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Digestive Health and Wellness

Dietary Guidelines After Bariatric Surgery

Some bariatric surgery procedures involve changing the way the digestive system functions, which may cause dumping syndrome.


Kristen Smith, MS, RD, LD

National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Obesity is a complex disease associated with the leading causes of death in the United States, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.


Weight loss can be challenging, but for people with obesity who meet certain criteria, weight loss surgery can be effective. Some bariatric surgery procedures, such as the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, involve changing the way the digestive system functions, which might cause some patients to experience dumping syndrome.

Dumping syndrome is when food from the stomach moves quickly or is “dumped” into the small intestine without proper digestion. The symptoms of dumping syndrome may include bloating, diarrhea, rapid heart rate, and lightheadedness. Meals heavy in simple carbohydrates as well as foods with added sugars or high fat are more likely to cause dumping syndrome.

As the food and nutrition experts, registered dietitian nutritionists play an integral role as part of the healthcare team caring for patients who undergo bariatric surgery. RDNs can provide guidance on which foods to eat and which to limit to minimize digestive issues and maximize nutritional intake after surgery.

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Eating right

To alleviate dumping syndrome, patients should prioritize protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, and beans, as well as those that provide healthy fats such as fatty fish and nuts.

Instead of eating three meals a day, patients can benefit from eating six smaller meals to aid in digestion and ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs. It’s also recommended that patients wait 30 minutes after a meal before drinking liquids.

Those who pursue bariatric surgery will require lifelong medical follow-up and monitoring to manage possible digestive complications and reduce the risk of malnutrition. RDNs can teach patients how to include nutrient-rich foods and supplements to maintain their healthful lifestyles.

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