Bariatric surgery is a medical treatment for obesity with many added health benefits, but it has its fair share of challenges. Bloating is one common side effect many can face in the first few days or weeks post-operatively. A sensation similar to swelling is usually developed around the stomach. Cramps and abdominal pains can also occur during this stage. The good news is that bloating after bariatric surgery is usually temporary and will go away as your body heals.
How Long Does Post-Operative Bloating Last?
The duration of your gas build-up in the belly can vary. For most people, it goes away within a few weeks or months. However, for some people, it may last up to a year. Many pre-existing health complications, such as acid reflux (GERD) or lactose intolerance, can alter each person’s reaction to bloating after weight loss surgery.
How to Relieve Gas Pain and Bloating
The fastest and most effective way to relieve gas is by moving around. Walking, dancing, or even just stretching can help get rid of the gas in your stomach. Standing upright can push the gas out of your body if you can’t get too active. You can also try lying down and putting a heating pad on your stomach to help release pressure. Pain medication can also help in relieving discomfort. Just ensure it’s something you can take safely after weight loss surgery. Over-the-counter medications for gas and bloating, such as Pepto Bismol, Simethicone, Gas-x, and lactase enzyme, can help ease some discomfort.
What Can I Do To Reduce Or Avoid Bloating?
There are several things you can do to help reduce or avoid bloating after bariatric surgery:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Hydration helps move gas through your system.
- Avoid carbonated drinks, chewing gum, and straws. These can lead to swallowed air in your stomach and cause bloating.
- Eat small amounts of food. Eating large meals can cause bloating.
- Chew slowly. This will help you digest your food better and avoid gas.
- Avoid high-fiber foods. High-fiber foods can cause gas, a bloated stomach, and bloating pains.
Foods That Can Relieve Bloating
You can also try these foods to help reduce or eliminate bloating.
- Kiwi – contains the enzyme actinidin aids in digesting red meats and dairy.
- Peppermint Tea & Chamomile Tea – peppermint tea contains menthol, which relaxes stomach muscles allowing the body to release pent-up gas. Chamomile tea is a natural anti-inflammatory and carminative herb that helps relieve flatulence by “mildly sedating and soothing the mucous membrane of the digestive tract.”
- Banana – potassium helps regulate high sodium intake, thus reducing salt-induced bloating.
- Cilantro – contains phytonutrients enzymes, linalool, & geranyl acetate, which offers a natural remedy for relaxing the digestive system’s muscles.
- Ginger – filled with gingerol and shogaol- helps calm the digestive tract, relieve gas build-up, and aid with bloating, gas, and cramps.
- Papaya – filled with papain enzymes that help digest proteins to help reduce bloating.
- Fennel seeds – have compounds such as anethole, fenchone, and estragole that aid in antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Foods That Worsen Bloating (Avoid These)
You’ll also want to avoid bloating-inducing foods. These vary from person to person as everyone’s digestive tract is different. Start a food journal to track exactly which foods are causing stomach pain and bloated sensation. This way, you can track what foods to steer clear of in the future.
Some of the typical food triggers for bariatric patients include:
- Dairy products (milk products)
- Brussels sprouts
- Carbonated beverages
- High-fiber foods
Keep a close eye on dairy products. Many patients experiencing bloating after bariatric surgery are caused by the development of lactose intolerance, which means you can no longer properly digest dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and occasional vomiting, typically 60 to 90 minutes after eating or drinking dairy-based food or beverages. If this is the case for you, avoid eating all dairy products or try lactase products such as Lactaid milk or lactase enzyme tablets.
When Should I Be Concerned About Bloating After Surgery?
While bloating after bariatric surgery is common and usually temporary, you should be concerned sometimes. If you have severe bloating, that is accompanied by:
- Bloody stool
You should call your doctor. These could be signs of a complication and may require medical attention.
Small Bowel Bacterial Growth
Lots of bacteria live in our large intestines but not in our small intestines. In rare cases, bariatric surgery can provoke bacteria to grow in the small intestine. This extra bacteria, if unchecked, can devour the nutrients your body needs and cause bloating, cramping, gas, and diarrhea.
In severe cases, small bowel bacterial overgrowth can restrict the body from properly absorbing nutrients, leading to malnutrition and electrolyte and vitamin deficiencies, such as anemia. Intestinal gas can sometimes be mistaken for small bowel bacteria overgrowth, but it can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics.
Dumping syndrome is experienced when the stomach empties its contents rapidly into the small intestine. When food enters the intestines too quickly, pieces of partially digested foods can cause excess fluid to build up in the small intestine, leading to diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramping, and heart palpitations.
In short, painful abdominal fullness and tightness after bariatric surgery is a common side effect that usually disappears within a few weeks or months. You can do things to reduce the discomfort, including over-the-counter medications, drinking plenty of fluids, and avoiding certain foods. Pay close attention to your body and call your doctor if you experience severe bloating or other severe symptoms.