Importance of Supplementation

On January 5, 2011, in Uncategorized, by Andrea

This is a guest post I did over at FormerlyFluffy.  I’m posting it here in case there is not any cross over.

‘Tis the season for new resolutions.  In years past, many of us would have made our number one resolution to lose weight.  Perhaps it still is?  Or to exercise more?  Get more fluids each day?  Cut back on the coffee?  Treat ourselves better?  There are thousands upon thousands of post-bariatric resolutions out there – and perhaps a few will actually be followed this year. But perhaps the best, and least made resolution, would be to remember to take our supplements and get thorough labwork - regardless of surgery type.

Six and a half years ago when I had surgery, research on proper nutrition was scarce.  Despite the actual age of roux-en-Y as a surgery, actual post-operative research was simply rare.  My surgeon began my post-op life by recommending (and, of course, selling) Optisource.  Later, he switched his office to Flintstones and Tums.

Fast forward a few years on this regimen of Flintstones and Tums and add two pregnancies. Mix in an OB who meant well, but simply did not understand the intricacies of rerouted guts, much less rerouted guts supporting a growing human.  Subtract the surgeon from the equation as he was useless: “You’re our first pregnancy; let us know how it goes!”  What does this make?  A recipe for disaster.

My two pregnancies paired with substandard supplementation killed any vitamin reserves I may have had.  Blood work drawn shortly after my son’s birth in February 2008, confirmed a diagnosis of osteomalacia (adult-form rickets, a condition of softened bones due to a low vitamin D level), a ferritin level in the single digits (signifying an absolute decimation of my iron reserves), and a B12 level in the “dangerous” level. In short, my body was a wreck.

Now, I know some are wondering, “What’s wrong with Flintstones and Tums?”  I’m sure there are also a number of “Yeah, right, whatevers” as well.  This isn’t where I try to convince you of the evils of Flintstones and Tums.  I suggest you visit my blog to learn that lesson, though, if so inclined.

What I am here to do is to remind you of the importance of supplementation, regardless of your surgery type.  Yes, band patients can come up deficient as well.  New studies have shown deficiencies in folate and B12 as early as six months out.  When crafting any resolutions or “health plans” for the coming year, your supplements should most definitively hold a place.

Why are supplements important?  Well, in short, bad things happen when you don’t take them.  I’ve compiled a very short list of complications due to various deficiencies.  In no way, shape, or form is this list comprehensive.

  • Vitamin A: dry hair, broken nails, increased risk of infections, anemia, loss of eyesight
  • Vitamin B1: permanent neuromuscular disorders, permanent defects in learning & short-term memory, coma, death
  • Vitamin B9 (folate): forgetfulness, irritability, hostility, paranoid behaviors
  • Vitamin B12: neurological symptoms, numbness & tingling of extremities, difficulty walking, memory loss, disorientation,megaloblastic anemia, permanent neural impairment, extreme delusions, hallucinations, overt psychosis
  • Vitamin D: muscle pain & spasms, weakness, bone pain, osteomalacia (adult-form rickets), osteoporosis, increased cancer risk
  • Calcium: osteopenia, osteoporosis, hypoparathyroidism, hypotension, muscle cramping
  • Iron: anemia, fatigue, hair loss, feeling cold, eating ice uncontrollably (a form of Pica)
  • Copper: anemia, neurological impairment
  • Zinc: decreased sense of smell, altered taste, poor wound healing, poor appetite, anemia, lethargy, poor libido, hair loss, lack of proper protein utilization in the body

My intention is not to turn you into bariatric hypochondriacs, but rather to highlight the possible complications that can arise from a restricted dietary intake, food intolerances, malabsorption that accompanies certain surgery types, and lackluster supplementation (either in quality or in quantity).  By becoming better informed about our surgical alterations and the possible consequences of our actions regarding our designer guts, we become better advocates for our own health.  This self-advocacy is critical for our long-term health, regardless of our surgery choice.  This self-advocacy is crucial for the bariatric community as a whole, too, for when one patient learns and teaches, another patient gains from that experience.

It’s become quite trite to say, but weight loss surgery is just a tool to aid us in our life-long battle with obesity.  We have to take care of that tool if we want it to remain in optimal working order.  What good is being “hot” and “skinny” if you are so sick from malnourishment that you can’t even walk into the grocery store, chase after your kids, or are being hospitalized for IV nutrition?

Andrea is a 6 1/2 year RNY vet.  She’s written the Lab Tracking Workbook, a guide for post-ops to learn about and, well, track their labwork trends, blogs at the WLS Vitagarten, answers questions at Obesity Help, and hangs out with the Bariatric Bad Girls Club.

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