After a gastric bypass, you will have to take a number of vitamin and mineral supplements for the rest of you life. That’s because part of the small intestine is bypassed in the operation, so you will not absorb vitamins and minerals from your food as well as you used to.
The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery recommends a number of vitamin and mineral supplements after a gastric bypass, including a multivitamin, calcium citrate, B12, and iron. They state that you should begin taking your multivitamin and iron on the first day after you are discharged from the hospital after surgery, that you should begin taking your calcium citrate within one month of surgery, and being taking your B12 within three months of surgery. However, some doctors give different recommendations to patients. Why? And is it safe to wait to start your vitamins?
One person told me her doctor told her she did not need to start taking any vitamins for three weeks because she would be drinking a lot of protein shakes for the first three weeks and would get all of her vitamins from those. Well, I don’t know what brand of protein shake he thought she would be drinking. I looked up the nutritional information for a number of different protein shakes, and the one I found with the most vitamins and minerals was Chike. The ASMBS recommends we get about 200% of the recommended daily allowance of most vitamins and minerals after a gastric bypass, and one Chike protein shake provides about 25% of most vitamins and minerals. So she would need to drink eight shakes a day to get enough vitamins and minerals. I don’t know any one who drinks eight protein shakes a day! At 190 calories a piece, this would have had her getting almost 1600 calories a day right after her surgery! I am pretty sure her doctor didn’t really want her getting that many calories.
Several people have told me that they were told they did not need to start taking vitamins for a few weeks after surgery because we have enough stored up in our bodies. Well, that is true of some things, but not others. For instance, we store B12 for a long time. That’s why the ASMBS says we can wait up to three months before we start taking. Note that they don’t say we have to wait for three months or that we should wait for three months, just that we can. There is no real reason to wait, though. We also store vitamin A for a long time. But there are many other things we don’t store for so long, including vitamin D and vitamin K and most of the B vitamins other than B12. We need those things pretty much on a daily basis.
Gastric bypass patients are often advised to take chewable vitamins. Some doctors and dieticians believe they will be absorbed better than vitamins that you swallow. Also, pills, especially large pills (and many vitamin pills are large), may get “stuck” in the small opening between the stomach and the small intestine after surgery. However, patients are usually on a liquid diet for the first week or two after surgery, and some doctors don’t want them to even chew vitamins while they are on the liquid diet. So they tell patients to wait until they start solid food to start their vitamins.
However, if you can’t have chewable vitamins right away, there are liquid alternatives. Celebrate makes a drink mix that is called ENS. You mix it with eight ounces of water and it is a multivitamin plus 500 mg calcium. You drink two a day. There is a liquid vitamin called Epic Ultra that is suitable for gastric bypass patients. There are probably others.
If your doctor advises you to wait longer than the ASMBS recommends waiting before starting your vitamins, I suggest asking why he or she is not following the ASMBS guidelines. There may be a good reason- but there usually isn’t. If it’s because your doctor doesn’t want you chewing vitamins while on a liquid diet, ask if liquid vitamins would be acceptable.
The thing is, we need vitamins in order for our bodies to function properly. We need vitamins in order for our immune system to function, and you don’t want to be developing an infection after surgery. We need vitamins in order to recover from surgery, maybe even extra vitamins, certainly not less vitamins than we would normally need. So talk to your doctor about the ASMBS recommendations, and take your vitamins!
American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. http://www.asbs.org/Newsite07/resources/bgs_final.pdf. ASMBS Guidelines.
Thinner Times Forum. http://www.thinnertimesforum.com/general-gastric-bypass-discussions/39501-when-start-taking-vitamins.html. When To Start Taking Vitamins.