Bariatric surgery or weight-loss surgery procedures reduce the size of the stomach, reroute the digestive system to block calorie absorption or combine the two. After the procedure, you will progress slowly from a liquid diet to regular food to allow your body to heal.
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Laparoscopic adjustable banding creates a tiny, egg-sized stomach pouch; sleeve gastrectomy permanently removes part of the stomach; biliopancreatic diversion rearranges the digestive system; and gastric bypass procedures restrict stomach size and bypass part of the intestine. To facilitate healing, your bariatric surgeon will advise you to consume only liquids at first, then add pureed or mushy foods, followed by soft foods before you progress to a regular diet, according to “Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases” by Linda Aills. The soft food phase provides more nutrients and bulk than the previous phases, allowing your body to prepare to digest solid food.
Diet progression instructions vary among bariatric surgeons, but in general you will limit your intake to clear liquids for the first day or two after surgery, followed by full liquids -- creamy soups, juices, yogurt, skim milk -- for 10 to 14 days, according to Aills. For the next 10 to 14 days, you will be allowed to eat pureed or mushy foods the consistency of baby food. If you tolerate the pureed diet, you will eat a soft diet for about 14 days before moving on to regular solid foods by the eighth week after surgery. If you have complications, however, or experience problems with any phase of the diet, it may take longer to reach the regular diet phase. Problems may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bowel obstruction.
When you progress to a soft diet after bariatric surgery, you may add soft foods to the liquids and pureed foods of previous phases. Eat three meals per day, adding one soft food item per meal each day to avoid overloading your digestive system. Appropriate soft foods in this phase include canned vegetables and fruits, soft fresh fruit, cooked vegetables, grains, ground or chopped meat, soft scrambled eggs, flaky fish and cottage cheese, according to the University of Wisconsin Health Bariatric Surgery Program. Consume one cup or less at each meal and chew each bite thoroughly. You will need more protein after weight-loss surgery, about 60 g per day, so eat your protein first and drink a protein shake between meals to ensure you meet your needs for this nutrient.
Many patients have difficulty, at least at first, with doughy breads, pasta and rice, so delay these items until later in your recovery, says Aills. If you have problems with a particular food, try it again a few weeks later, as tolerance changes over time. Drink plenty of fluids between meals, but not while you eat to avoid feeling overfull, says MayoClinic.com. Avoid fried, fatty and sugary foods, as these items may cause dumping syndrome in gastric bypass patients and prevent weight loss in all bariatric surgery patients.
Bariatric surgery does not cure obesity; it is simply a tool that helps you lose weight and keep it off. Successful patients make long-term changes in their lifestyles to prevent regaining the weight, so follow your surgeon's instructions regarding exercise, food and nutritional supplements as exactly as possible. If you find yourself reaching for sugary foods; eating when you are upset or lonely; grazing all day instead of eating regular meals; or eating until you are overly full, ask your nutritionist or bariatric surgeon for help, says MayoClinic.com.