Diet FAQs About Obesity Surgery

How can I improve my chances of losing weight and keeping it off?
Adopting a healthy lifestyle, such as exercising, eating well-balanced meals, avoiding sugar and fatty foods, and following our other recommendations will improve your chances of losing and maintaining weight. Our multidisciplinary program, which has evolved over the past 40 years, includes a thorough education in teaching you how to succeed. In addition to a two and a half hour educational class, each patient receives a reference book, written by our experts, about gastric bypass surgery. And with our lifetime continuum of care, you can always refer back to members of your weight-loss team for counsel.
How long will I be off of solid foods after surgery?
Most surgeons recommend a period of four weeks or more without solid foods after surgery. A liquid diet, followed by semi-solid foods or pureed foods, may be recommended for a period of time until adequate healing has occurred. Your surgeon will provide you with specific dietary guidelines for the best post-surgical outcome.
What are the best choices of protein?
You should get your healthy protein from the following sources:
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Tofu
  • Fish
  • Other seafood
  • Chicken (dark meat)
  • Turkey (dark meat)
Why is drinking water so important?
When you are losing weight, there are many waste products to eliminate, mostly in the urine. Some of these substances tend to form crystals, which can cause kidney stones. A high water intake protects you and helps your body to rid itself of waste products efficiently, promoting better weight-loss. Water also fills your stomach and helps to prolong and intensify your sense of satisfaction with food. If you feel a desire to eat between meals, it may be because you did not drink enough water in the hour before.
What is Dumping Syndrome?
Eating sugars or other foods containing many small particles when you have an empty stomach can cause dumping syndrome in patients who have had a gastric bypass. Your body handles these small particles by diluting them with water, which reduces blood volume and causes a shock-like state.
Sugar may also induce insulin shock due to the altered physiology of your intestinal tract. The result is a very unpleasant feeling: you break out in a cold clammy sweat, turn pale, feel butterflies in your stomach, and have a pounding pulse. Cramps and diarrhea may follow. This state can last for 30 to 60 minutes and can be quite uncomfortable. You may have to lie down until it goes away. This syndrome can be avoided by not eating the foods that cause it, especially on an empty stomach. A small amount of sweets, such as fruit, can sometimes be well tolerated at the end of a meal.
Will I have problems consuming dairy products?
Milk contains lactose (milk sugar), which is not easily digested. This sugar passes through undigested until bacteria in the lower bowel act on it, producing irritating byproducts as well as gas. Depending on individual tolerance, some patients find even the smallest amount of milk can cause cramps, gas and diarrhea.
Why can't I snack between meals?
Snacking, nibbling or grazing on foods, usually high-calorie and high-fat foods, can add hundreds of calories a day to your intake, defeating the restrictive effect of your operation. Snacking will slow down your weight-loss and can lead to weight gain.
Why shouldn't I eat red meat after surgery?
You can, but you will need to be very careful, and we recommend that you avoid it for the first several months. Red meats contain a high level of meat fibers (gristle) that hold the piece of meat together, preventing you from separating it into small parts when you chew. The gristle can plug the outlet of your stomach pouch and prevent anything from passing through, a condition that is very uncomfortable.
How can I be sure I am eating enough protein?
Fifty to 65 grams a day are generally sufficient. Check with your surgeon to determine the right amount for your type of surgery.
Is there any restriction of salt intake?
No, your salt intake will be unchanged unless otherwise instructed by your primary care physician.
Will I be able to eat spicy or seasoned foods?
Most patients are able to enjoy spices after the initial six months following surgery.
Will I be allowed to drink alcohol?
You’ll find that even small amounts of alcohol will affect you quickly. It is suggested that you drink no alcohol for the first year. Thereafter, with your physician's approval, you may have an occasional glass of wine or a small cocktail.
What vitamins will I need to take after surgery?
Vitamin supplementation will need to be taken for the rest of your life. Our surgeons recommend: daily chewable multivitamin, B12 (under the tongue for better absorption), B complex, ferrous sulfate (iron tablet) and chewable calcium tablets and vitamin D if indicated.
Is it important to take trace elements or female hormone replacements?
Some patients require these supplements; your particular needs will be determined by your surgeon.
Do I meet with a nutritionist before and after surgery?
Our surgeons require patients to consult with a nutritionist before surgery. Counseling after surgery is available and its necessity will be determined by you and/or your doctor.
Will I get a copy of suggested eating patterns and food choices after surgery?
Yes. Surgeons provide patients with materials that clearly outline their expectations regarding diet and compliance to guidelines for the best outcome based on your surgical procedure. After surgery, health and weight-loss are highly dependent on patient compliance with these guidelines. You must do your part by restricting high-calorie foods, by avoiding sugar, snacks and fats, and by strictly following the guidelines set by your surgeon.

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Bariatric Surgery
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive, 4604 JCP
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-356-1887
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