Gastric bypass patients must learn to eat much smaller portions.

Photo courtesy of Full Tilt Photography

Recovery

After gastric bypass surgery, patients can remain in the hospital for two to six days. However, recovery in the hospital requires more than just staying in bed. Approximately four to six hours after the surgery, patients usually have to get out of bed for short periods of time to prevent blood clots from forming in the legs. Patients usually have a catheter, which is a small tube attached to the patient's bladder used to collect urine. This tube usually remains in place for 24 hours after the surgery and can be a source of discomfort. The tube used to drain the stomach pouch during surgery may stay in place as well, causing additional discomfort. However, extreme pain should be prevented with proper pain medications.

For the first day or two following the surgery, the patient is not allowed to eat. This gives the stomach a chance to heal. After day two, the patient begins a 12-week diet that starts with the ingestion of liquids, then pureed food and finally small portions of solid foods.

At this point in a patient's recovery, a nutritionist is essential. Because of the loss of the duodenum, absorption of nutrients is decreased and therefore proper of intake of vitamins and minerals should be monitored closely in order to avoid any malabsorption conditions. The new, smaller stomach also means smaller portion sizes for the rest of the patient's life.

Because the postsurgical stomach can initially only hold about an ounce of food, the patient should eat several small meals during the day to prevent vomiting or severe abdominal pain. After three months, the patient should be enjoying three meals and three healthy snacks per day. By this point, the stomach should be slightly bigger, but patients still will not able to consume more than a cup and a half of food per sitting.