Bariatric Surgery and Popcorn: Do’s and Don’ts

Bariatric Surgery and Popcorn: Do’s and Don’ts

Having bariatric surgery is a major event in one’s life and involves making many lifestyle changes. Besides having to gain approval from your insurance and healing after surgery, you’ll also need to change your diet. Bariatric surgery and popcorn is a common question we’ll dig into in this article.

Before surgery, you may have to go on a pre-op diet to lose some weight to help reduce your liver size for a safer surgery. Then, after surgery, you will have to eat smaller portions, take smaller bite sizes, and chew more per bite. This will help you avoid getting too full and putting pressure on your newly modified stomach pouch.

In addition to this, you may have to avoid certain foods to limit any digestive complications.  Read below to learn if popcorn is a food that you can enjoy or should avoid after bariatric surgery.

The basics of bariatric surgery

Surgeon in OR
There are four major types of bariatric surgery.

There are several types of bariatric surgery that can assist individuals in losing weight. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), the most common bariatric surgeries include (1):

  • Gastric bypass: This type of bariatric surgery involves bypassing a large part of the stomach by creating a small gastric pouch and dividing the small intestine. Then, the surgeon attaches the bottom portion of the small intestine to the new stomach pouch. Finally, the surgeon attaches the top part of the small intestine to a part of the small intestine lower down. This way, the enzymes and stomach acids can help break down food particles. The new stomach pouch holds only about one ounce of food or fluid.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy: Also known as the gastric sleeve surgery, this surgery involves reducing the stomach by about 80-percent. It’s just as effective as the gastric bypass for weight loss, but is a less complex surgery.
  • Adjustable gastric band: This type of bariatric surgery involves placing a banded device around the top portion of the stomach. The doctor tightens the band by filling it with sterile saline. This helps reduce the size of the opening between the pouch and the bottom half of the stomach, in turn reducing appetite. The doctor tightens the band gradually by various fills over time. This surgery is reversible and adjustable, but not as effective as other procedures.
  • Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch: This type of bariatric surgery is very involved and is not as common as the others; however, it is the most effective weight loss surgery and has the best diabetes cure rates.It involves rerouting the small intestine in a similar way to the gastric bypass. But it additionally preserves the pylorus - the natural valve at the end of the stomach - to prevent dumping syndrome. These patients will require a rigorous supplementation regimen.

All bariatric surgeries hold promise to improve,  prevent or cure type 2 diabetes as well as other chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and stroke (2). Also, research shows that gastric bypass surgery is known to significantly reduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

How to eat after bariatric surgery

The eating regimen you follow post-op will depend on what surgery you had done. Some variations of progression will exist with different bariatric centers, but the principals of advancing your diet are the same.

In the first week after gastric bypass surgery, you will be on a clear liquid diet. This will be for a few days before moving on to a full liquid diet (3).  Then, once you tolerate full liquids, you will consume pureed foods for a few weeks before transitioning to soft foods. You can begin to consume solid foods after about eight weeks post-surgery in most cases.

When it comes to gastric sleeve surgery, it’s like the gastric bypass in that you are on a clear liquid diet for the first week (4).  During this time, you must avoid caffeine, sugary drinks, and carbonated drinks. Then, you can start a full liquid diet. Finally, you can have a pureed diet around the third week post-op. You will then transition to soft foods before you start on solid foods again.

The post-op diet for the duodenal switch is similar to the phases of the gastric bypass and gastric sleeve surgery (5). The post-op diet for gastric banding surgery is a little bit different. After this surgery, you will eat liquid and pureed food for about two to three weeks (6). Then, you will slowly start to eat soft foods and solid foods.

What foods should I avoid after bariatric surgery?

French Fries
Fried and carbohydrate-rich foods are not recommended after bariatric surgery.

No matter what bariatric surgery you have done, there are some common foods and drinks you should avoid, including (3,4,5,6):

  • Bread
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Tough meats
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sugary snacks and drinks
  • Chewing gum
Bread
You should avoid bread, pasta, and popcorn after bariatric surgery since they can expand in the stomach and cause discomfort and fullness.

In addition to such foods, you should also avoid alcohol for the first six months after surgery (6). This is because alcohol contains a lot of calories and little to no nutrients. Also, since you will be eating less food, alcohol can absorb into the bloodstream faster (7). In turn, it can affect you more even drinking one drink.

Can I eat popcorn after bariatric surgery?

Bowl of Popcorn
Popcorn can be a healthy and crunchy snack food.

Popcorn is a common snack food that people enjoy on a standard healthy lifestyle. It’s high in fiber, contains protein, and is low in fat and sugar when unseasoned (8). It’s only when you add toppings that popcorn may become unhealthy. Therefore, after bariatric surgery, people may wonder if they can enjoy healthy, crunchy snacks like popcorn.

Unfortunately, popcorn is off-limits after bariatric surgery for several reasons. Popcorn tends to expand in your stomach, making you feel fuller (9,10). This can cause great discomfort in some people.

Although it contains fiber, popcorn is still a higher carbohydrate food that you should limit. It contains about 5 net carbohydrates and 1 gram of fiber per cup (11). And since it’s a lighter texture food, it can be easy to consume a lot in one sitting. Therefore, be sure that even if you are able to tolerate popcorn, stick to just a few cups a day.

Snacks you can enjoy after bariatric surgery

Bowl of Hummus
Hummus and sliced cucumbers are a safe snack for the solid food phase after bariatric surgery.

Since popcorn is off-limits after bariatric surgery, that doesn’t mean snacks are out of the picture. Use the tips below to find delicious snacks that are safe to eat after bariatric surgery.

  • String cheese sticks
  • Sliced apple (perhaps without the peel to aid digestion) and peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with or without fruit
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Sliced banana with peanut butter
  • Sliced cucumber with hummus
  • Pickles

As you can tolerate more solid foods, you can add in some other raw produce to snacks. This includes produce like baby carrots, bell pepper, or pears, for example.

Take home message

Popcorn is a delicious snack that is naturally low-calorie and a good fiber source for a healthy diet. However, after bariatric surgery, your body will digest foods a bit differently. You may not tolerate higher fiber foods as well after surgery. Not to mention that carbohydrate-containing foods like bread, pasta, and popcorn expand in the stomach. This can lead to pain and discomfort after bariatric surgery.

Luckily, there are plenty of other snack options, even crunchy ones, that are safe to eat after bariatric surgery. If you still feel you aren’t tolerating a lot of food choices after surgery, be sure to speak with your medical team. After surgery, they will be the ones that will be able to help you through any medical issues and/or answer any questions.

References:

  1. American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (accessed August 13, 2019) “Bariatric Surgery Procedures.” https://asmbs.org/patients/bariatric-surgery-procedures
  2. Mayo Clinic (January 12, 2019) “Bariatric Surgery.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/bariatric-surgery/about/pac-20394258
  3. El-Hadi, M., Birch, D.W., Gill, R.S., and Karmali, S. (April 2014) “The effect of bariatric surgery on gastroesophageal reflux disease.” Can J Surg., 57(2):139-44.
  4. Mayo Clinic (September 21, 2018) “Gastric bypass diet: What to eat after the surgery.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/gastric-bypass-surgery/in-depth/gastric-bypass-diet/art-20048472
  5. Villines, Z. (last reviewed on October 17, 2017) “What to eat and avoid on the gastric sleeve diet.” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319724.php
  6. Drs. Leslie and Ikramuddin (2007) “Diet Guidelines after Duodenal Switch Surgery.” Fairview Health Services, https://www.mhealth.org/~/media/M-Health/PDFs/MH-Diet-Guidelines-after-Duodenal-Switch.ashx?la=en
  7. Medline Plus (last updated July 31, 2019) “Diet after gastric banding.” https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000334.htm
  8. Penn Medicine (July 10, 2012) “Can You Drink Alcohol After Weight Loss Surgery?” https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/metabolic-and-bariatric-surgery-blog/2012/july/can-you-drink-alcohol-after-weight-loss-surgery
  9. Barrell, A. (last reviewed March 21, 2019) “Is popcorn a healthy snack?” Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324763.php
  10. Center for Weight Loss Surgery (April 26, 2017) “10 Foods to Avoid Post Weight Loss Surgery.” https://www.centerforweightlosssurgery.com/blog/news-and-tips/post/10-foods-to-avoid-post-weight-loss-surgery
  11. Popcorn.org (accessed August 13, 2019) “Nutritional Information: Popcorn Nutrition Facts.” https://www.popcorn.org/Nutrition/Popcorn-Nutritional-Information

Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

Author

Staci has been a registered dietitian with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2010 and has over a decade of experience in the nutrition and dietetics industry.

Gintas Antanavicius, MD, FACS, FASMBS

Medical Reviewer

Dr. G is a co-founder of BariBuilder. A US-based expert surgeon with over 10 years of bariatric experience, he regularly publishes research in medical journals like SOARD, Obesity Surgery, etc.