Nutritional Deficiencies after Bariatric Surgery: What You Need to Know

Many bariatric surgeries alter the digestive system to make patients feel satiated faster and eat less, but these techniques can also reduce the body's natural ability to absorb sufficient vitamins and minerals from the diet.* In many cases, patients have to maintain a life-long intake of supplements to prevent nutritional deficiencies after bariatric surgery. The team coordinating with Tijuana Bariatrics in Tijuana, Mexico, can conduct a thorough health assessment during the treatment planning phase. Working with a nutritional counselor after your procedure will be necessary to determine whether you require nutritional supplements to maintain optimal health.

What Causes Nutritional Deficiencies After Bariatric Surgery?

Nutritional deficiencies can be present even before treatment begins. Obese individuals sometimes suffer from vital deficiencies due to poor diet choices and may require certain supplements or diet modifications before undergoing surgery.

After surgery, patients will need to commit to a disciplined lifestyle which includes a nutritional diet and in many cases, supplements.

It should be noted that not all types of bariatric procedures result in the same risk of nutritional deficiency. The impact depends largely on whether the surgery utilizes a restrictive or malabsorptive technique, or a combination of both:  

Gastric Banding

Gastric banding, such as LAP-BAND® surgery, reduces food intake by simply restricting the stomach's capacity. This procedure does not bypass any of the intestines and, therefore, associated nutritional deficiencies are not as pronounced as with other procedures.

Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Gastric sleeve surgery removes more than 80 percent of the stomach, and the remaining stomach portion takes the form of a "sleeve" shape. The reduction in stomach acids can lead to a deficiency of nutrients such as vitamin B12. 

Gastric Bypass Surgery

This surgery involves a combination of restrictive and malabsorptive techniques as the stomach is divided into two pouches and the intestines are rearranged to connect to both. As the food passes through only the lower portion of the bowels, nutritional and caloric processing is reduced. Gastric bypass surgery typically leads to significant weight loss but can also result in malnutrition if patients do not take certain precautions. 

Duodenal Switch Surgery

During duodenal switch surgery, a new, smaller stomach pouch is created, which is connected to the small intestine. The surgery also rearranges the small intestine to separate the flow of food from the flow of digestive juices, allowing them to mix in a smaller section of the intestine. Malabsorption then promotes weight loss, which can also lead to a reduction in nutrient levels.

Important Supplements

Studies have found that nutritional deficiencies are the most likely long-term adverse side effect of bariatric surgery. This can lead to wide-ranging symptoms, including anemia and neurological dysfunction. Bariatric surgery patients may become deficient in:

  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folic Acid
  • Iron
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamins A, E, and K
  • Zinc
  • Copper

Female patient speaking with doctorIt is important for patients to be screened regularly, at least once a year, for micronutrient deficiencies. This screening becomes critical among women who become pregnant after bariatric surgery, and any deficiencies should be treated before and during the pregnancy.

The long-term success of bariatric surgery requires a multi-disciplinary approach. In addition to consulting with your surgeon and general physician, a dietician can provide instructions and tips for a healthy, nutrient-rich diet and supplements that can counter these deficiencies. Throughout the recovery process and after, patients will need to commit to a disciplined lifestyle in this way.

Take Control of Your Healthy Lifestyle

If you would like to learn more about life after bariatric surgery and the possible side effects of your treatment, please contact us online. You can also call us at (877) 759-0739 to schedule a consultation with a member of our team.