Vitamin D After Weight Loss Surgery
Obesity can lead to many associated health problems, including a vitamin D deficiency. This deficiency could be caused by the high calorie, low nutrient diet that is often associated with obese patients (obese patients require more vitamin D). Further, low activity levels, especially outdoors, can keep vitamin D levels low. If a person decides to move forward and undergo bariatric surgery, the vitamin D deficiencies could persist or worsen without proper monitoring and supplementation.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb many nutrients including calcium and magnesium, among others. Vitamin D is most commonly known for being activated through sun (UV) exposure. However, it is also found in fatty fish such as salmon or sardines, as well as red meats. If a person’s body is unable to naturally absorb vitamin D, supplements are also an option, but only after consultation with a doctor. The amount of vitamin D a person needs differs based on variables such as age, weight, and health.
As with many vitamin or nutrient deficiencies, the symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency do not usually appear until long after the deficiency initially begins. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency vary, but they often appear as fatigue, bone or muscle pain, and sometimes depression. Vitamin D is essential for good bone health because it not only acts on its own to support strong bones, but also helps absorb calcium which is a known factor in promoting bone health. This is why it is so important to monitor vitamin D levels following weight loss surgery. A vitamin D deficiency can snowball into a number of other problems including increased risk of bone disease.
Vitamin D and Bariatric Surgery
Why are vitamin D deficiencies common after bariatric surgery? Let’s look at it anatomically. When a patient undergoes gastric bypass and duodenal switch surgery, the part of the small bowel where vitamin D is normally absorbed is bypassed.
You should always consult a doctor when it comes to vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. If your body cannot produce enough vitamin D, there are treatments your doctor can recommend. A rather simple treatment option is to alter your diet and/or lifestyle to consume or incorporate things high in vitamin D. Another route is supplements. It is once again important to stress you should not try to treat a vitamin D deficiency by yourself. And remember that you will have your blood tested periodically after surgery to check for this and other vitamin deficiencies.
The Bottom Line
If you are thinking about undergoing weight loss surgery, talk to your doctor about what you can do to maintain your vitamin D levels and monitor any changes. There are preventative measures you can take to avoid a deficiency such as improved diet, spending a sufficient amount of time in the sun and supplementation.