Bariatric Surgery and Fat Malabsorption

January 27, 2017 — by Fernando Garcia
Tags: Bariatric Surgery

A patient wearing an oversized pair of jeans to demonstrate the amount of weight she lost through bariatric surgeryThe phrase “fat malabsorption” may strike you as something to avoid simply because of how it reads - when does anything good begin with the prefix “mal”? However, in the case of certain forms of bariatric surgery, most notably duodenal switch surgery, controlled fat malabsorption is precisely the point.

Duodenal switch surgery involves the surgical removal of approximately two-thirds of the stomach, the bypassing of most of the small intestine, and the redirection of digestive enzymes from the pancreas to a region further down the small intestine. This disrupts the normal manner in which the body breaks down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into tiny particles that can easily be absorbed. As a result, patients who undergo controlled fat malabsorption surgery tend to lose weight more rapidly than patients who undergo alternative forms of bariatric surgery. For severely obese patients with life-threatening health conditions, such surgery can be a true blessing.

However, fat malabsorption also places patients at increased risk of numerous health issues. In discussing bariatric surgery and fat malabsorption at his Tijuana, BC practice, Dr. Fernando Garcia and Dr. David Vazquez discuss the risks associated with fat malabsorption procedures and how they can be mitigated. They also explain to patients the lifelong changes they will have to make in order to decrease the risk of long-term complications from fat malabsorption surgery.

The Risks of Fat Malabsorption

The most common risks associated with fat malabsorption involve nutritional deficiencies due to the body’s reduced ability to absorb fat. Many essential vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning that they require fat to dissolve properly in your body. When your body cannot absorb fat, it will also have difficulty absorbing these vitamins.

The most common vitamin deficiencies among patients who undergo fat malabsorption surgeries involve the fat-soluble vitamins Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. Low levels of these vitamins can cause patients to become more prone to bruising, bleeding, impaired night vision, and rashes. Vitamin D deficiencies are specifically associated with low calcium levels, which can put patients at increased risk for bone fractures.

Vitamin E deficiencies are more rare than deficiencies in Vitamins A, D, and K; however, when they do occur, they can cause muscle weakness, numbness in the limbs, and depressions in the immune system.

Controlling Fat Malabsorption

While patients who undergo fat malabsorption procedures will always be at heightened risk for vitamin deficiencies, they can help to lower that risk by eating healthy, high-protein diets and taking vitamin supplements. Dr. Garcia provides patients with detailed instructions as to the foods they should eat (and avoid) and the supplements they should take, including dosages and frequency.

In general, however, patients should expect to take Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K supplements after surgery. Dr. Garcia may also recommend Vitamin B and calcium supplements, along with calcium-rich dairy products and regular tests for vitamin deficiencies.

Learn More about Bariatric Surgery and Fat Malabsorption

To learn more about bariatric surgery and fat malabsorption, please contact Tijuana Bariatrics today.