Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix. It’s an ongoing journey toward weight loss through lifestyle changes. After surgery, the difference in your body makes it physically easier to adjust your eating and lifestyle habits. Fortunately, you will not have to go through the process alone. A team of professionals will be there to support your efforts. Positive changes in your body, your weight, and your health will occur, but you will need to be patient through the recovery process.
Waking Up in the Recovery Room
In the early days after surgery, you may not feel much different. Even though you’ve taken a big step, you may find yourself asking what has changed. In the recovery room, you can expect to have some discomfort and feel the effects of the surgery.
We at SSH will provide a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA), or a self-administered pain management system, to help control pain. Other doctors prefer to use an infusion pump that provides a local anesthetic directly to the surgical site to control pain without the side effects of narcotics.
All abdominal operations carry the risks of bleeding, infection in the incision, blood clots, lung problems (pneumonia, pulmonary embolisms), strokes or heart attacks, anesthetic complications, and blockage or obstruction of the intestines.
The changes made to your gastrointestinal tract will require permanent changes in your eating habits that must be followed for successful weight loss. Postsurgery dietary guidelines will vary by bariatric surgeon. You may hear about postsurgery guidelines different from the ones you receive. It is important to remember that these guidelines will be different depending on the surgeon and type of procedure. What is most important is that you follow your surgeon's guidelines. The following are some of the generally accepted dietary guidelines:
- When you start eating solid food, it is important to chew your food thoroughly and eat very slowly. It is important to wait two to three minutes after swallowing before putting the next bite of food in your mouth. You will not be able to digest steaks or other chunks of meat if they are not ground or chewed thoroughly.
- Don't drink fluids while eating. They will make you feel full before you have eaten enough food. Fluids consumed with meals can cause vomiting and dumping syndrome, and can lead to feeling hungry sooner after a meal.
- Don’t eat desserts and other items with sugar if they have more than 3 to 5 grams per serving size.
- Avoid carbonated drinks, high-calorie nutritional supplements, milk shakes, foods high in fat, and foods that have no nutritional value.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Limit snacking between meals.
How much food will I be able to eat following surgery? How often will I be able to eat?
Most patients are instructed to eat 1/4 cup, or 2 ounces, of food. As time goes on, you can eat more (as instructed by your medical team). Most people can eat approximately 1cup of food after a year or more postsurgery.
What could happen if I don’t follow one or more of the dietary guidelines?
The guidelines are designed to improve the chance of long-term success in weight loss. If you don’t follow the guidelines, you may not lose or maintain the loss of the estimated 70 to 90 percent of excess weight. You may experience complications such as vomiting, diarrhea, or malnutrition after surgery.
How soon will I be able to walk?
Soon after surgery, doctors will require you to get up and move around. Patients are asked to walk or stand at the bedside the night of surgery and take several walks the next day and soon after. Upon leaving the hospital, you may be able to care for all your personal needs, but you will need help with shopping and lifting, and with transportation.
How soon can I drive?
You should not drive until you have stopped taking medications (associated with surgery) and can move quickly and alertly. Usually, this takes seven to 14 days after surgery.
When can I go back to my normal activity level?
Your ability to resume presurgery levels of activity depends on your physical condition, the nature of the activity, and the type of bariatric surgery you had. Many patients return to normal levels of activity within six weeks of surgery.
Should I use birth control?
It is strongly advised that women of childbearing age use the most effective forms of birth control during the first 16 to 24 months after bariatric surgery.