What is Gastric Bypass Surgery? The most common type of weight loss surgery is gastric bypass surgery, this type of weight loss surgery makes the stomach smaller and bypasses a portion of the small intestine. This helps to get the food through the body faster, thus allowing the body to absorb fewer calories and nutrients. The surgery is substantial and requires a great deal of decision making before deciding whether or not it is for you.
One of the most important factors in deciding if gastric bypass surgery is a good fit for you is understanding the entire recovery period. As in all surgical procedures, recovery is subjective and based on the individual as well as the circumstances surrounding the surgery itself. However gastric bypass surgery is an intense procedure that can take several months to fully recover from.
Gastric Bypass Recovery Time and Process
After gastric bypass surgery takes place the patient will remain in the hospital for 3 to 5 days (varies depending on each patient). This is so that the staff can monitor how well the patient is doing and to assess any potential bleeding from the surgery. You will likely have several days of pain in the abdomen much like that which you would feel from working out too much. This pain can be eased with the help of pain medication. In some cases, this will be over-the-counter medication and in others, the doctor will prescribe a stronger pain medication. In order to leave the hospital, you must be able to handle the pain without IV medications, walk without pain and keep soft foods down.
You most likely will not be able to eat anything for one to three days being fed only liquids. Some patients will have a catheter installed between the nose and the stomach. In a few days, a tube will be used to drain any fluid from the stomach. Some patients have a catheter in their bladder too. While you are recovering in the hospital after your gastric bypass surgery, you will have to walk daily and wear support stockings to help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs.
You will follow up with their surgeon a few days after being discharged from the hospital. From there, you will have monthly appointments for the first year following gastric bypass surgery and then will have follow-up visits at various times depending on your overall health after that time period.
Patients may not soak in water until all of their incisions are healed. However, they may shower but must dry all of their wounds thoroughly afterward. They are not allowed to drive until they no longer need pain medications for daily activity. Generally, gastric bypass surgery patients can return to work in two to four weeks depending on their healing and their adjustment to their new post-op diet.
Time Off Work?
Time Back to Work: Generally patients have to avoid strenuous exercise and heavy lifting until total recovery occurs, about 8 weeks.
Gastric Bypass: Expected Recovery Time
Recovery from gastric bypass surgery isn’t something that ends after the surgery. It truly is a lifelong process of recovery in order to achieve quality results. Since weight loss surgery is not a fast resolution to obesity, there is a requirement that you make major life changes to see the results that you want.
Immediately after the surgery, you will spend a few days in the hospital. This is so that the medical team can monitor your physical condition and watch for signs of bleeding or infection while you are in their care. You will then be released from the hospital and asked to take it easy for a few weeks. No heavy lifting or strenuous exercise is allowed until you are fully healed (about 8 weeks).
Your physician will prescribe pain medication for you to help you be more comfortable in the first few days of recovery. While you might not think it to be a good idea, walking around is a good way to make sure you avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT) after your surgery. This is a blood clot located in the body and often appearing in the legs first.
You will find that you need to start with food slowly as your body will only be able to allow about one tablespoon of food at a time (later about one cup). The intake of food will be limited to liquid initially and for the first week. This is followed by pureed foods for some time (even your body can handle it) and then soft foods and small pieces of solid foods. The stomach is being held together with stitches or staples and therefore needs time to heal before real pressure can be applied from food. This process of reintroducing food typically takes about 12 weeks overall.
Food, Dietary Changes
One of the major components to the recovery of anyone after gastric bypass is the food intake. In order for you to fully recover you will need to allow the staples used in the stomach to completely heal. This means that the amount of food in the stomach has to be minimal so that there is no pressure put on the staples. In the first week after the surgery, you will likely be restricted to a liquid only diet. The second week likely involves pureed foods followed by small amounts of soft and solid foods that have been finely cut up. This allows the stomach to heal and also helps you to adjust to the reduced space in your stomach that can hold food.
Possible Side Effects
Most patients do not experience any serious problems following their gastric bypass surgery, in fact, only 10% of all patients have any complications at all. Some common side effects include constipation (increased fiber intake is encouraged), gallstones (sometimes the gallbladder is removed during surgery) and wound infections (can happen up to 3 weeks following surgery).
Some more serious side effects can be bleeding in stool, leaks, blood clots and extreme abdominal pain. If any of these things occur, consult your surgeon immediately.
Gastric Bypass Recovery Diet
There are four separate parts to the gastric bypass post-op diet. The first stage is liquids, which will occur a few days following your weight loss surgery procedure. Once the patient can handle liquids without vomiting, they can move onto pureed foods for two to four weeks. After the doctor has determined the stomach is healing well and the body is handling food well, soft solid foods can be introduced. The soft foods stage generally occurs for about eight weeks. After that two month time period, solid foods are introduced slowly into the diet. Patients should always avoid dried fruit, seeds, nuts, popcorn, breads, granola, nuts, tough meat (with gristle) and any stringy or raw vegetables) as they are hard to digest.
Adjusting to the Pouch
It’s important that the patient learns how much food they can comfortably consume without feeling sick. The new stomach pouch will only hold about a tablespoon of food at one time. Overtime the pouch will grow to allow about a cup of food compared to four cups before gastric bypass surgery occurred. Patients must also learn how to chew thoroughly and drink lots of liquids to aid with digestion. Generally, it should take about 20 minutes per each meal.
After gastric bypass surgery, the body can be less tolerant to high-fat, greasy or refined sugar foods. If any of these foods are consumed and the pancreas signals the body to secrete insulin, fluids will be drawn into the intestine. This is what is known as dumping syndrome, a major post-op complication occurs. Some dumping syndrome symptoms include sweating, nausea, diarrhea, cramps, tiredness and dizziness. These symptoms can last from 30 to 90 minutes depending on what exactly is eaten.
Vitamin & Mineral Supplements: Patients will need to take Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, multivitamin and Iron daily because of the restrictive surgery method.
Plastic Surgery After Gastric Bypass
After gastric bypass surgery, some patients may choose to have plastic surgery as a result of their extreme weight loss. Experts recommended that patients wait at least 18 months after maintaining their weight to have surgery. Some of the common plastic surgery procedures after extreme weight loss include: breast lift, thigh lift, upper arm lift, body lift, and body contouring. These procedures remove excess skin and fat from the body.
Other Changes on the Road to Recovery – Recovery Tips
It’s important to understand that the recovery process does not end after surgery and requires that you continue to learn where your boundaries are with what and how much you put into your stomach. The amount of food that you can take in will be far less than before and you will likely need to be very careful about taking in spicy foods. Carbohydrates in excess can cause you to feel fuller and result in nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (and other dumping syndrome symptoms).
In order to fully recover from the surgery the individual must change their lifestyle to fit their new stomach. Learning how to eat properly and determine a new plan for fitness is essential to the recovery process. In most cases you can resume regular activities within a week of the surgery. However, there needs to be a balance of fitness and food to ensure long lasting results and full recovery. Be sure that you discuss this with your physician before you set out to go through the surgery. You need to be sure you are committed to a lifestyle change before recovery can begin.
Resources: Gastric Bypass Recovery Guides
- Recovery Immediately Post Gastric Bypass – ucsfhealth.org– Learn about how to recovery immediately after gastric bypass surgery.
- Recovery Times for Bariatric Surgery – riversidesurgicalweightloss.com – Learn about the recovery times for the three main bariatric surgeries.
- Dumping Syndrome – nih.gov – Discover how Dumping Syndrome works (post gastric bypass) and how to prevent it.