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Eating One Week After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Eating One Week After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

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      Gastric sleeve surgery brings about many changes in one’s life. Besides helping with significant weight loss, it can also impact a person’s daily routine. Since the way you digest food changes after surgery, the foods you eat and the way you eat will change too. Also, your stomach will not be able to hold as much food as before, and while you are healing from major surgery you may not be as hungry. These are long-term changes that will be difficult to adjust to at first.

      Together, these factors can make it difficult to consume all the nutrients your body needs to heal from this major surgery. It can be especially hard to know what to eat in the first week when your body is first healing. Read below to learn how your body changes after gastric sleeve surgery and what you can eat to ensure proper nutrition and safety the first week after surgery.

      First, make sure you are taking your vitamins

      In gastric sleeve surgery, the surgeon makes a small stomach pouch. They remove about 75-percent of your original stomach. Although those people who have gastric sleeve surgery versus gastric bypass surgery have fewer nutritional deficiencies, they are still at risk for some. The most common nutrient deficiencies in those with gastric sleeve surgery include:

      • Vitamin B (12)
      • Calcium and Vitamin D
      • Iron

      Therefore, it is important for those who receive gastric sleeve surgery to supplement vitamin B12, Calcium and Iron in addition to taking a daily multivitamin.

      What nutrients do I need to recover from gastric sleeve surgery?

      Besides the micronutrients listed above, there are other nutrients you should consume after surgery to ensure proper healing and overall health. These nutrients include protein and the essential nutrient: water.

      Protein Shake
      Protein shakes are an important part of your meal plan in the first weeks after gastric sleeve surgery.
      • Protein: After gastric sleeve surgery, experts suggest that you make protein the priority on your plate. This is because you will not be able to consume too much at one time anymore, so whatever you do eat, make sure you eat enough protein. The amount of protein you will need to consume each day may depend on your activity level and other factors. However, for the most part, experts suggest that you should consume at least 65 to 75 grams of protein a day in the first few months after surgery.
      Non-Carbonated Water
      Stick to unsweetened, non-carbonated water after gastric sleeve surgery.
      • Water: Although your post-op stomach will only be able to hold a small amount of fluid or food at a time (about 3 ounces), you must try to drink enough fluid daily. You should try to drink 8 cups of fluid each day. This includes water or other calorie-free liquids. But it’s important to remember not to drink any fluids 30 minutes before or after meals. This is because the fluid will fill you up and it could also lubricate the foods you eat, which could cause you to eat more.

      What can I eat the week after gastric sleeve surgery?

      During the first week after gastric sleeve surgery, you will be drinking mostly liquids. The first day or two after surgery will be clear liquids like:

      • Clear beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
      • Water that is plain, infused with lemon or lime juice, or flavored with sugar-free sweetener
      • Ice chips
      • Low-calorie or sugar-free sports drinks
      • Decaffeinated coffee or tea (limit to 16 ounces daily)
      • Sugar-free gelatin or popsicles
      • Clear protein supplement shakes

      Then, after a few days of this, you can start adding in other fluids on a full liquid diet like:

      • Fat-free or low-fat milk
      • Milk-based protein supplement shakes
      • Malt-O-Meal
      • Cream of Wheat
      • Cream of Rice
      • Grits
      • Fat-free strained cream-based soups (no lumps)
      • Lactose-free milk
      • Dairy-free milk like almond milk, soymilk, or cashew milk
      • Sugar-free pudding
      • No Sugar Added Instant Breakfast Shakes
      • Light or fat-free yogurt (no fruit chunks, nuts, seeds, granola)

      You will follow a full liquid diet for the first two weeks after gastric sleeve surgery before moving on to a pureed diet. If you are having trouble tolerating the full liquid diet, it’s important to visit your surgeon for advice and support to make sure there are not any complications affecting your digestion.

      Tips for eating safely after gastric sleeve surgery

      Besides knowing what to eat the week after gastric sleeve surgery, it’s important to know how to eat safely after surgery. Mealtime will require a bit of planning and troubleshooting in the first week or two, and even in the first few months. Here are some tips to help you know what to expect the first week after surgery.

      • No gulping water or other fluids: Start by sipping one ounce every 30 minutes. This method of drinking fluid can make it hard to consume your 64 ounces a day, but it’s just temporary until you know what your stomach pouch can handle. If you don’t experience nausea or vomiting after one ounce at a time, you can try drinking a bit more every 30 minutes. You can control how much fluid you consume by using a small medicine cup or water bottle with measuring lines on it.
      Carbonated Beverages
      Be sure to avoid carbonated and sweetened drinks after gastric sleeve surgery.

      • No carbonated beverages, straws, or chewing ice: When you are sipping fluids, it’s important not to use a straw, chew ice, or consume any carbonated beverages, even carbonated water. This is because these behaviors will introduce air into your stomach pouch and in turn cause pressure and discomfort.
      • No alcohol: Although you may have a routine of drinking a glass of wine with dinner or a beer on the weekend, alcohol is off-limits in the early stages post-op gastric sleeve. Experts suggest staying away from alcohol in the first six months after any bariatric surgery. This is because since you are eating much less, alcohol absorbs faster into the bloodstream. This means that one single drink, like 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer, can bring a person to a point of intoxication. Please consult with your healthcare provider if you feel you have trouble giving up alcohol since they can provide supportive resources.  
      Small Spoons
      Use child’s sized spoons to help you take smaller bites after gastric sleeve surgery.
      • Eat slowly and with small bites and sips: Even though you won’t need to do much chewing in the first week after surgery, it’s still important that with the full liquid phase that you take small bites. Taking small bites can prevent you from eating too much at once and causing digestive discomfort. Some people find it helpful to use a small spoon, such as a child’s size spoon to eat with to help control bite sizes.
      • No sweetened drinks or food products: Not only are sweetened foods and drinks low in nutrients and higher in calories, but they will also be hard to tolerate after surgery. Although it is uncommon with a gastric sleeve, such foods may pass too quickly from the stomach to the small intestine causing symptoms known as dumping syndrome. This syndrome may involve symptoms like nausea, fullness, cramping, and diarrhea. Therefore, stick to unsweetened foods and beverages.
      • Protein first: As mentioned before, protein intake is crucial post-op gastric sleeve surgery. And since your new stomach pouch will not be able to hold much, it’s important to consume protein-rich foods first. This will help you better meet your daily protein needs. During the clear and full liquid phases, this means that you should try and consume 2 to 3 protein shakes a day before filling up on other fluids. In the clear liquid phase, this means clear fruit-flavored protein shakes. In the full liquid phase, this means milk-based protein shakes as well as plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt, milk, or soymilk.
      Bowl of Protein
      Make sure to eat plenty of protein within your smaller portions after gastric sleeve surgery.

      Bottom line

      Eating after gastric sleeve surgery can take some time to adapt to. And no matter what level of preparation you had before surgery, no one can be fully prepared to handle their new stomach pouch. You may know what and how much you are supposed to eat, but post-op you may not feel like eating much.  This will call for creativity on your part to make sure you consume all the nutrients you need to heal properly.

      Also, your body may not tolerate certain foods that you could tolerate before surgery. This could put a wrench in any meal planning you did pre-surgery. Just know that this first week after surgery, and even the first few months after surgery, is a learning curve.  Not everything is going to go perfectly in your eating, and symptoms may arise that you don’t expect. Just be sure to ask for help from your healthcare team along your journey so they can guide and support you towards the best health outcomes.

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        Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD


        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.