Eating During Your Recovery
Your first “food” after surgery will be clear liquids, most likely water. Starting with small sips, you will see if you can tolerate small amounts without becoming nauseated or vomiting. Once you are able to tolerate clear liquids without difficulty, a full liquid diet will start, which includes broths and other flavored liquids. If a full liquid diet is tolerated, pureed foods such as smoothies are next, followed by soft foods, and finally a diet of regular foods.
This progression from liquids to small amounts of solid food may happen over the course of days, or even over many weeks, depending on the type of surgery. Gastric banding patients typically recover and eat a full diet much more quickly than bypass patients, who have had surgical changes made to their stomach and small intestine.
After weight loss surgery you should limit your fluid intake at meal times. In addition to refraining from drinking during your meal, you should not have any fluids thirty minutes before or after a meal. Combining food and fluids can lead to discomfort, nausea, and vomiting, as well as feeling full from a meal because you've had too much to drink.
It is important to remember that all of these foods will be taken in far smaller quantities than you were accustomed to prior to your surgical procedure. Once you are able to tolerate more than fluid, start with a few nibbles of food, wait for a few minutes, then take a few more nibbles if you are still interested and feeling good. You will find that you feel satiated with far less food than you did prior to surgery, so it is very important to listen to your body and stop eating when you have a sensation of fullness.
If you've had gastric bypass surgery, your first meals after surgery will be very small. Your new stomach pouch will have a small capacity, possibly as little as thirty to sixty milliliters (two to four tablespoons) and won't tolerate being stretched with food or fluids early in the recovery period.
Foods to Avoid During Recovery
During your recovery you will want to stay away from any foods that might irritate your stomach, cause diarrhea, or discomfort. Even if you are able to tolerate regular foods, the texture of your food will be more important than ever before. Potato chips are a great example of a food to avoid after surgery. Not only are they full of fat and empty calories, but the texture is all wrong for someone recovering from surgery. The hard, sharp edges can cause significant pain when the chip reaches your stomach. The same is true of healthier foods that are also hard, such as carrots.
Foods that cause constipation, such as cheese, should also be avoided. Foods that upset your stomach prior to surgery or gave you gas could cause pain during your recovery. Your system is likely to be more sensitive to food choices after surgery than ever before, so avoid anything that has caused problems in the past.
Sugar and Dumping Syndrome
Sugar is an important food to avoid for weight loss surgery patients. Not only is it full of calories and lacking in nutrition, it can be very upsetting to the stomach. For gastric bypass patients, sugar is responsible for “Dumping Syndrome,” or rapid gastric emptying. After eating foods with sugar, the food will pass out of the stomach and into the intestine much more rapidly than is normal, or “dump.”
Dumping may be accompanied by lightheadedness, nausea, fatigue, sweating, diarrhea, and even heart palpitations. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, often occurs along with other symptoms. Dumping syndrome typically starts forty-five minutes after a meal, and resolves within a few hours.
Foods to Eat During Recovery
Once you are able to tolerate your liquid diet without difficulty and are ready to move on to pureed or soft foods, stick with foods that are easily digested until you know how your body will handle the change. Smoothies and mashed potatoes (skin off) are a great way to see if you are able to tolerate the move from liquids to soft foods. Just because it has to be pureed or soft doesn't mean you have to eat baby food! There are many ways to include foods in your new diet that aren't unappetizingly bland. Your food can be full of flavor, even if it doesn't have to be chewed as much as a standard meal. See Chapter 14 for soft food recipes.