Bariatric surgery a group of surgical procedures designed to help patients lose weight. It is usually an option for patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 35 and who have tried but failed to lose weight with other non-surgical methods like diet and exercise. There are different types of bariatric surgery, which can be based on caloric restriction by limiting the amount of food the stomach can hold, limiting the number of calories a person can eat, or on malabsorption, by shortening or bypassing part of the small intestine that absorbs nutrients.

Despite the fact that bariatric surgery helps patients lose weight, it does not cause weight loss directly. This means that patients need to be motivated and committed to the entire process, which includes permanent lifestyle alterations to lose weight and keep it off. A medical team will advise patients on following a healthy diet, as well as on gradually initiating physical activity. Before the procedure, patients may be asked to adhere to eating and drinking restrictions, while after the surgery follow the physicians’ recommendations is determinant to ensure the success of the procedure.

Initiating a Liquid Diet After Bariatric Surgery

Right after weight loss surgery, patients are typically put on a liquid diet for at least a day or more as advised by the surgeon. Patients recently submitted to bariatric surgery are recommended to sip slowly and drink only two to three ounces at a time of skim or low-fat milk, broth, unsweetened juice, decaffeinated tea or coffee, strained cream soup, sugar-free gelatin or popsicles or other similar liquid foods.

Transition to a Solid Diet Following Bariatric Surgery

After a few days, patients will start to tolerate a little more than just liquids and will begin to eat strained and pureed foods, or any other food with the consistency of a smooth paste or a thick liquid. During this phase, patients can make puree with lean ground meats, beans, fish, eggs, soft fruits and cooked vegetables, or cottage cheese, as well as continue to drink water, skim milk, juice with no sugar added, and broth.

However, patients are advised not to eat and drink at the same time, but to wait about 30 minutes between the two, and solid pieces of food are still forbidden in this phase. The transition to a normal diet is gradual and a few weeks later, patients may start to eat soft foods, like puree with small, tender, easily chewed pieces. Ground or finely diced meats, canned or soft fresh fruit (without seeds or skin) and cooked vegetables (without skin) may be included in the diet.

Returning to Normal Eating After a Bariatric Surgery

About eight weeks after bariatric surgery, patients will start to gradually return to a normal diet and eating firm foods. At this stage, food needs to be chopped or diced and patients will have to experiment on foods that are tolerated or not. It may be difficult at first to eat spicy or crunchy food, and there are foods that may cause gastrointestinal symptoms, including nuts and seeds, popcorn, dried fruits, carbonated beverages, granola, stringy or fibrous vegetables, tough meats or meats with gristle, fried foods or breads.

Diet Recommendations Following Bariatric Surgery

The transition from one phase to other needs to be supervised by a physician and depends on each patient. Three or four months following the procedures, patients may initiate a normal diet, which is expected to be an healthy diet recommended by a dietitian to enable weight loss and help the stomach to continue healing. In addition, best practices can help keep a patient’s weight-loss goals on track, including eating and drinking slowly, keeping meals small, drinking plenty of liquids between meals, chewing food thoroughly, favoring high-protein foods, avoiding foods that are high in fat and sugar, trying each new food alone to evaluate tolerability, and taking recommended vitamin and mineral supplements.

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