When proper diet, exercise and medications fail to result in necessary or desired weight loss, an option doctors sometimes recommend to severely overweight or obese patients is gastric bypass. In this procedure, doctors make the stomach smaller in size and bypass some of the small intestine. Although the weight loss that results can have numerous benefits for the patient’s health, gastric bypass surgery is a major procedure that requires significant modifications to how a person eats.
Gastric bypass changes how much a person can eat, and similar to any surgery, the surgery puts a significant amount of stress on the body. To give tissues time to adjust and heal, doctors recommend that patients who undergo the procedure be reintroduced to regular foods slowly over time. They divide a gastric bypass diet into four major phases.
Primary Phase—Immediately after gastric bypass, patients are not used to their decreased stomach size. They also are on various medications to manage post-surgery pain. Thus, doctors allow only liquid foods such as broth during this stage, which keeps nausea and vomiting under control. The primary phase lasts just a few days.
Secondary Phase—If a gastric bypass patient is tolerating liquids well, doctors move her to the secondary phase, which contains pureed foods.
Third Phase—During the third phase of a gastric bypass diet, patients may consume any soft food they enjoy. This may mean paying a little more attention to food preparation, such as cooking raw vegetables, but a patient can start getting back to regular means of readying a meal. For most patients, doctors make the recommendation for phase three to begin at roughly a month after surgery.
Fourth Phase—By phase four, solid foods are put back into the diet. What and how a person eats is completely back to normal.
Having gastric bypass surgery means a patient’s stomach is much smaller than normal. To accommodate this, as explained by the Mayo Clinic, a patient might have to forgo the standard three meals a day and eat much more frequently. The same holds true for drinks. Often, people cannot take in both drinks and meals at the same time. This means that people who have the surgery sometimes have to make special accommodations with their employers to make sure they get enough food and stay hydrated. Patients also sometimes need to adjust when eating out, as restaurant portion sizes are almost always too large. Asking a server to bring a carry-out box with the meal is an easy way to avoid overeating and save the leftovers, as is looking for half-order options or items on the children’s menus. In general, gastric bypass surgery also means foods and drinks that are very fatty or surgery are out, with people also having issues with caffeine and carbonation.
Even though a gastric bypass patient still can eat, the nature of the surgery means that food and drinks cannot get to a portion of the small intestine. This is a problem because it means patients have trouble absorbing key vitamins, minerals and nutrients. WebMD notes that patients often experience deficiencies in magnesium, calcium, iron and B12. Doctors almost always recommend a basic supplement as a result, but patients can decide the form (e.g., powder, gel capsule, etc) in which they take the supplement.