When your body lacks sufficient nourishment, you’ll often notice side effects. After weight loss surgery, you can’t absorb nutrients well because your digestive system is altered, making bariatric vitamins necessary. Not taking bariatric-specific vitamins after gastric bypass and gastric sleeve regularly can have adverse side effects like permanent memory loss and nerve damage.
So, what happens if you don’t take the proper vitamins and minerals?
Signs of Vitamin Deficiency
If you don’t follow a strict vitamin regimen, you can also experience the following:
- Hair loss
- Brain fog
- Muscle loss
- Cracked and dry skin
- Blurred vision
- Nerve damage
- Weak and brittle bones
- Permanent memory loss
Bariatric Vitamin Requirements
The best way to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle after bariatric surgery is to follow the guidelines provided by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS):
Bariatric Multivitamin – Daily
Thiamine – 12mg
Calcium – 1,200-1,500mg
Vitamin D – 3000 IU (75mcg)
Iron – 45-60mg (menstruating women)
- 18mg (Non-menstruating women)
- 18mg (males with no history of anemia)
Vitamin C – 500mg
Vitamin B12 – 500-1,000 mcg sublingual pill
To maximize absorption, each vitamin should be taken differently. For example, multivitamins contain fat-soluble vitamins, so they should be taken with food for increased absorption. Other vitamins like calcium should be taken with vitamin D for increased absorption, and iron with vitamin C. Iron and calcium should be taken at least 2 hours apart because they compete for absorption, which can lead to anemia.
The best vitamins for the first few months are soft chew or drinkable for maximum absorption. After that, you can switch to pills or capsules. Gummy vitamins should not be used by gastric sleeve or bypass patients. They are full of added sugars, artificial sweeteners, fillers, and preservatives, all of which can stall weight loss.
Deficiencies Associated With Not Taking Vitamins After Bariatric Surgery
There are many deficiencies associated with not taking vitamins after bariatric surgery. Lacking proper nutrition will not only decrease quality of life, but it can also hinder post-op recovery and success.
1. Thiamine Deficiency
Thiamine (Vitamin B1) is essential in relieving nausea and vomiting, both common after bariatric surgery. Some high-thiamine foods include legumes, whole grains, and salmon.
Deficiency Symptoms include nerve damage, loss of appetite, fatigue, irritability, tingling arms and legs, blurry vision, brain fog, nausea, and vomiting. Long-term Thiamine deficiencies can lead to Beri Berri and Wernickle-Korsakoff Syndrome.
Beri-Beri is caused by Thiamine deficiency and affects individuals who primarily eat white rice, highly refined grains, or drink excessively.
Symptoms include trouble walking, loss of sensation in hands and feet, loss of muscle function, tingling, and vomiting.
Wernicke-Korsakoff is a brain disorder caused by the lack of Thiamine in the thalamus, causing the hypothalamus to become impaired. It can stem from excessive alcohol use, eating disorders, vomiting, or chemotherapy.
Symptoms include disorientation, nystagmus (a vision condition), and memory loss.
2. Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is essential for boosting the immune system, and it’s recommended to take 15mg daily to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Zinc-rich foods include meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, and whole grains.
Symptoms include diarrhea, slow wound healing, the common cold, skin ulcers, a weak immune system, skin rash, and vision problems.
3. Calcium Deficiency
Low calcium can cause low bone mass and a risk of osteoporosis. This causes bones to become brittle and weak, leading to breakage. A lack of calcium causes the creation of new bone tissue to be unable to keep up with the loss of old tissue. A calcium-rich diet, including dairy, seeds, sardines, salmon, beans, and lentils, can help prevent a deficiency.
Symptoms include numbness and tingling in the fingers, abnormal heart rhythm, brain fog, extreme fatigue, lack of energy, sluggish feeling, lack of focus, and forgetfulness.
4. Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is among the most common deficiencies seen in patients. To prevent a deficiency, you can take supplements and spend time outside. Also, a diet high in vitamin D-rich foods like tuna and fortified foods can help prevent a lack of vitamin D.
Symptoms include loss of bone density (a significant contributor to osteoporosis and fractures), muscle weakness, fatigue, depression, hair loss, bone/back pain, and slow wound healing.
5. Vitamin C Deficiency
A diet high in vitamin C can be challenging to maintain. Still, incorporating vitamin C-rich foods like citrus and supplements into your meal plan can significantly improve your immune system.
Symptoms include tiredness, fatigue, mood swings, and slow-healing wounds. A long-term deficiency can lead to scurvy which causes bruising, dental problems, dry hair, dry skin, and anemia.
6. Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency occurs when your red blood cells have low hemoglobin, and your body can’t get enough oxygen. This is more common among malabsorption procedures like RNY bypass. Iron-rich foods include spinach, broccoli, shellfish, red meat, turkey, legumes, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, tofu, and tuna.
Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, cold hands and feet, headaches, irregular heartbeat, brittle nails, shortness of breath, and a tingling sensation in the legs.
7. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
After weight loss surgery, you do not produce enough gastric acid or intrinsic factors (IF) to absorb vitamin B12 properly. Both of these work to release B12 from food and assist in the absorption of the vitamin. Vitamin B12-rich foods include beef, chicken, and fish, but getting enough from your diet can be difficult.
Symptoms include irritability, lack of energy, fatigue, heart palpitations, depression, and headaches.
Other Recommended Supplements
Probiotics are live microorganisms (the good bacteria) that your body needs. They help prevent and treat diarrhea and stomach issues caused by infections. They also improve the immune system and reduce inflammation and allergies. A supplement with at least 50 billion CFU and as many strains as possible is best when looking for a probiotic.
Recommended Brands: Garden of Life, Ultimate Care
2. Digestive Enzyme
A digestive enzyme is a protein that helps break down carbs, proteins, and fats; after surgery, you don’t have many digestive enzymes. Therefore, these supplements can prevent nausea and increase the absorption of nutrients.
Recommended Brands: NOW Foods, Digest Ultimate
Biotin supports your immune system, promotes heart health, regulates metabolism levels, and promotes keratin production in hair, increasing follicle growth. A biotin supplement with 3,000 mcg can help with hair loss.
Recommended Brands: Thorne Research, Pure Encapsulations.
Check out these helpful blogs!