Gastric sleeve surgery is a type of weight loss surgery that’s also commonly known as gastric bypass surgery. During the procedure, a bariatric surgeon removes part of your stomach to shrink it to approximately 15 percent of its original size. It’s called gastric sleeve surgery because your stomach looks like a sleeve or tube after the procedure.
Although gastric sleeve surgery is one of the safest bariatric surgeries available and new laparoscopic techniques mean it’s minimally invasive, caring for your body after surgery is critical.
Not only does your recovery period determine how much weight you lose, but it also wards off complications, some of which are minor, but others are life-threatening.
Your doctor provides you with a recovery plan before you even leave the hospital, but it might not be as detailed as you hoped. If you have questions about your recovery or what you can or can’t do, ask your doctor first. To help you get started, we created a guide to gastric sleeve surgery recovery do’s and don’ts.
Don’t Rush Your Recovery
Recovery starts from the moment you leave the operating room and wake up in the hospital’s recovery room. You might feel happy and groggy when you first regain consciousness, but those feelings come from the pain medication administered after surgery.
Take a minimum of a few days off work when you schedule your surgery to allow yourself to ease back into your daily life. Ideally, you should have at least one if not two weeks to help you adjust.
The surgery in most cases is minimally invasive, but it does come with a huge lifestyle change. A severely restricted diet like the one you follow post-surgery means you must cope with low energy for the first few weeks after surgery. Low energy levels make daily tasks harder, and they’re even dangerous in some professions.
Doing too much after surgery will slow down your recovery and is a common cause of complications. Easing back into your life will speed up your recovery.
Do Follow Your Prescribed Diet And Medication Regime
During your stay in the hospital, you’ll enjoy the best cuisine your hospital has to offer: a clear liquid diet.
After discharge, your doctor will likely tell you to start adding thicker liquids into your diet, but solid food is still several days away. As time goes on, pureed and blended foods like soups, vegetables, and fruit smoothies become an option to test your stomach and incorporate more calories into your diet.
It doesn’t matter what kind of diet you had before surgery: everyone will experience a dramatic cut in calories as they begin eating more solid food. Whether you previously at 4,500 or 1,500 calories per day, expect to see your food intake drop dramatically.
Patients who successfully undergo bariatric surgery eat an average of under 500 calories per day for the first weeks or even first few months of recovery. Your surgeon will tell you what your specific limit is.
Gastric sleeve surgery resized your stomach, and it can’t hold as much food as it could before. To avoid doing damage, you need to eat small meals with small portion sizes. Expect to hear reminders about chewing your food carefully and taking small bites.
It may sound like punishment, but these strict instructions help your stomach heal from surgery and prevent complications.
As you progress through the recovery process, your caloric intake grows with you. Patients begin to eat 1,200-1,400 calories after six to twelve months. Recovering your diet is different for all patients. Your doctor makes recommendations based on how much weight you lost and how you feel generally.
Don’t Exercise Before Receiving Approval from A Doctor
Although bariatric surgery is now a laparoscopic procedure that’s minimally invasive, your organs still underwent disruption. Additionally, your diet changes dramatically, and you won’t get the calories you need to make up for what you burn during exercise. It’s just another reason to take it easy and wait until your doctor gives you the thumbs up.
Hospital staff will help (and force) you to get up and move the day you have the surgery. But other than short, gentle walks, don’t expect to hit the gym anytime soon regardless of whether your workout was part of your daily life or not.
Many bariatric surgeons have a post-operative exercise plan available to patients. The program includes their recommendations for the first month after your surgery. Your doctor’s method won’t include a Jillian Michaels Shred DVD. Instead, it’s there to help you ease back into your daily life and work your back up to your ideal level of exercise without offsetting your recovery.
During the first four weeks, bariatric surgeons want you to focus on:
- Deep breathing
- Daily activities and chores
- Low-intensity exercise
Laparoscopic surgery patients may start to push their limits two weeks after surgery. You can exercise until it hurts or becomes uncomfortable, but doctors insist that you avoid going further than that.
Regardless of what surgery you had or how comfortable with exercise you are, your doctor will request that you honor your healing stomach by:
- Lifting no more than 15 pounds for the first six weeks
- Avoiding abdominal exercises for up to 12 weeks to help incisions heal
- Exercising with your reduced caloric intake in mind (no high-intensity workouts)
Do Follow Instructions To Care For Your Incisions
The first time you look at your abdomen after surgery, you’ll see a new addition: six small incisions leftover from the surgery. Today, surgical scars from laparoscopies no longer stand out as they might have in the past. However, it’s still up to you to help them heal properly.
Care for your incisions first by skipping a shower for the first 48 hours post-surgery. Your family might not thank you, but you’ll protect your fresh wounds. Sink baths are an alternative, but the dressing on your incisions must remain dry, so stick to washing the necessary bits.
Avoiding water keeps your stitches in place and reduces the risk of infection dramatically. If your stitches or dressing gets wet within the first 48 hours, call your general physician.
The average patient may remove the top layer of their surgical dressing after 48 hours. Often, surgeons add surgical glue or Steri-Strips for extra protection. These disappear over time and don’t require a trip to the doctor.
No matter what stage you’re at, remember to keep the incision clean. Your discharge nurse provides you with instructions as you leave the hospital. Avoid pools, baths, or jacuzzis for the next four weeks after your operation. They’re relaxing for some, but cesspits of bacteria for anyone with an open wound.
Keeping your incisions clean and dry reduces the risk of infection. Signs of an infected incision include:
- Heat radiating from the incision
- Pain at the site of the incision
- Painful urination
Painful urination is a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs occur commonly in patients who had a catheter during their surgery.
If you believe one of your incisions is infected or you have symptoms of a UTI, visit your general physician immediately. Your GP will prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection and stop it from spreading elsewhere in your body.
Do Eat Nutritious Foods To Avoid Nutritional Deficits
Researchers curious about the impact of the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy created a study to see else happens to the body beyond weight loss. They found that micro nutrient deficiencies are a common problem for post-operative patients.
For example, 43 percent of patients studied have iron, folic acid, and vitamin B12 deficiencies. Twenty-six percent of patients received an anemia diagnosis after surgery.
As you ease back into solid foods and figure out what works for your digestive system, be sure to choose foods that pack in nutrition. Talk to a dietician about how to create a diet that gets all the nutrients you need to regain your energy levels and support your essential metabolic processes.
You might wonder: can’t I take multivitamins to make up the difference?
The same study showed that relying on vitamins not only doesn’t work but may result in complications over the long term. Vitamins supplement your diet; they can’t replace it.
Keep a close eye on the following vitamins and nutrients:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B6
Don’t Expect To Lose The Weight Overnight
Your procedure is a step in your weight loss journey. It wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. Even with the surgery, weight loss takes time.
As you transition into and out of your recovery phase, take time to reacquaint yourself with your body. A smaller stomach doesn’t only mean your mental approach to food changes; the way your digestive system interacts with your diet changes, too. You might find your body no longer tolerates foods like dairy and that you need to find healthy alternatives.
Remember, most weight loss takes place in the first two years after your surgery where you might lose between 42 and 78 percent of your pre-surgery weight. Give yourself space and patience to help your body work its magic, and you are more likely to see the results you want.
Questions about post-operative recovery? Direct your burning questions to your doctor, but don’t forget to share your experiences in the comments.
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