a bariatric diet and daily exercising. To that end, bariatric patients need to understand the limitations of their new anatomy in the immediate recovery phase. Most of these restrictions are dietary and ease with time. While the changes may feel overwhelming at first, the health benefits are immeasurable.

What Diet Restrictions Should I Expect Immediately After Surgery?

You will be on a strict liquid diet in the immediate weeks and months following bariatric surgery. Some individuals may be ready for solids as soon as three months post-op, but it can take up to four months to transition to solids. How quickly this happens varies from person to person. You may feel frustrated by this waiting period, but your body needs time to heal before reintroducing solid foods to your new anatomy.

Some good dietary options for this recovery phase include:

  • Broth
  • Sugar-free Jell-O
  • Sugar-free popsicles
  • Unsweetened juice
  • Decaf tea or coffee

Knowing what not to eat or drink is equally as important as the above. You should avoid the following foods and beverages during your initial recovery to avoid unpleasant side effects and health risks:

  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Sodas or any other carbonated beverage
  • Alcohol of any kind
  • Heavy seasoning or spicy foods and beverages
  • Gum
  • Any solid food

When Should I Begin Exercising After Surgery?

You should rest and go easy on your body during the first week or two after surgery to give yourself a chance to heal. Once your doctor clears you for physical activity, they will recommend walking for the first 6-8 weeks of recovery.

You should also avoid strenuous physical activity during the immediate post-op recovery. Some examples include:

  • Avoid lifting anything that weighs more than 20 pounds during the first six weeks of your recovery
  • Avoid pushing or pulling motions such as vacuuming or mowing the lawn for the first six weeks of your recovery
  • Avoid heavy manual labor for the first three months of your recovery, including lifting and carrying children
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long stretches of time without moving to prevent blood clots

Obtaining Adequate Nutrients

It’s best to obtain your vitamins and minerals through food, but that is difficult while restricted to a liquid diet. Even once you begin solids, you will be eating significantly fewer calories than before. Your doctor will recommend several vitamins and supplements to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs.

  • Look for a chewable, robust multivitamin that contains high levels of iron, folic acid, zinc, copper, and selenium. Menstruating women may need more iron and folic acid to prevent deficiencies.
  • Vitamin B12. Most multivitamins contain B vitamins, but you will need at least 500 mcg of B12 per day. Supplementing with additional B12 can help you reach this goal.
  • Calcium is critical for maintaining bone strength and density after bariatric surgery.
  • Vitamin D. Many adults are already deficient in vitamin D from working indoors. Vitamin D helps regulate calcium, improves bone strength, and supports healthy muscles.

It’s critical to follow your bariatric diet in the early recovery phase to avoid health risks and allow your body to heal. After the first four months of recovery, you will have fewer dietary restrictions. You’ll start with pureed foods and incorporate soft foods as your new anatomy tolerates them. Once you can eat solids, your dietary options widen significantly.

You may worry that a bariatric diet is too restrictive or bland, but the initial recovery phase doesn’t last forever. As you progress through recovery, you can incorporate many of your favorite foods back into your diet. Contact us to learn more about life after weight loss surgery.

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