If you’ve had bariatric surgery (gastric bypass surgery, lap band surgery), then you’re at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Weight loss surgery causes vitamin B12 malabsorption, in addition to difficulty absorbing other vitamins and minerals. Learn about vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, and ways to get your B12 levels back to normal.
How many types of bariatric surgery procedures are there?
There are many types of weight loss surgeries, including gastric bypass and lap band surgery, but there are two general categories:
- Malabsorptive surgery rearranges and/or removes part of your intestines so that you are unable to absorb vitamins from foods, thus bypassing the digestive process. There are no longer any strictly 100% malabsorptive weight loss surgeries, but many such as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass include a combination of (mostly) malabsorptive and restrictive techniques.
- Restrictive surgery shrinks your stomach, thus causing you to feel full earlier and avoid overeating. Examples are the gastric sleeve and gastric banding (lap band surgery).
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Why do I need to take bariatric vitamins and minerals after having bariatric surgery?
If you’ve had weight loss surgery, then you are at a high risk for vitamin deficiencies, particularly vitamin B12 deficiency. There are two reasons for this:
If you’ve had malabsorptive surgery, such as a mini-gastric bypass or duodenal switch, then your body is unable to digest water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin B12 from food sources.
One of the procedures of malabsorptive bariatric surgery is the removal of the ileum, the part of your small intestine responsible for digesting vitamin B12.
The only way for you to receive enough B12 to avoid vitamin deficiency is to put it directly into your bloodstream, through vitamin B12 shots (Sublingual B12 pills are not your best option for absorbing vitamin B12.)
With restrictive surgery, such as gastric sleeve, your stomach is unable to contain enough food at one time to avoid vitamin deficiency.
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What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, and why should I be worried?
Vitamin B12 supports many important functions in your body- B12 boosts energy and mental clarity, aids in producing red blood cells, maintains your metabolism, protects your >nervous system, strengthens cognitive functioning, and reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Vitamin deficiency is one of many possible gastric bypass complications. In one study on diminished B12 absorption after gastric bypass, 30% of gastric bypass patients suffered from B12 deficiency.
The most common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are:
- Chronic fatigue
- Short-term memory loss
- “Brain fog”
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of physical balance
- Altered taste perception
- Tingling and/or numbing sensation in hands and feet
- Blurred vision
Left untreated, symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency could escalate into severe neurological damage, early-onset dementia, and even premature death.
Read more about weight loss surgery and vitamin B12 deficiency:
Gastrointestinal Surgery for Crohn’s (IBD) and B12 Warnings
Bariatric Surgery- 13 Reasons you still need to Exercise
Tired of getting Dumped? 4 Ways to avoid Gastric Bypass Dumping.
Types of Bariatric Surgery – The 16 Established & Experimental Weight Loss Surgery Procedures
Evidence for diminished B12 absorption after gastric bypass: oral supplementation does not prevent low plasma B12 levels in bypass patients- PubMed NCBI
Vitamin B12 Absorption & Gastric Bypass- LIVESTRONG.COM
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12
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