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What Happens When You’re Gastrically Altered? The Scoop on Vitamins

Ahhhh, let’s wax nostalgic, shall we?

Remember, back in the day, when you could eat like a human being and then take a Flintstones Chewable to supplement  any nutrition deficit caused by a diet high in Twinkies and diet Coke?

Even if you didn’t eat as badly as I did, you’ve probably never realized a time when you had to take more than one multivitamin daily to ensure you were getting all the things in your diet that you needed.  As women, sometimes we add iron and often calcium, but for the most part, you’re probably thinking you’re pretty well covered with a gummy vitamin.

Well, my gastrically twisted brothers and sisters, lets think back to our Lays days.  Remember those Lays commercials?  Betcha can’t eat just one?  Yeah, well, now instead of potato chips, I’m talking about vitamins.  There are so many things that you aren’t absorbing properly, and there’s no way you can get what you need between your diet and one multivitamin a day.  Here are some recommendations on what should be in your pill box on a daily basis.

Multivitamins – Honestly, it doesn’t matter what kind you take.  You want chewables?  They have them in all shapes and flavors.  Are you brave enough for liquid vitamins?  Ewwww, you’re gross!  But you’ll find them at most nutrition shops.  Your average one a day vitamins are perfect for you, with one HUGE exception.  In order to get the value from the vitamins that you need, instead of taking one a day, you’ll probably need three.  As with any medication, check with your doctor, but to make up for the vitamins you aren’t properly absorbing, you’ll need three multivitamins daily.  Yum.

Vitamin B-12 – I’ve met some gastric bypass patients who do weekly B-12 injections.  I do fine with one sub-lingual a day – and it doesn’t taste half bad (which means it DOES taste half bad, but mixed with the half that doesn’t taste bad, I can get it down without incident).  If you just can’t seem to do the under the tongue thing, you may want to ask your doctor about a monthly injection.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

Calcium – First tip – if you are taking iron, don’t take your Calcium with your iron.  When Calcium and Iron get together, they have a bit of a smack-down over which one is actually going to be absorbed.  Give your Calcium a fighting chance and space out the Calcium and Iron doses.  Second tip – I know it tastes WAY better when you take your Calcium in those little chewy bits of chocolatey goodness, but guess what?  That’s not the best kind of Calcium for you.  Our bodies absorb Calcium Citrate much better than Calcium Carbonate.  Yeah, see if you can find that in a chocolatey delicious flavor.  It doesn’t matter – you’re going to need at least 1000 mg daily.  And if you can find Calcium Citrate that contains Vitamin D, you’re golden!  Vitamin D helps you to absorb the Calcium.  Good for you!!  You’re looking at taking two to three doses a day.  Are you full yet?

Iron – Do you know there are bypass patients who need blood transfusions?  They become anemic and have all sorts of clotting issues.  Back in August, when I was busy dying, my blood was busy plotting a mutiny.  Iron tablets saved me from a transfusion, but it took three pills daily to do it.  Have your doctor take a look at your labs and see what he recommends for you.  And women, yeah, we tend to need this more than our bulge battling brothers.  Remember what I told you about Calcium before?  Iron and Calcium are like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  You don’t want them in the same tummy together.

Vitamin C – We all love Vitamin C – it’s everybody’s friend.  It is especially Iron’s friend.  You can – and should – take Vitamin C with iron to aid in absorption.  You can usually get away with a regular dose of this one – but you’ll want to accompany your iron dose with a Vitamin C dose, so that means you’ll be taking it more frequently.

Zinc – This is a touchy one, because generally, we all need to take extra zinc.  It promotes healing and can help boost your immune system.  Is your hair falling out?  Of course it is.  That may mean you need more Zinc.  But here’s where things get touchy.  Zinc likes to mess up your absorption.  I know, right?  That sucks.  Because you’re taking practically a vitamin buffet, and you’d hate for it all to be wasted because Zinc stepped in, kicked ass, and took names.  10 mg a day should be enough without causing too much interference, but if your doctor indicates you need more, remember to take this one all by itself.  Cue the Eric Carmen music.  Does anyone even remember Eric Carmen?  Geez, I AM old.

I like to call Biotin the bonus in the box.  It’s the pill I always had in my pill box because, quite frankly, my hair fell out in clumps.  Biotin helps grow strong hair and nails, and many of us find that after gastric bypass surgery, our hair and nails are the first things to show signs of vitamin deficiency.  My nails were so soft for a while, I was afraid to even go get a manicure.  And my hair even today tends to be on the crunchy side.  Biotin can help get you over the hump in those early days when you’re eating virtually nothing – at least where you’re hair and nails are concerned.

And girls, Folic Acid – add it.  I know, your plate is already full.  But it helps avoid anemia and is great for growing new cells.

You may find your doctor suggests more or less when it comes to vitamins, but the most important thing is regular blood work.  And it’s not enough to make sure your levels are “within normal limits”.  Make sure they check constantly what they were last time or the time before that.  You may be considered “normal”, but your body can be depleting what you’ve got stored up in there.  You need to see if you’re trending downward.

So, once you take all these vitamins, you realize you have no room for real food!  I know – pain in the flippin’ arse 🙁  But take them anyway.  They’re going to mean way more to your body than the little bits of food you’re able to get in – especially in the beginning.  So just take them.  You’ll heal better and feel better.


What Happens When You’re Gastrically Altered – Clothing Challenges

Oh yeah, I went there.

That is a picture of my “Before” underpants and my “After” underpants.  I took that picture because I was so tired of seeing people post-op sticking both legs into one leg of a pair of jeans.  I thought my post-op clothing picture needed to be jazzier.  So yeah, drawers are jazzy.

But guess what?  You’re gonna need new undies!!

And pants.  And skirts.  And eventually tops.

Which all sounds like a good thing.  But here’s where it’s a bad thing.  It’s frustrating to go into the store, buy a new pair of smaller sized jeans, then two weeks later find out that you can step right outta them bad boys!  I’m not kidding!  When I hit size 16, I bought two brand new pairs of jeans, and was so excited to see my new smaller self in them.  But two weeks later, they kept falling off, they looked awful, and I had wasted the $100 bucks I spent.

There’s only so much a tailor can do when you’re dropping weight this rapidly, so as tempted as you are, you want to try and curb your urge to shop for the time being.  So what are you supposed to do when your clothes start falling off?  I mean, you don’t want to risk having the fashion police called (or the real ones, as indecent exposure could become an issue – for real!!).

If you belong to any type of Weight Loss Surgery support group, check and see if they do a clothing exchange.  Many groups – especially ones with a good number of members – will have a once a month clothing exchange.  You bring in all of your old sizes that are falling on the floor, and you can swap with members who are getting rid of the next smaller size. It saves everyone a lot of money, because there are almost always people moving from one size to the next.

Check out the thrift stores.  You may not typically be a thrift store shopper.  I am not, and believe me when I tell you I get a bit skeeved out when I think of used clothing from people with whom I am not personally acquainted.  Now’s the time to get over this skeeve factor.  Buy a good bottle of bleach and hit the Goodwill store.  I went from a size 24 to a size 10 in less than a year.  There is no way possible to purchase the amount of clothing you are going to go through unless you are exceptionally wealthy.  If you work at a job that requires a uniform or a particular type of clothing, then you need clothes for your days off, you really can sink a TON of money into replacing things every month.  Goodwill and other thrift stores will save you a small fortune, and you can think of the good deed you’ll be doing when you donate it all back as you continue to shrink.

Use Freecycle, Craig’s List, and yard sales.  I know, again with the used clothing, but trust me – you aren’t going to have to wear them very long, and just think of all the brand new things you’ll be able to afford when you’re weight stabilizes if you keep it cheap now!  Some Freecycle rules indicate that you have to offer something before you can take something – it’s a great way to get rid of the clothes you no longer need.

And lastly, buy stretch things.  I know, it’s finally a time in your life when you don’t NEED stretch pants – you can fit into jeans and slacks and nice thing.  But, stretch pants will take you further.  You can buy stretch pants in a size or two smaller and still wear them today.  That means that instead of getting two weeks out of a pair of pants before they are falling off, you may get two months out of them.  I know my size 24 arse was still squeezing into size 18 stretch pants (thank goodness for strong seams!), so coming down from the size 24 back to an 18 was a fairly easy adjustment on me in terms of clothing.  So, if you’re a size 18 now, buy 14 stretch pants – or better yet, a size Large, which really could take you down to a size 12.  And you all know you can dress the stretch pants up or down and make them work in lots of settings.

So, what have we learned?  We don’t want to spend our annual wardrobe budget on clothes we won’t be able to wear next week.  No one will believe you have joined a gangsta rap group and you INTENDED to wear your pants that way.  We have to get over our skeeved out selves and wear used clothing.  And all the money you save can be put into a fund for either a banging wardrobe at the end of your weight loss journey, or it can go towards some of the plastic surgery you might ultimately want to have!

Gastric Bypass Surgery – What Happens When You’re Gastrically Altered?

Yep, that’s me.  It’s July 2006, just one week before my  Roux-en-y gastric bypass surgery.  Yeah, I tipped the scales at over 300 pounds.  I was a big fat ass.  Can you believe I thought I looked good in this photo?  Can you imagine what photos of me that I didn’t like looked like?

But making the decision to alter your body so drastically is only the beginning of the decisions you’re going to have to make.  Let’s hope you’ve done your research, you’ve checked out the doctor and the hospital you are going to work with, and you feel confident – if a little nervous – about your decision to have your surgery.  But what comes next?

I’ll be posting a series of blogs to help you get through some of the post op stuff – the stuff you may not have had a chance to talk about with your surgeon.  We’ll talk protein (blech!), we’ll talk losing your drawers when you sneeze because they’re too big, we’ll talk about adding exercise and how important it is, and we’ll talk about plastic surgery – because, honestly, it’s where a lot of us end up.

So stay tuned.  Once a week, we’ll tour that unknown world of what to do once you’re gastrically altered!


To My New Good Friend and Gentle Reader, Carrie!

My new friend Carrie took the time to post a comment on one of my Blog Posts (find the original post https://www.beautygirlsmom.com/2010/06/14/i-took-the-easy-way-out-gastric-bypass-surgery-bitching/ ).  I’m taking the time to answer her!

Dear Carrie:

Unless you’ve had the opportunity to know me and my reasons for having Gastric Bypass Surgery, I wish to politely invite you to shut the hell up (whew, I avoided the “f” word this time – quite a feat considering I have absolutely NO self control, as evidenced by my need for gastric bypass surgery).  I don’t believe I was bitching about my surgery at all – I was bitching about the ignorant woman at the airport who sat in a seat eating doughnuts and drinking soda, all the while talking about her phenomenal weight loss through diet and exercise.  Because I recognize that gastric bypass surgery was my choice, I don’t bitch about the procedure.  I may have complained now and again about the things I experience as a result of this choice, but I never bitch about the choice itself.

And Dear Carrie, if you bothered to get to know me, you’ll know that I have had gym memberships.  I’ve been at least partially responsible for our local gym owner having the ability to send his daughter to private preparatory schools.  While that may make me a martyr of some kind, I don’t proclaim to be a martyr, neither for being such a generous contributor to a child’s education, nor for my gastric bypass surgery.

I’ve had the common sense to put my fork down; and I’ve had the common sense not to put my fork through ignorant people who think that we all have the ability to make a few lifestyle changes and be on the road to skinny.  Jaysus, I’m showing an awful lot of self control for someone who couldn’t stop eating!

You suggest a lifestyle change for people who have weight loss difficulty.  I made one.  It certainly wasn’t a lazy route.  Jenny and I are on a first name basis.  The Fresh Diet failed me until I was fresh out of money to pay for the pricey service.  Weight Watchers watched my ass get bigger every time I went to the meetings, after a week of eating their recommended amount of food.  So you see, Dear Carrie, I’ve exhausted every carefully constructed weight loss method before making the lifestyle change that led to my surgery.  Please note the use of the word “exhausted” – because that’s not something lazy people get very often.

We don’t all have the ability to follow the food pyramid, the USDA recommended dietary intake, and expect to be average sized people.  If you had bothered to get to know me before accusing me of being lazy, you’d know that I suffer from PCOS, a disorder of the endocrine system, making it difficult for me to lose weight.  Not that I’m using that as a crutch to stuff my face full of Twinkies, but it is a fact of my biology that weight loss is not as easy as giving up cookies and cake.  And I would guess that there are other people out there who have turned to Gastric Bypass Surgery who have similar metabolic disorders or thyroid conditions that make losing weight The Dear Carrie Way less than ideal.

And let’s give credit where credit is due.  Lots of us got fat because we ate too damn much.  But whether it’s stress; depression; a coping mechanism – for some of us, food means comfort.  It’s an addiction, like alcohol, tobacco, cocaine.  There is a euphoric high after you eat a slice of cheesecake, and a terrible guilt as a fat person when you do.  To regain the feeling, you eat another; and another; and another, until, ultimately, you’ve eaten the whole damn cake, you feel badly about yourself, and you fear judgement from people like Dear Carrie.  That sets up the whole cycle all over again – you eat to feel good, you feel badly when you do, so you eat more to feel good.

So tell me, Dear Carrie, if my therapist and yours went head to head in a psychological Top Chef of sorts, which one of us ends up with the more normal patient?  Mine at least knows my issues.  Does yours know how angry you are at fat people?  You might want to bring it up at your next session.