Food Intolerances Post-Surgery
It is not uncommon for patients to experience food intolerances after having bariatric surgery, especially during the months when “regular” foods are being incorporated back into their diet. Setting realistic expectations and making careful food choices will help avoid most discomfort. Know what defines a “normal” food intolerance, and learn which foods in particular may be a trigger for you.
What are the Most Commonly Reported Food Intolerances?
Patients most often report not being able to tolerate the following foods:
- Stringy Veggies
- Fruit with membranes (like citrus)
- Foods which include seeds
- Dairy Foods with lactose (milk, cream cheese, butter, etc.)
Remember that intolerances may fluctuate daily and that a food which causes discomfort at one meal may not be a problem at the next. In addition, taste sensitivities may be different after weight loss surgery – which may or may not be a bad thing!
What Causes Food Intolerances After Bariatric Surgery?
Think of your stomach like a newborn baby’s stomach. Your stomach is not the same size as it once was, and it may not be ready to digest a certain food right away. Try adding new foods into your diet one at a time and keep a record of what you ate, including the portion size (start with small bites, and only one or two at first). Note the reaction and, if it is adverse, wait a few weeks before eating it again. Finally, it’s best to try new foods at home, in case you experience discomfort.
Don’t rush your progression into a “normal” diet. Some patients may not adjust as quickly as others and will need to remain in one “diet stage” longer. Our dietitian is here to help you plan and navigate through each stage, so you can enjoy making progress with as little discomfort as possible.
Physical reasons for food intolerances can be due to the lack of a certain enzyme required to process what you ate. Conditions such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, skin conditions, mood swings and headaches may occur.
Tricks to Lessen Food Intolerances
First, be sure to consult with Dr. Stowers or our dietitian to find out if any of these tips are compatible with your particular post-op diet program! They will have great advice for you, based upon their experience from working with thousands of patients. In general, here are some things to consider:
- Undercook or overcook pasta or rice. (Wait 6-12 months after surgery to consume these foods, as it is not typical for patients to tolerate them very soon after surgery.)
- Toast fresh bread, but similar to pasta and rice, many patients don’t tolerate these foods well until after 9-12 months.
- Meats like beef, poultry, and pork should be cooked in a way that retains moisture. Drying out the meat makes it more difficult to digest. Our dietitian can recommend helpful ways to prepare meat, like using approved recipes for marinades and cooking techniques.
- Shrimp are best digested when they are small.
- Tolerating eggs will vary from patient to patient; some can eat scrambled eggs and others can only eat them boiled. So, eggs are more of a “trial and error” food.
- Using a food processor or blender for stringy vegetables can help separate the fibers, which can be hard to digest. Waiting 6-12 months for asparagus, green beans, celery, etc. is also a good idea.
- Remove citrus membranes before eating the fruit. This also goes for the skin on apples, pears, peaches, potatoes, cucumbers, etc.
- Lettuce tolerance will also vary from patient to patient. Many patients report that iceberg is best initially, then leafy greens can be introduced slowly over time.
- Avoid foods with seeds as they can be tough on any digestive system! Strawberries, Blackberries or Raspberries can be substituted for a banana in those protein smoothies for a while.
- Go lactose-free and use low calorie soy or almond milk-based products.
Finally, be very conscious of portion sizes and the pace at which you eat. Chew slowly and carefully, eating protein, carbs and starches in the sequence advised by our dietitian. Even one extra bite can be too much so remember this motto: Slow and Steady Wins the Race!