Repost: Sh*t just got real! Digestive issues after bariatric surgery

Originally published May 27, 2017

I’m reposting this article in honor of a friend of mine that just had the sleeve yesterday.  Good luck to you!


Castillo San Felipe del Morro 5 (1).jpg

Me in Puerto Rico at the Castillo San Felipe del Morro – 2015

Remember that time when you got smart with ya momma, talked back to your teacher, and rolled your eyes at your dad?  How about when you threw that house party when your folks went out of town or snuck your boyfriend/girlfriend into your room and they never found out?  Welp, get ready to pay for all the things that you’ve done in the past and gotten away with.  And exactly what does does the above pic have to do with digestive issues?  To illustrate that after weight loss surgery, what’s going to come out of you might feel like one of those cannonballs.

I jest, but digestive issues are a very common complaint with weight loss surgery post-ops.  I myself have experienced some of the most demonic levels of constipation I’ve ever had in my entire life after gastric sleeve.  However, I don’t want this to scare off those who are still on the fence about having weight loss surgery – constipation and diarrhea are very common major side effects of many surgeries and prescription pain killers.

So let’s talk about some digestive issues that you might deal with after weight loss surgery and what you can do about them:

Gas

Your doctor is going to stress to you the use of Gas-X Strips, especially right after surgery, since your new stomach will not be able to handle chewables at first.  The gas after surgery is…unbelievable…and makes me glad I work from home and that I was single at the time.  But now that I’m over six months out, the gas is not nearly as bad, it’s actually back to normal.  However, I still use either the Gas-X Strips or the Gas-X chewables on occasion.

Constipation and diarrhea

Again, you may get constipation or diarrhea because of the pain medicine you’re prescribed, and not necessarily the surgery itself.  There are some things you can do to decrease the effect and occurrence of both:

  • Sip, sip, sip water all day long!  Make sure you stay hydrated, as this helps with elimination in general.  And you may want to try adding unsweetened prune juice to your regimen for constipation, which I have also tried.  Side note – if you decide to eat prunes instead of drinking unsweetened prune juice, make sure to go easy; one cup of pitted prunes has over 100g of carbs and over 400 calories!
  • Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter stool softeners that are appropriate for you to use for constipation, such as probiotics.  Personally I use Primadophilus Optima Womens 90 billion vegetarian capsules (but they do have other varieties that are not just for women, but I like this one because it’s also a boost for reproductive health).  Other options include Colace, Miralax (aka my new best friend), and Milk of Magnesia.  I’ve also read on various message boards that Smooth Move tea helps but I have not tried it yet.  If over-the-counter medicines do not work, ask your doctor for a prescription medication, such as Linzess for constipation.
  • I have had very infrequent issues with diarrhea after surgery.  If you happen to have problems with diarrhea, try taking over-the-counter medicines like Imodium.  Again, talk to your doctor if diarrhea persists, because you don’t want to become dehydrated.
  • I’ll be totally honest – early on after my surgery, I got so desperate for relief that I actually ordered a Squatty Potty.  I can’t lie, it looks silly but actually did help.

Churning and gurgling sounds when eating and drinking

Unfortunately, this just something you may have to get used to from now on.  Whenever I eat or drink anything, I get some loud churning sounds coming from my stomach and throat that I cannot control.  When I spoke to my surgeon about it, he said it’s very common and might be something I just have to deal with.  No one around me has said they’ve heard it, but it seems very loud to me.  I had the gastric sleeve, so I’m not sure if those who had other weight loss surgeries experience the same thing; if yes, please let me know in the Comments.

Vomiting

Eating too much, eating too fast, eating the wrong things – all of this can lead to vomiting.  In this case, slow down when you eat and make sure to chew really well.

I was also made aware that your food intolerances may change after surgery (for example, I am no longer able to eat cucumber and I had a hard time with apples).  You never know what they are until you eat something and it starts to come up…you’ll just have to try things out and see, unfortunately.

Food getting “stuck” in your throat or chest

This is extremely common, and will take some time to get used to.  If you eat too fast, don’t chew small enough, or eat foods with a dry or tough texture, it can fee like it’s  “stuck” in your throat or chest.  Don’t worry, it’s not actually stuck.  Think of your new system as like a funnel, your mouth being the wide part of funnel where you pour liquid and your esophagus and stomach being the thin tube it empties into – if you pour slowly, liquid it will go right through.  If you pour alot at one time or pour something too thick, it’s going to take it’s time going down.

I can’t lie, it’s an extremely uncomfortable feeling.  Whenever it happens, I have tried to get relief by sipping on hot tea to break through the food that is stuck, beating on my chest to loosen it, or stretching out my elbows to expand my chest.  Again, the food is going to take its sweet time either going down, or coming back up.  But please be rest assured that you are not actually choking, nothing is obstructing your airway, it’s just that you don’t have as much room now for food to pass through.  So again, chew your food finely so it can pass through easily.

Heartburn

I also dealt with nausea at first, so I my doctor prescribed Nexium right after surgery. Later, I started using over-the-counter Prilosec, which also helped.

There is some debate about whether certain procedures actually make heartburn worse, like gastric sleeve.  If you already have problems with heartburn/GERD, it will be important to talk to your doctor about which procedure is best for you so that you can avoid further complications.

Dumping Syndrome

Dumping Syndrome can be common with weight loss surgery post-ops.  It happens when food moves too quickly into your intestine – particularly foods that are high in sugar.  The resulting effects are, but not limited to, stomach cramping, diarrhea, increased heart rate, sweating, feeling faint, and nausea.  You can help avoid Dumping Syndrome by making sure you keep those carbs at bay.  You may also have to be mindful of other foods that may bring on Dumping Syndrome, like dairy, but be sure to discuss this with your doctor.

An important note about medicine and treatment for digestive upset

I want to stress the importance of following your doctor’s orders regarding the medicine you take for any digestive issues.  There are some common medicines that are no longer appropriate for you anymore as a bariatric patient.  For example, I was instructed to no longer take Pepto Bismol or any NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Also, I want to stress that if you have any continued issues with rectal bleeding, diarrhea, vomiting, and/or constipation with no relief, then talk to your doctor ASAP.  I get it that these things may be uncomfortable or embarrassing, but please do not wait to get help on what might be a serious issue.

 

For any post-ops out there, how did you handle digestive issues?  I’d love to hear from you!

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