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Did you know dehydration is the leading cause of hospital readmission after bariatric surgery? Some bariatric practices report as many as 37 percent of their patients are readmitted to the hospital due to dehydration after bariatric surgery. These statistics — surprising as they may be — point to the importance of water after bariatric surgery. But staying hydrated after weight loss surgery isn’t as easy as it was before surgery. Weight loss procedures such as gastric sleeve, gastric bypass and gastric banding all limit the capacity of the stomach, facilitating weight loss through reduced calorie consumption. But the new restricted stomach also limits the amount of fluid the stomach can hold. Before bariatric surgery, when you felt thirsty, you may have been able to down a bottle of water in a matter of a few seconds., After surgery, drinking too much too quickly could lead to nausea and vomiting. So being sure you’re getting enough fluids after bariatric surgery requires planning ahead, along with discipline. Preventing dehydration after bariatric surgery means gradually sipping on water throughout the day, rather than chugging a full glass of water when you feel thirsty.
Why is hydration important?Your body’s dependence on water doesn’t change when you have weight loss surgery. Just as was true before your procedure, every cell in your body is dependent on water for survival. Water helps your heart pump blood more efficiently through the body, it helps your body maintain a steady temperature, and facilitates the removal of toxins and waste. Most bariatric surgeons recommend patients drink at least 64 ounces of fluid every day after surgery. Half of a patient’s fluids after bariatric surgery should be from clear liquids, without protein or added sugar. The remaining 32-ounces can be from full liquids and protein supplements.
Tips to be sure you’re getting enough fluids after bariatric surgeryWhether you are preparing for weight loss surgery, or are struggling to drink enough water after surgery, here are some tips to help you avoid dehydration after bariatric surgery:
- Don’t drink water with meals. Drink water and eat meals at separate times to help keep you from filling up too quickly and missing out on essential nutrients. Bariatric patients should separate eating and drinking by at least 30 minutes.
- Start drinking water first thing in the morning. Then, sip on it every hour throughout your day rather than waiting until the end of the day to “catch up” on your water intake.
- Carry water with you at all times, whether you’re at work, in the car or out and about. If your fluids are not with you, how can you drink them?
- Sip slowly. Drinking too fast, or gulping can cause stomach pain, bloating and other problems like nausea or vomiting.
- Drink frequently throughout the day. When you first go home after weight loss surgery, you may only be able to drink four to eight ounces of fluid over the course of an hour. As your body heals from surgery, you should be able to drink eight ounces in fifteen minutes.
- Measure your fluids after bariatric surgery and keep track of the number of ounces of water you’re drinking each day.
- Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes to remind you to take a sip of water. Time can get away from us during the day, so don’t rely on your body to tell you when it’s time to take another drink. Set an alarm as a reminder to ensure you are getting enough fluids throughout the day.
- Have a plan to drink a certain amount of fluids by a set time. For example, “drink eight ounces by 10am, 24 ounces by 2pm, 40 ounces by 6pm, 64 ounces by 10pm.
- Use a water tracking app on your phone to help. Daily Water Tracker Reminder, Hydro Coach, WaterMinder and iHydrate are just a few examples of apps available to help you track your water intake and meet your goals.
- Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine actually works as a diuretic and dehydrates you, so caffeinated beverages do not count toward your daily fluid intake. Some caffeine, such as coffee or tea, is acceptable if you are drinking enough water each day.
- Avoid carbonation. The bubbles in carbonated drinks can stretch out your stomach and cause discomfort and bloating.
- Mix things up by flavoring your water with lemon, lime or orange. Crystal light, decaf teas and coffee, Vitamin Water Zero and other zero-calorie, decaf and non-carbonated fluids are allowed.
Know the signs of dehydration after bariatric surgeryJust as important as making sure you’re drinking enough fluids after bariatric surgery is knowing the signs of dehydration. Common signs of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Feeling thirsty
- Decreased urine output
- Dark colored urine
- Feeling nauseous or dizzy
- Rapid heart rate
- Dry skin
- Feeling tired or irritable
- Urinary and kidney problems
- Kidney failure
- Low blood volume shock
- Are irritable or disoriented
- Are much sleepier than usual
- Are feeling lethargic
- Can’t keep fluids down
- Have bloody or black stool