Why Are Vitamins So Important After Bariatric Surgery?

You likely already know that vitamins improve your overall health. However, they’re also necessary for your body and organs to function. If you’re considering a bariatric procedure, your doctor will provide you with detailed information regarding your vitamin and supplement needs after surgery. It will be much harder to obtain adequate nutrients from your diet after surgery because of your reduced caloric intake. Bariatric surgery also decreases your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food, so it is essential to supplement with vitamins to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.

What Vitamins Do Bariatric Patients Need?

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) provides a wealth of information regarding bariatric surgery and obesity-related health conditions. Their recommendations for vitamin supplementation after bariatric surgery include the following:

  1. Thiamine (B1). Your body can’t produce or store thiamine for long, which is why you have to consume it through foods or vitamins. Thiamine helps your body turn food into energy to support a healthy nerve system. ASMBS recommends that all bariatric patients should take at least 12mg of B1 daily. To prevent deficiency, ASMBS prefers a 50 mg dose 1-2 times per day.
  2. Cobalamin (B12). A Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common after bariatric surgery. B12 helps the body make red blood cells as well as supports a healthy nervous system. Some common symptoms of B12 deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. ASMBS recommends 350-500 mcg per day for bariatric patients.
  3. Folate/Folic Acid (B9). Like the other B Vitamins, your body uses folate to convert carbohydrates into energy as well as make red blood cells. Folate deficiency can lead to fatigue, mouth sores, and anemia. ASMBS recommends 400-800 mcg of folate per day for bariatric patients. For women of childbearing age, this increases to 800-1000 mcg per day.
  4. Iron. While the mechanism isn’t completely understood, the small intestines play a pivotal part in iron absorption. Because of this, bariatric patients often have a particularly difficult time absorbing enough iron from their diet. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to your organs. Iron is also critical to producing myoglobin, which delivers oxygen to muscles. Without adequate iron, you may feel weak, tired, and short of breath. Iron needs differ drastically between male bariatric patients and menstruating female bariatric patients. ASMBS recommends a minimum of 18 mg of iron per day for men and 45-60 mg per day for menstruating women.
  5. Vitamin D and calcium. Your body uses Vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough of these two nutrients, you can lose bone mass. Given enough time, this can cause your bones to become weak, brittle, and prone to breaking. Your post-operative dietary needs for Vitamin D and calcium will depend on which type of bariatric procedure you receive. ASMBS recommends 1200-1500 mg of calcium per day for gastric bypass, sleeve, or band patients. Patients with a duodenal switch need 1800-2400 mg of calcium per day. ASMBS recommends a daily Vitamin D3 dose of 3000 IU until the patient reaches sufficient serum levels of Vitamin D.
  6. Vitamins A, E, and K. These vitamins are fat-soluble, so they remain in your body for longer. Vitamin A is critical for your vision, Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant to protect against free radicals, and Vitamin K is critical for blood clotting and bone health. ASMBS recommendations vary for some of these vitamins depending on the bariatric procedure, much like Vitamin D and calcium. Gastric band patients should consume 5000 IU of Vitamin A and 90-120 mcg of Vitamin K per day. Gastric bypass and gastric sleeve patients should consume 5000-10,000 IU of Vitamin A and 90-120 mcg of Vitamin K per day. Duodenal switch patients should consume 10,000 IU of Vitamin A and 300 mcg of Vitamin K per day. Regardless of the procedure, all bariatric patients need 15 mg per day of Vitamin E.
  7. Zinc. Zinc boosts your immune system to fight off viruses and bacteria, reduces inflammation, and accelerates wound healing. ASMBS recommends that gastric bypass patients receive 100-200% of the recommended daily allowance (8-22 mg) per day. Gastric band and gastric sleeve patients should consume 100% of the recommended daily allowance (8-11 mg) per day. Duodenal switch patients need 200% of the recommended daily allowance (16-22 mg) per day.
  8. Copper. Copper helps maintain your metabolism, supports bone health, and helps your nervous system function properly. While copper deficiency is rare, it can occur if you’re taking high levels of zinc. Supplementing with copper can help balance the absorption of these micronutrients. ASMBS recommends 200% of the recommended daily allowance (2mg) per day for gastric bypass and duodenal switch patients. Gastric band and gastric sleeve patients should consume 100% of the daily recommended allowance (1mg) per day.

Your doctor may suggest additional vitamins and supplements depending on your existing health. While the above list may seem like a lot of pills to take each day, a high-quality multivitamin can take care of many of your micronutrient needs. Contact us to learn more about the health benefits of bariatric surgery.

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