How to Prevent Nausea and Vomiting After Bariatric Surgery
Nausea and vomiting are the most commonly reported side effects after weight-loss surgery and are usually due to how you eat versus what you eat. There are several things you can do after bariatric surgery to try to prevent nausea and vomiting and it’s actually a good idea to start practicing these habits before surgery just to make it easier for you to follow these tips post-op.
1. Follow your doctors and dietitians’ recommendations closely.
Make sure you follow your dieticians plan for slowly re-introducing solid food back into your diet. A sample meal plan after surgery looks something like this:
Post-op Week 1: full-liquid diet
Post-op Weeks 2 - 4: pureed diet
Post-op Weeks 5 - 8: soft diet
Post-op Week 9+: regular diet
Although you may want to skip through the less appetizing liquid, pureed, and soft diets, trying to advance your diet too quickly can lead to cases of nausea and vomiting.
2. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly.
The reduced size of your stomach requires you to chew your food way more than you might be used to. It is recommended to chew your food to a liquid consistency before swallowing to make it easier for your stomach to process the food and prevent chunks of food from simply sitting in your stomach. Not doing so can lead to pain, nausea, and vomiting. To reduce the number of chews required to liquefy your food, you might want to cut your food into tiny pieces, about the size of a pencil eraser.
It’s also important to eat slowly so you can realize when you feel full and stop eating. You’ll find that you may not even finish everything you put on your plate and that’s fine! Stop when you are full and avoid overeating. If you experience stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting right after eating, you might have eaten too much and/or too fast.
3. Drink your beverages slowly too!
Aside from eating slowly, you should sip beverages slowly as well. Drinking too quickly can lead to abdominal discomfort, nausea, and vomiting. It’s also recommended to avoid drinking a beverage while eating, and instead should be consumed between meals. While some sources recommend waiting 30 minutes after a meal before drinking something, others recommend waiting as long as 2 hours. This might be a matter of trial and error to find what works best for you to prevent nausea.
Also, avoid using straws which can introduce air into your stomach leading to discomfort.
4. Drink enough water a day to prevent dehydration.
Nausea can be a sign that your body is dehydrated. Follow your dietitians’ recommendations for how much water you should drink a day since some patients may require more fluid than others. Consider increasing your intake of water if you have signs and symptoms of dehydration.
5. Avoid certain drinks and foods that can irritate your stomach and lead to discomfort.
These include drinks that are carbonated or contain caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. Water should be your drink of choice but if you have trouble drinking plain water, try adding a slice of lemon, cucumber, or strawberry to lightly flavor the water. Try drinking decaf or tea in place of coffee and energy drinks. Avoid all sodas (including diet soda) and sparkling water.
Avoid foods that are high in fat such as fried foods, bacon, sausage, whole milk, ice cream, etc. and choose foods that are labeled “low fat” or “fat-free” instead. Finally, avoid spicy foods or foods that are very hot or very cold as these can all cause stomach discomfort.
6. Reintroduce only one new food at each meal so that you know what you can tolerate.
If only the tomato sauce is new on your plate and you feel nauseous after that meal, then you might want to cut out tomato sauce for a little while. Keep food records of your tolerance and intake. Remember that food intolerance is very individual so just because your friend couldn’t eat sour cream after surgery doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to tolerate it.
7. When it’s time to eat, sit down and focus only on eating.
Avoid doing other things while eating such as watching TV, using a computer or phone, and reading. These distractions can make you lose track of how quickly you are eating and how much quantity you’ve already consumed. Practice mindful eating and pay attention to whether you feel full.
8. Take vitamin supplements that are liquid, chewable, or dissolve in your mouth to prevent upset stomach.
Tablets and capsules sit in your stomach unable to be dissolved and absorbed. Choose supplements specially made for bariatric patients which take your bioavailability concerns into consideration.
Ways to deal with nausea once you have it:
Sip small amounts of water or suck ice chips. Do not drink citrus juice or milk which can further irritate your stomach.
Try eating small amounts of bland food. Think of the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, toast (or soda crackers).
If you strongly feel that nausea and vomiting are not associated with your diet, it is important you reach out to your doctor as these symptoms could possibly be associated with an ulcer or other serious issues.