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The ABCs of A, B and Zinc: All Vitamins are Not Created Equal after Weight Loss Surgery

By New Jersey Bariatric Center Staff | November 13, 2013

Chewable, liquid, gummies and all those brands! Are all vitamins created equal?  Weight Loss surgery patients (Gastric Bypass, Gastric Sleeve and LAP-BAND) often ask which vitamin supplements are best. The answer may very well depend on your own personal tastes and how many pills you want to take.

For most people, taking a traditional multi-vitamin is a good way to ensure that they are getting their recommended daily allowance (RDA) of nutrients and vitamins, just in case they are not doing so in their daily diet. But for weight loss surgery patients, who are not able to consume food in the quantities needed to get enough vitamins, supplementation becomes an important factor in protecting against possible serious vitamin deficiencies. For gastric bypass patients who don’t absorb nutrients in the same manner as before surgery, this is doubly important.

When choosing the right vitamin, first, you want to find one that meets the specific requirements of a bariatric patient. Bariatric patients need 200% of the recommended daily allowance for most vitamins and minerals, so you should check to see that the vitamin provides as close to that requirement as possible. Be prepared to double up on your supplement if it does not meet this requirement. Next, be sure that your selected vitamin contains all the major vitamins (vitamin A-E), in addition to copper, zinc, selenium and iron.

For weight loss surgery patients, the best bet is selecting a brand that is formulated especially for bariatric patients. Cheaper, non-bariatric vitamins may contain non-absorbable versions of nutrients and may leave you deficient. Bariatric vitamins have been specially formulated to be more completely absorbed and therefore actually may provide you with more vitamin potency for your dollar. Finding a good bariatric multi-vitamin may mean the difference between taking two pills per day and taking eight!

A Matter of Taste

Chewable or liquid vitamins are valuable in the early post-operative period because they help you avoid swallowing large pills that might obstruct the stomach pouch. They are also more easily absorbed than pills, a factor that is important if you’ve had Gastric Bypass. Passage of large, hard pills through the small intestine may happen so quickly in a Gastric Bypass patient that the majority of the pill may not be dissolved. Chewable and liquid vitamins easily avoid this.

Chewable vitamins come in a fun array of flavors and can make vitamin-taking a treat.  Liquid vitamins, unfortunately sometimes have a distinctive taste that some patients find unpalatable. There are many brands of chewable bariatric vitamins – Bariatric Advantage, Celebrate, Opurity, and Bariatric Fusion to name a few. Our office does not prefer one brand over another. Pick whatever you think tastes best.

Gummy vitamins are often great-tasting and easily absorbed, but again, if they are not formulated especially for bariatric patients you may not be getting all the nutrition you need.

A special word for gastric bypass and gastric sleeve patients: Vitamin B12 is not well absorbed after the gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve. Because of this you must make sure your B12 supplements are sublingual (dissolve under the tongue). Vitamin B12 is also offered as a prescription nose spray (Nascobal), which is taken weekly, or as monthly injections in the office. Calcium carbonate is not well-absorbed after the bypass and sleeve so make sure your supplement is calcium citrate and is in chewable or liquid form.

While treatable, vitamin deficiencies should not be taken lightly. If you find yourself  excessively tired, having numbness or tingling in your hands and feet or memory loss and confusion, call your doctor to discuss whether diagnostic blood work may be needed.   Some of these symptoms could be caused by a potentially dangerous deficiency that may need to be treated with vitamin injections.

Most weight loss surgery patients eventually find that taking their vitamins becomes routine, just like brushing your teeth! With a little attention to your vitamin regimen in beginning, avoiding vitamin deficiencies and enjoying your healthy new life is as easy as A-B-Zinc!

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