What is a gastric bypass?
Getting a gastric bypass is life-changing. You‘ll have to eat differently, take a different approach to exercise, follow up with your doctors regularly, and more. Life after weight-loss surgery will be different, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.
Gastric bypass surgery, also known as a Roux-en-Y, is one kind of weight-loss surgery. It consists of making a little pouch out of your stomach and connecting that pouch directly to your small intestine. After you have a gastric bypass, your chewed food will pass through the small stomach pouch and drop immediately into the small intestine.
The surgery makes sure that food skips over a large portion of your stomach and the first part of your small intestine. A gastric bypass is designed to help those who have trouble losing weight through diet and exercise and those who have life-threatening weight-related health problems.
If you have one of the following weight-related health problems, you could be a candidate for a Roux-en-Y:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- Severe sleep apnea
- Type 2 diabetes
- Susceptibility to strokes
Typical candidates for a gastric bypass or other weight-loss surgery have a body mass index of at least 40, meet medical guidelines and pass a thorough screening process, and are committed to making long-term lifestyle changes.
Diet after a gastric bypass
A dietitian will consult with you after your gastric bypass to establish guidelines about how to manage your eating. They might advise you to:
- Eat a lot of protein. You should be eating somewhere around 60 grams of lean protein each day. Chicken, turkey, fish, beef, pork, low-fat cheese, peanut butter, eggs, and cottage cheese are all great, lean sources of protein.
- Don’t skip meals. Always eat at least three meals a day! If you need to snack in between meals, find some high-protein options. Eating smaller meals throughout the day will keep your pouch from filling up too fast and will help your metabolism burn continually.
- Prioritize portion control. You probably won’t be able to eat as much as you used to in one sitting. Serve yourself smaller portions, cut your food into smaller pieces, use small dishes and utensils, chew each bite thoroughly, and don’t present serving dishes of food on your table.
- Drink caffeine-free, calorie-free, non-carbonated drinks throughout the day. Drinking with your meals will interfere with how much you can eat, so stop drinking half an hour before your meal and start again half an hour after you finish.
- Think of this as your new lifestyle. This isn’t a diet, it’s a permanent part of life after weight-loss surgery. Consider these healthy habits part of a positive, long-term change!
You might need to take supplements if you aren’t getting the vitamins and minerals you need. It’s common for gastric bypass patients to be deficient in iron, folate, calcium, and other important vitamins and minerals, so this isn’t a cause for worry, just be sure to take your supplements.
Exercise after a gastric bypass
You should commit to an exercise plan before getting your gastric bypass surgery. Even though the gastric bypass will give you a great start on weight loss, you still need to exercise in order to:
- Decrease your risk of heart disease and other life-threatening conditions
- Decrease your risk of getting diabetes, high blood pressure, or colon cancer
- Decrease blood pressure, if your blood pressure is already high
- Strengthen your bones, muscles, and joints
- Combat symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Control your weight
Walking is a great, low-impact exercise you can do anywhere, anytime. Aerobic exercises like swimming or taking exercise classes are more demanding options that could produce quicker results. Strength training is a great way to burn calories and build muscle after you’ve completely recovered from your surgery. Consult your healthcare provider to create a personalized exercise plan.
Doctor’s visits after a gastric bypass
Your healthcare provider will schedule multiple follow-up appointments with you. For the first two years, you will visit them fairly regularly to make sure your immediate recovery goes smoothly. After that, you will likely need to check in once a year for the rest of your life. At your follow-up appointments, you can expect:
- Blood tests to check for vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Physical health exams
- Counsel about diet and exercise
- Emotional and other kinds of support
Keep in mind that a gastric bypass isn’t a cure for obesity. It’s a great option to jumpstart your weight loss and support you in living a healthy, long life. Life after weight loss surgery is just around the corner!
Cleveland Clinic: "Life After Bariatric Surgery."
Mayo Clinic: "Gastric bypass (Roux-en-Y)."
National Health Service: "Afterwards: Weight loss surgery."
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