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Beacon Senior News

Nutritional consequences of gastric bypass

Jun 01, 2022 03:23PM ● By Suzy Cohen

Shrink your stomach and you will lose weight. This idea is perpetuated in our country, with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and bladder concerns making it seem dire to undergo a drastic procedure such as gastric bypass. 

Back when it was airing, I watched the reality TV series “My 600-lb Life,” and I’ve empathized with every single person. 

Gastric bypass may end up being your solution for weight-related woes, but you may not fully grasp the long-term nutritional consequences. 

While some physicians require mandatory nutritional counseling the first year, after that it’s optional. The extent of their recommendations stops after a multivitamin or multimineral, probably the basic A-to-Z once-daily sort.

After the first year, many patients fall off someone’s radar of care. They may experience symptoms of nutrient depletion and will now go on to get heavily medicated. Anemia is a big problem due to B vitamin deficiencies, but it’s fixable. 

Researchers show that deficiencies in macronutrients—proteins, fats and carbohydrates—and micronutrients—vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients—are common. A 2014 scientific review team looked at studies published on different types of obesity surgeries conducted between January 1980 and March 2014. Major deficits were common, especially the finding of low albumin, a critical protein used to transport hormones including thyroid, electrolytes, fatty acids and more. Deficiencies of vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B12, D, iron, zinc and others were common, too. 

These very nutrients are critical for glucose management, energy production, gene signaling and detoxification. Without these nutrients, often the first symptoms are fatigue, anemia, memory loss, cognitive changes and loss of vitality, which many chalk up to stress or aging. When left to progress, you can end up with severe damage leading to gait disturbances, Alzheimer’s and general loss of health and function. 

Now consider the added layer of complexity when medications are prescribed. The drug mugging effect will necessitate more nutritional supplements. For example, metformin given for blood sugar can deplete B12 and CoQ10. Certain antidepressants can reduce iodine and antimicrobials will further damage your probiotic stores.

Literature consistently shows that bariatric surgery patients tend to run out of vitamins B12, B1, folate, C, A, D and K, along with iron, selenium, zinc and copper. Over-the-counter multivitamin and mineral formulas cannot provide adequate amounts of some of these micronutrients. 

It’s easy to get mistaken for having dementia or some other psychiatric disorder when it’s just a nutrient deficiency related to bariatric surgery. What if you had a gut infection or celiac and didn’t even know? 

Make sure this surgery is absolutely necessary before doing it. Also, find a nutritionist who can advise which protein supplements, medical foods, greens or vitamins you need.  

Read more from Suzy Cohen here.