If you are feeling dizzy or lightheaded after bariatric surgery, rest assured this is not uncommon. The reason for these faint feelings and dizzy spells is the stress your body undergoes during the healing process.
Studies have found that 16% of patients experienced dizziness following gastric sleeve or gastric bypass procedures. This symptom could last an average of 2-5 weeks post-operative or even longer as your body adjusts to the changes.
In this article, we will go over the common causes of dizziness after bariatric surgery and the easy methods to overcome it.
Dizziness After Bariatric Surgery
Your body goes through many transformations, including changes in your cardiovascular system, lungs, amount of blood, and fluid. Lightheadedness affects more than 4% of the bariatric population within the first 5 years postoperatively.
According to MBC’s bariatric specialist Jen Ragland, “Dehydration, low blood pressure, and low blood sugar are the most common reasons for feeling disoriented.”
There are two types of dizziness that patients refer to:
- Orthostatic Hypotension (OI) – OI happens when the individual stands up too quickly, caused by low blood pressure. The patient is losing a lot of weight, and less blood is circulating.
- Hypoglycemia (Blood Sugar Level) – When the individual is doing their regular activity and gets cold skin, feels weak, sweats, and is palpated. It occurs due to loss of appetite (ghrelin), long gaps between meals after gastric sleeve, and dumping syndrome after gastric bypass.
Seven Causes of Dizziness
Here are 7 reasons for dizziness after weight loss surgery:
Not reaching the required liquid goal of 64 ounces per day will lead to dehydration and low blood pressure. This results in less blood flow to the brain, causing a spinning sensation.
Drinking fluids can keep you hydrated and steady blood sugar levels. Opt for an electrolyte-rich beverage like Gatorade Zero, a replenishing electrolyte mix such as Sugar-Free Liquid IV, smart water, or broth.
Solution: Ensure you drink at least 48-64 ounces of water daily.
2. Low Blood Pressure
Standing up or sitting down too quickly can drop your blood pressure and make you feel dazed. This is known as positional vertigo or orthostatic hypotension or intolerance which is especially prevalent after bariatric surgery because your body isn’t getting enough blood to its organs.
Solution: Increase intake of fluid and a little salt. Have your complete blood count (CBC) and pressure checked every 3 months.
3. Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
Since you limit food and sugar intake, insufficient glucose in your bloodstream leads to dizziness and unsteadiness. Bariatric patients, especially RNY gastric bypass, experience dumping syndrome after a meal heavy in sugar and starch.
Dumping syndrome (Reactive Hypoglycemia) is a blood glucose level drop after an insulin surge from a starchy meal.
Solution: Try eating more consistently throughout the day to reach nutritional goals (i.e., every three hours).
4. Vitamin Deficiency
Chemical imbalances related to the malabsorptive nature of bariatric surgery are typical. Nutritional deficiencies in Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Iron are common and a leading cause of weakness and instability. We recommend eating small protein-rich meals and taking bariatric specialized vitamins.
Iron deficiency anemia (low hemoglobin) results in skin and lips turning pale, fatigue, syncope, and shortness of breath.
Solution: Get an IV treatment containing nutrients like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Iron, and amino acids.
5. Certain Medications
Solution: See if an adjustment is needed with your doctor.
6. Reintroducing Solid Food
Occurrence of dizziness and fatigue right after the procedure is due to the clear liquid post-op diet phase and then the reintroduction of solid food. If you start to consume solid food too quickly, you may experience dizzy spells that can appear 1 to 3 hours after eating (Dumping Syndrome). Not everyone’s body will tolerate new foods the same.
Avoid concentrated sugars, high-fat foods, and caffeine. Increase healthy carb and salt intake. Incorporate protein supplements such as Orgain Protein, Emerge Replacement Meal, and Fairlife to reach 75-105g daily.
Solution: Introduce one new food at a time; if you feel sick, you’ll know what caused it. Chew to applesauce consistency and wait at least 60 seconds between bites.
7. Anastomotic or Staple Line Leak
Leakage of the staple line after the gastric sleeve or anastomosis after gastric bypass can also cause dizziness. However, it is generally accompanied by abdominal pain and swelling, fever, elevated heart rate, and shortness of breath. This is an early sign of complications from the operation and needs urgent attention.
Solution: Look for the symptoms listed here and seek immediate help if you experience them.
Helpful advice from actual patients:
Another way to address dizziness after bariatric surgery is by getting advice from other patients in our support group!
“Your body will adjust after a while. Just work on getting your fluids in and get up very slowly so your body can adjust to a change in position. Just be patient, and it will get better..”- Allison
“I’m almost a year and a half out, and sometimes I see black spots. I have been doing a lot of cardio, lifting and upped my carbs that’s helped a lot.”- Brian
“What I’ve noticed is that increasing electrolytes and taking iron supplements helps.”- Jon
Clearing the Air
Bariatric patients may find relief from dizziness by making dietary adjustments, getting regular blood levels checked, and incorporating vitamin and protein supplements. Many patients see improvement after a couple of weeks. If your symptoms worsen, remember to consult with your primary care physician.
Let us know what you think! What has helped you cope with dizziness?