5 Ways to Prevent Iron Deficiency & Anemia Post-WLS

Article By: Whittany Gibson, RDN

Whittany is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who specializes in bariatric nutrition counseling, providing education and support prior to and following weight loss surgery.

If you're obese and considering bariatric surgery (or if you’ve had bariatric surgery), it's essential to be aware of a potential health issue that affects many patients - iron deficiency (ID) and anemia. This is especially true with malabsorptive procedures like gastric bypass. Following surgery, you will experience reduced food intake, possible meat intolerance (meats are a source of heme-iron), and decreased stomach acid secretion that can contribute to both ID and anemia. So, be sure to talk to your doctor about these concerns and take steps to prevent them from becoming a problem. Let’s take a look at five tips to help prevent and improve these potential issues!

1) Eat iron-rich foods. One of the easiest ways to get iron after bariatric surgery is by incorporating iron-rich foods such as beef, turkey, chicken, fish, beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, fortified cereal, and almonds. One additional tip is to cook food in iron pots and pans! This method has been proven to increase iron levels.

2) Take iron supplements. There are plenty of bariatric multivitamin options available that include different amounts of iron. There are also various iron supplement forms including pills, melts like the BariMelts Iron + Vitamin C, and liquid iron drops. Talk to your provider about whether a supplement with iron like the BariMelts Multivitamin with Iron or The Step Up™ by BariMelts is best for you, or if you should supplement iron separately.

3) Avoid consuming milk & calcium supplements with iron. Calcium and iron compete for the same absorption pathway, meaning that if they are consumed together, the body cannot absorb the nutrients to their full potential. It’s best to avoid consuming calcium supplements or calcium-rich foods and drinks with iron-rich meals. This means milk and milk-based products, protein shakes that have added calcium, and calcium-sourced antacid products like TUMS.

4) Consume vitamin C with iron-rich meals. Vitamin C enhances non-heme iron absorption, which is found in plant-based and iron-fortified foods. Adding vitamin C to your iron-rich meals can maximize the absorption rate of iron. Vitamin C can be found in fruits such as oranges, strawberries, kiwi, and vegetables like broccoli and peppers. Take a look at a list of vitamin C-rich foods and choose what you can start incorporating into your diet regularly.

5) Get regular blood tests. If you’re unsure about your iron levels, it’s recommended that you get regular blood tests, especially if you have dealt with low iron levels or anemia before surgery. Routine blood tests can help catch any iron deficiencies early on and allow for prompt treatment, so make sure you keep your follow-up appointments for the long term so you’re well monitored!

After bariatric surgery, it’s essential to ensure you’re getting enough nutrients, especially iron. Eating iron-rich foods, taking your bariatric formulated multivitamin with iron (or a separate iron supplement), avoiding consuming milk or milk-based products and calcium supplements with iron, consuming vitamin C with iron-rich meals, and getting regular blood tests can all help you maintain adequate iron levels.

By following these five tips, you will set yourself up for a healthy and successful recovery after your bariatric surgery. Remember to consult with your medical professional and bariatric dietitian before taking supplements or making any significant changes to your diet.

BariMelts provides general recommendations, not to be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

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