Life After Surgery

Medication and Health Changes After Weight Loss Surgery

by Brenda Hoehn on Aug 23, 2023

Medication and Health Changes After Weight Loss Surgery

Medication and Health Changes After Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss surgery is not a cure for obesity but rather a tool to help you lose weight, achieve a healthy body mass index (BMI), and live a healthier, longer, and more fulfilling life. Bariatric surgery is a significant event in your weight loss journey, and this event is best seen as a fresh start.

If you are considering weight loss surgery, you have probably thought about the results of lifestyle changes with anticipation. Maybe you are hoping to take fewer medicines to manage chronic conditions, have better active quality time with your children, or perhaps you can’t wait to see the numbers on the scale get smaller. No matter what you are looking forward to, there are several health changes you may encounter on your journey to an improved life.

Medication Changes

Prescription Medication to Manage Chronic Conditions

Many who struggle with obesity have other chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol that are kept under control by medication. After patients have weight loss surgery and successfully lose weight, these health conditions can improve, and they may be able to stop some medicines with their doctor’s advice.

Taking fewer prescription medications does not always mean “no pills.” Remember that good health is the goal. After bariatric surgery, you may take an anti-acid medication as well as a temporary one to prevent gall stones. You will also be taking vitamin and mineral supplements for the rest of your life. This new regime may result in more pills than what you took before surgery.

NSAIDs and Time-Released Medication

After your weight loss surgery, you will no longer be able to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen that are used to relieve pain and inflammation. This class of medication can cause stomach irritation and are linked to “marginal ulcers” that can occur after gastric bypass. These ulcers can bleed or perforate. Even though they are not usually fatal, they can cause pain and are a common cause of re-operation.

Additionally, you will want to avoid time-released medication after weight loss surgery. Time-released medications are meant to be absorbed by the body over several hours as they pass through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Because the GI tract is altered in gastric bypass and other weight loss procedures, this type of medicine will not be absorbed well or fully metabolized by the body.

During your recovery and beyond, it is essential to work with your weight loss surgeon, bariatric care team, and primary care doctor to monitor how well your medications are working so adjustments can be made. Also make sure that your primary care doctor is aware of your surgery and what that means in terms of caring for your unique needs.

Vitamins and Supplements

Following bariatric surgery, you will start a vitamin and supplement regimen that you will follow for the rest of your life. An easily absorbed, once-daily multivitamin is vital to staying healthy when you’ve had bariatric or weight loss surgery. For the average non-bariatric patient, it is challenging to get all the recommended daily nutrients just from food alone. Now that your stomach or “pouch” is smaller and you’re eating much less than before, a high-quality specific bariatric multivitamin is even more critical to optimal health.

A few of the benefits of getting enough vitamins and minerals from a mix of high-quality, healthy food and your daily supplements, include:

  • A better functioning metabolism for energy and weight control
  • Brain function for “all-systems-go!” clarity
  • Appetite and hunger control for fewer cravings and stabilized blood sugar
  • Maximum absorption of the proper nutrients that work together for improved immunity
  • Thyroid and nervous system performance helps with weight, energy, and overall well-being
  • Improvement in sleep and stress control
  • Feelings of emotional wellness
  • Promotes healing and strength

Health Changes

No Blind Placement of NG Tubes

A nasogastric (NG) tube is a thin, flexible tube that is inserted through the nasal passage and into the stomach. It is usually placed if a person cannot eat or swallow or to drain stomach contents. The tube is inserted without a camera (blind insertion). This technique can be dangerous if the patient has had weight loss surgery because it can accidentally damage, or rupture, the stomach pouch. Instead, medical personnel must insert an NG tube with a lighted scope.

Because NG tubes are often placed in emergent situations, consider wearing medical ID jewelry with your name, surgery, allergies, and emergency contact numbers. From bracelets and necklaces to phone case IDs, you have many modern styles to choose from. This simple act can help save your life.

Weight Loss

Watching the numbers on the scale get smaller is perhaps the biggest goal of weight loss surgery patients. Your bariatric healthcare team will let you know how much weight you can expect to lose and will help you set realistic expectations, so you don’t get discouraged.

The type of weight loss surgery you have can determine how quickly you lose weight. Patients who have surgeries that affect digestion, like gastric bypass, tend to lose weight faster. You may find that your weight loss drops, plateaus, and then drops again, which is normal. Keep in mind that you might continue to lose weight up to two or three years after surgery.

One of the biggest benefits of weight loss is the effect it can have on chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea. In many instances, patients find that their conditions improve dramatically. After surgery, you will need to schedule regular checkups, so your doctor can keep a close eye on your health changes and adjust your medication as you recover. 

Mental Health

After undergoing surgery and experiencing lifestyle and body changes, some patients are more confident while others struggle as they continue to see themselves affected by obesity. Relationships may become stronger and weak relationships can fracture as a result of these changes.

Even though everyone has a unique experience, be prepared for setbacks as you transition to a healthier lifestyle. To achieve the best possible surgical outcomes, consider the following for making improvements to your mental health:

  • Follow your doctor’s recommendations and orders from pre-surgery planning through post-surgery care.
  • Consider journaling about what you are experiencing. Writing can help you feel more in control.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations and write them down.
  • Remember why you decided to have weight loss surgery to keep you motivated.
  • Get plenty of rest because your body can better cope when it’s fully rested.

Obesity is a chronic condition that you will need to manage for the rest of your life. Reach out for help if you are having a hard time adjusting to the changes after surgery. Seek support from family, friends, support groups, or professional counseling. Getting help when you need it will help you feel less isolated and alone.

Dumping Syndrome

Dumping syndrome is a side effect that occurs when your stomach empties all its contents into your small intestine faster than usual. This condition happens when you eat a high-fat or high-sugar meal (fruit juices and sodas are most often to blame). Your small intestine cannot absorb nutrients that have not been properly digested in the stomach.

While dumping syndrome can occur with all weight loss surgery (WLS) procedures, it is more common with gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy.

Symptoms are more common in the immediate postoperative period, often subside over time, and include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating

You can prevent chances of dumping syndrome by not drinking liquid with meals and following the 30/30/30 rule about no liquid 30 minutes before and after eating and chewing food 30 times before swallowing. Also helpful is limiting high-sugar and high-fat foods and choosing high fiber foods when possible.

Gall Stones

Besides the risks of weight loss surgery (WLS), the chances of having gallstones and other gallbladder issues are higher following bariatric surgery, especially for the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RNY) and sleeve gastrectomy procedures.

Gallstones form in the gallbladder, which sits just under the liver. Your gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver. Bile is responsible for emulsifying fats in the digestive system and keeping cholesterol in a suspended form. When cholesterol levels reach high levels and the bile is unable to keep it suspended, it begins to form lumps or gallstones.

Rapid weight loss and a restrictive diet can cause the formation of gallstones. When a gallstone is large enough to block the outlet from the gallbladder, a gallstone attack occurs. Common symptoms include acute pain over the upper abdomen that can last for 30 minutes to several hours. For some, the pain can radiate toward the right shoulder and is accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

The usual treatment for gallstone attacks is removing the gallbladder (people do fine without one). Gallbladder problems are highest during the first six months after surgery, and many bariatric surgeons will prescribe a six-month course of preventative medication. 

Kidney Stones

After bariatric surgery, you also are at higher risk for kidney stones. Because your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is altered during surgery and absorption does not happen in the same manner, higher levels of oxalates can occur in the urinary tract. The oxalates can form crystals, which may lead to the formation of kidney stones.

Symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Blood in urine
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Cloudy urine
  • Urine with a bad smell

There are ways you can prevent kidney stones from forming.

  • Drink a lot of water to help your body get rid of waste and keep digestion on track
  • Limit oxalate containing food like beets, spinach, strawberries, nuts, chocolate, and tea
  • Eat more low oxalate vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, asparagus, great beans, peppers, and squash
  • Reduce your sodium intake, which can cause dehydration
  • Limit red meat consumption and rely on other sources for protein

ProCare Health Supports Your Journey to a Healthier Life

At ProCare Health, we consider what we do of vital importance to your health and know that you will be navigating several health changes throughout your journey. That’s why we provide the best quality supplements and use the highest bio-availability ingredients (easiest to absorb) so that you get the most from every supplement you take.

If you need additional help or have any questions about our bariatric vitamins or supplements, our team is here for you. We celebrate that you’ve chosen to get healthy and would be honored to be part of your weight loss and new life journey! Please contact us today with questions or to place an order. 877-822-5808