The average length of time for full bariatric surgery recovery is five weeks. The average weight loss for the surgery is 61% of their excess body fat over the course of several years. Such rapid weight loss can take a toll on the body if you aren’t careful, so you should carefully follow the recovery protocol given to you by your doctor to ensure the quickest bariatric surgery recovery possible.
There are numerous factors that determine the length of time it will take you to resume normal life, including the type of bariatric surgery, your age, your original weight, and overall health.
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Recovery in the Hospital
Patients spend an average of two to five days in the hospital following bariatric surgery, or longer if complications develop. Patients who undergo laparoscopic bariatric surgery usually have a shorter hospital stay.
When you return to your hospital room after surgery, you will be closely monitored by your nurses. Along with periodic monitoring of your vital signs — blood pressure, pulse, temperature and respiration — your nurses will encourage and help you to perform deep breathing, coughing, leg movement exercises and to get out of bed. These activities can help prevent complications. Report any symptoms of nausea, anxiety, muscle spasms, increased pain or shortness of breath to your nurse.
To varying degrees, it is normal to experience fatigue, nausea and vomiting, sleeplessness, surgical pain, weakness, light-headedness, loss of appetite, gas pain, flatulence, loose stools and emotional ups and downs in the early days and weeks after surgery. Please discuss any concerns you have with your doctors and nurses.
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. Wounds - The small wounds on your abdomen will either be glued of covered with waterproof dressings after the operation. The dressings should be left for seven days from the day of the operation (only change if the wound is oozing or the dressing has lifted off and is no longer waterproof). By that time, the wounds are usually healed enough to remain uncovered. The stitches used are dissolvable. You can shower or bath as normal from the day of surgery. If you notice any sign of wound infection (pain, redness, swelling or pus) you are advised to visit your Practice Nurse for a wound check.
. Exercise - Gentle outdoor exercise is important as well as getting plenty of sleep and keeping your fluids up. You should gradually try to increase your exercise until you are walking for 30 minutes per day. You should aim to walk at a speed that makes you slightly short of breath and sweaty.
. Driving - You may drive as soon as you can comfortably wear a seat belt and are able to perform an emergency stop. You should check with your insurance company for their specific advice about driving after keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery. It is advisable to avoid heavy lifting for at least two months after abdominal surgery.
. Pregnancy - Losing weight can increase fertility but we strongly recommend that you do not become pregnant for 1-2 years following surgery as weight loss may have effects on the unborn child. If you do not already have regular contraception it may be worth visiting your local family planning centre for advice. If you get pregnant with a gastric band, the band can be deflated during the period of pregnancy to ensure the baby gets sufficient nutrients and that you can breastfeed afterwards. The band can then be re-inflated when the time is right.
. Emotion – It is common for patients to feel tearful, irritable and vulnerable in the first few weeks after surgery. This is a normal response as surgery is a life changing event. This is usually temporary and improves once you start eating more solid food and get back to your normal routine. Please contact a member of the team if you need reassurance or are finding it difficult to cope.
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Weight loss surgery isn’t a ‘quick fix’ or a certainty that you will lose weight. It is a tool to help your weight loss. Successful weight loss will be entirely down to you making good dietary choices and being as physically active as possible. In the initial period after surgery you will only be able to eat very small portions and will probably not feel hungry. Both these factors may change with time.
It is important to realize that we don’t always eat because we are hungry. We might eat out of habit or because we have learned to turn to food as a comfort when we are bored, or upset, or even happy. This “head hunger” does not disappear with surgery and you must learn to overcome this if you want to be successful with your weight loss.
You should start to practice the following skills in preparation for surgery. These are designed to help you adapt to life after the operation.
. Have three small meals a day. Choose quality over quantity – go for healthy, great tasting, textured food in smaller but delicious servings.
. Avoid snacking between meals unless you are genuinely hungry. Try to choose a piece of fruit or other healthy option.
. Eat slowly. Put a small amount of food in your mouth at a time and chew this very well. Eating at a table without any distractions (no TV) and putting down cutlery between mouthfuls can help.
. Do not aim to eat until you are ‘full’. After surgery, overeating will stretch your stomach pouch, causing discomfort and may make you vomit.
. Do not drink with meals. Wait at least 30 minutes after a meal before you have a drink. Make sure you have at least 2 litres of fluid a day.
. Avoid all fizzy drinks.
. Choose textured foods that satisfy your stomach. Drinking high calorie liquids or eating foods that ‘melt’ (crisps, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, ice-cream) will mean that you won’t lose weight. These foods slip straight through, don’t make you full and result in a very high calorie intake. Your dietician will provide information on appropriate ‘textured’ foods.
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. Eat balanced meals with small portions.
. Follow a diet low in calories, fats and sweets.
. Keep a daily record of your food portions and of your calorie and protein intake.
. Eat slowly and chew small bites of food thoroughly.
. Avoid rice, bread, raw vegetables and fresh fruits, as well as meats that are not easily chewed, such as pork and steak. Ground meats are usually better tolerated.
. Do not use straws, drink carbonated beverages or chew ice. They can introduce air into your pouch and cause discomfort.
. Avoid sugar, sugar-containing foods and beverages, concentrated sweets and fruit juices.
. For the first two months following surgery, your calorie intake should be between 300 and 600 calories a day, with a focus on thin and thicker liquids.
. Daily caloric intake should not exceed 1,000 calories.
. Drink extra water and low-calorie or calorie-free fluids between meals to avoid dehydration. All liquids should be caffeine-free.
. Sip about 1 cup of fluid between each small meal, six to eight times a day.
. We recommend drinking at least 2 liters (64 ounces or 8 cups) of fluids a day. You will gradually be able to meet this target.
. We strongly warn against drinking any alcoholic beverages. After surgery, alcohol is absorbed into your system much more quickly than before, making its sedative and mood-altering effects more difficult to predict and control.
Bariatric surgery recovery pain
You may feel pain at your incision site or from the position your body was in during surgery. Some patients also experience neck and shoulder pain after laparoscopic bariatric surgery.
Your comfort is very important to us. Although it is normal to experience some discomfort after surgery, keeping your pain under control is necessary for recovery. When you are comfortable, you are more able to walk, breathe deeply and cough, all of which are essential for recovering as quickly as possible.
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Stomach Pain after Bariatric Surgery
It’s common for weight loss surgery patients to develop stomach pain after bariatric surgery. Indeed, a large part of adjusting to life after having weight loss surgery (regardless of the type of bariatric operation) is developing abdominal symptoms after eating too much.
Essential Tips for Bariatric Surgery Recovery
Weight loss surgery recovery doesn’t have to be a time of suffering. The following products are meant to make recovery as comfortable as possible by reducing pain, providing more time for rest, reducing chances of injury, and much more.
After surgery, you might not be able to sleep as comfortably on your side if that’s what you typically prefer. Having a supportive post-surgery pillow can make all the difference.
There are many pillow options out there that can provide extra support underneath your lower back and knees. By giving yourself this support, you’ll have less of a need to toss and turn to find the right position that won’t tug at your incisions and cause pain.
During recovery, you need to focus more on comfort rather than style. If that means walking around your home in a less than stylish onesie, all the better. Loose clothing will be your best friend during recovery.
This is especially the case if you’ve had surgery on your pelvis, abdomen or lower back. The problem with tight clothing is they may rub against the incisions on your body, causing irritation. Loose clothing allows for ease of movement and provides the most comfort.
It’s absolutely essential that you get enough water, but your smaller stomach will make this more difficult. Dehydration can damage your skin, hair, vision, and more. Keep track of every drop you drink, and make sure you have between 1.5 and 2 liters of water every single day – between meals, not during them. Your stomach needs to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat, so stop drinking 40 minutes before each meal. After finishing, don’t drink again for at least half an hour.
Water is also vital for decreasing your risks of contracting urinary tract infection, as well as helping manage pain levels. It might be a good idea to have a pitcher by your bedside table.
Supplement your smaller, healthier meals with vitamins that make up for the decrease in consumption. Ask your bariatric surgeon to recommend supplements that will meet your basic needs, and continue to take them long after you’re happy with the number on the scale.
Before your surgery, stock up on meals that are easy to make. There’s a good chance you’ll be too sore to make them yourself post-surgery. With that being said, bariatric patients are typically required to stick to an all-liquid diet during the first week of recovery.
As time progresses, however, your body will recover to the point where you can begin to eat more solid foods. As your body recovers, try to stick to healthy and nutritious choices.
You’re already recovering from bariatric surgery. You don’t need to add infection to your troubles. The incisions made on your body during surgery will need time to properly close, which means they can become infected if you touch them with dirty hands.
Take the time to properly wash or sanitize your hands after every meal or when they become dirty. This will reduce the chances of complications during your time of recovery.
If your job involves lifting heavy objects, you’ll need to stay home for the first six weeks to avoid complications. Don’t push or pull a vacuum during this time, either, because it could aggravate your surgery site. The wait increases to three months for people who carry certain levels of excessive weight. Of course, sedentary office jobs aren’t ideal either. If you sit at a desk all day, make sure you change positions and stand up frequently to prevent clots in your legs.
Sugary and fatty foods are often high-calorie foods, but binging on sugar won’t just exceed your calorie limit. You may also trigger dumping syndrome, which causes immediate and extreme physical reactions as your body attempts to get rid of the unwanted sugar. Avoid white bread, red meat, sweet desserts, and buttery or fatty foods. It’s also important to avoid the empty calories and complications of drinking alcohol and soda.
Menstruation and inadequate nutrition may cause anemia, an iron deficiency that complicates your healing and deprives you of energy and strength. Avoid this by taking iron or Vitamin A supplements as you recover.
You won’t be running a marathon a month after surgery, but physical activity is very important to the healing process because it’s the only way to keep your blood circulating. Stand up, walk around the house, and do the simple post-op exercises that your doctor recommends. This will prevent clots and inflammation while increasing the speed of your recovery. As you gradually increase the intensity of your exercises, you’ll develop a workout habit without even realizing it.