By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Gastric bypass surgery is a major abdominal operation and like all other major surgeries can affect a patient well after the surgery is over. Aside form the physical aspects, patients may have trouble adjusting psychologically to their drastic weight loss after the operation.
For example, the rapid change in weight and eating habits can cause problems in a relationship where the partner is also obese and day time activities had previously been orientated around food. Furthermore, people who had attributed their depression or anxiety to being overweight or obese may find that these problems do not automatically resolve just because they have had surgery and lost weight.
People who undergo gastric bypass also need to be dedicated to a rigorous new lifestyle plan that can be quite demanding. Their diet will need to be strictly controlled and they will need to engage in exercise regularly if they are to avoid putting the weight back on or experiencing long-term complications.
One physical aspect that can be problematic for patients after surgery is excess skin. The skin does not revert back to the firmness and shape it was prior to the patient becoming obese. Residual skin folds can be upsetting to live with from a cosmetic angle as well as from a hygiene perspective because the folds can develop rashes or become infected. Cosmetic surgery is sometimes considered to remove the excess skin.
Patients need to follow a strict diet plan after surgery and an example diet is given below:
- In the first week after surgery, patients can only drink liquids and not even pureed food is allowed.
- Between weeks two and four, around 100g of pureed food can be eaten four to five times a day.
- Between weeks four and six, soft foods are allowed.
- After six weeks, a healthy and balanced diet can start to be adopted.
Patients also need to be aware that they must avoid foods that are high in sugar such as cakes, chocolates and sweets because the bypass affects the way sugar is digested. Consumption of foods that are rich in sugar can lead to increase insulin levels. The raised insulin level can cause a collection of symptoms that are collectively referred to as dumping syndrome. These include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Patients will also need to take vitamin and mineral supplements, as the operation reduces the intestinal absorption of various important food components. Most people are advised to take a multivitamin along with a calcium supplement and an iron supplement.
Examples of exercises patients can start to engage in on a regular basis include walking, cycling and swimming.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jul 11, 2014