Bariatric surgery, better known as gastric bypass, can refer to a number of operations that divide the stomach into a smaller and larger pouch. In such surgeries, the small intestine is re-arranged to connect it with the smaller stomach pouch, limiting the amount of food the patient can. The surgery was designed to help individuals suffering from morbid obesity and type 2 diabetes as well as other comorbid conditions, such as sleep apnea and hypertension.
Gastric bypass surgery requires much work after surgery however, so patients should prepare beforehand for the challenges that come with this lifestyle change. For instance, patients will need to undergo a strict dietary regime. Keeping to doctor recommendations on the amount of food to eat can also keep the stomach from unnecessarily stretching, slowing weight loss progress.
Different phases after surgery require different diets, with the first phase ensuring the patient’s stomach has adequate time to heal and the fourth marking a milestone when the patient can safely eat solid foods.
Here is a breakdown of each phase and realistic dietary expectations following surgery:
Phase 1: Liquid-Only Diet
Gastric bypass patients will be on liquids and soft foods. This restricts meals to broths, soups, unsweetened juices, and sugar-free gelatin. During this time, doctors will observe how the patient’s new stomach is handling food.
The patient will also need to sip liquids slowly and avoid carbonated and caffeinated beverages.
Phase 2: Mashed Up Foods
This phase can last about one month. The patient will begin eating soggy, easy-to-swallow foods, such as thick liquids, smooth pastes, and blended drinks. Lean ground meats, beans, and fish can be blended with water, broths, or fat-free gravy. Some patients also eat eggs, yogurt, soft vegetables, and cottage cheese.
Because the stomach will still be sensitive during this phase, it is best to avoid spicy foods.
Phase 3: Soft, Solid Foods Enter the Diet
After a few weeks of pureed foods, most patients are allowed to eat soft foods. If the food can be mashed with a fork, then it is safe for this phase.
Great foods for this phase include finely diced meats; fresh fruits, preferably canned, and cooked vegetables.
Phase 4: Regular, Solid Food
Roughly two months following surgery, gastric bypass patients will be able to eat solid foods again. However, this does not mean the patient is free to eat what they please. Certain foods simply can’t be tolerated after surgery during Phase 4, as they can cause gastrointestinal problems. Spicy or textured foods can also pose a problem.
Foods that should be avoided include nuts and seeds, sodas, granola, tough meats, breads, and fibrous vegetables.
Although the patient will be able to handle larger quantities of food, it is important meals remain small and balanced. Bariatric vitamin and mineral supplements should be taken daily to ensure proper nutrition. Bariatric protein bars and drinks can also complement a healthy diet by bringing in the right amount of nutrition small meals cannot provide.
A successful procedure and adequate lifestyle change can reduce the mortality rate of an individual by 40 percent. Bariatric surgeries are a long term commitment, much like the diets patients must maintain. It requires a strict attention to detail and commitment. However the benefits are substantial, improving a patient’s way of life and health.
Written by Jakob, a gastric bypass specialist and freelance writer.