Gastric Bypass Surgery is not a Magic Bean- photo by Artur BergmanCredit: photo by Artur Bergman

Gastric bypass surgery is often a last resort for weight loss but the cost can be more than just the loss of fat.  The surgery alters the way the person lives.  In 2007-2008, the prevalence of obesity in the United States was 32.2% among adult men and 35.5% among adult women.  Obesity causes many health ailments and puts the body at risk for serious disease or injury.  Though genetics play a role in the ability to lose and maintain a healthy weight; most people’s bodies have the ability to lose enough fat to stay healthy. 

There is a plethora of information on dieting, obesity, and how to maintain a healthy body. The diet industry is a billion dollar business with many people ultimately resorting to weight loss surgery.   This is a decision that mustn’t be entered into lightly.  Most doctors explain the procedure and depending upon the doctor and the insurance requirements (if the patient’s particular insurance covers this procedure); the patient will attend some pre-surgery classes.  (e.g. Kaiser Permanente requires an extensive screening for gastric bypass surgery and once approved, classes prior to the actual procedure).  

Daily Minerals and Vitamin Supplements for Life

After most bariatric procedures, the patient will be unable to get adequate minerals and vitamins from their eaten foods because the amount of food ingested will be much smaller.  Supplements will have to be taken for the duration of the patient’s life. Most patients are required to take a mega-multi-vitamin daily.  The mega dose well exceeds the normal dosage of daily vitamins.

In addition to the mega multi-vitamin, calcium citrate is required (calcium bicarbonate will not work because it needs the bottom of the stomach for absorption) in large dosage, usually 1500mg.  This must be taken throughout the day in smaller doses as the body does not absorb more than 500mg at a time.  Iron cannot be taken at the same time as calcium because of the interaction between the two.  B-12 vitamins must be taken sublingual with the recommended dosage of 2000mcg per week. 

Protein Is the Focus of Ingested Food

The focus of the diet will be protein—lots of it.  Patients are generally expected to eat 50-55 grams of protein daily.  Each of the patient’s three meals should be 75% protein and 25% vegetables and fruit.  While protein may be taken as a drink, the patient must be mindful of added sugars in pre-mix protein drinks. 

 In 70% of bariatric patients, ingesting sugar will cause a dumping into the blood (dumping syndrome) which will make the patient feel as if flu has attacked the body.   The patient will have to lie down for approximately an hour for the body to feel normal again.   Any food item with a significant amount of sugar can cause the dumping syndrome.  This includes items such as frozen yogurt and fancy coffee drinks. 

Most doctors recommend  after surgery the following foods should be avoided entirely:

  • Coconut
  • Gum
  • Corn
  • Popcorn
  • Soda (any carbonated drinks as well)
  • Alcohol

Carbohydrates are not recommended.  Not only may they lead to the gain back of weight; they may also block the small hole from the stomach to the intestine. Called the anastomosis; this hole is only about the size of a dime.  A blockage of the anastomosis can create mild to severe dangers.  In the worst case, a second surgery procedure is needed to unblock the anastomosis.  Other food items that may block the anastomosis include nuts, seeds, dried fruit, potato skins, celery, oranges, skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables and hot dog skins. 

Just as before surgery; after surgery foods high in fat can lead to a weight gain. After surgery many patients find that their taste buds have changed.  Foods that were tolerated before the surgery, no longer can be eaten without discomfort; foods that were disliked before surgery, may be relished afterwards. 

Skin Doesn’t Shrink as Fast as the Fat

Gastric bypass surgery allows the patient to lose a significant amount of weight in a short time.  However, the skin doesn’t reduce so easily.  Skin that has been stretched to accommodate more fat does not snap back into shape when the fat is quickly lost.  Most patients find there are folds of skin in different areas of their bodies that can present problems both hygienically and medically.  At times plastic surgery is indicated.    Most insurance cLifestyle Change is Necessary – photo by Colin RoseCredit: photo by Colin Roseompanies will not pay for plastic surgery, considering it cosmetic; but if a doctor indicates a medical necessity, insurance may include the surgery in their benefits. 

As in all surgeries, there are risks involved.  As in all weight reduction strategies, exercise and healthy eating habits are important aspects of the program.  Most importantly bariatric   surgery is not a magic bean; the bariatric patient must engage in a different lifestyle or the weight will come back. 


Sources: “Prevalence and Trends in Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2008” (accessed March 2, 2010)

 Kaiser Permanente. Gastric Bypass Surgery Patient Information Book. Feburary 2005 Edition.

 Haas, Elson M. M.D. Staying Healthy with Nutrition.  Celestial Arts: Berkeley, California, 1992.


The copyright of the article “Lifestyle Changes Necessary for Gastric Bypass Surgery Patient to Succeed” is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.