Folate Deficiency After Weight Loss Surgery
Folate deficiency is a common problem after bariatric surgery. Also known as Folic Acid, folate plays a key role in a variety of important processes in the human body, including preventing cancer, improving healthy pregnancies, and production of new cells. Yet after bariatric surgery, levels of specific nutrients – including folate, can drop dramatically. That is why folate supplementation is important after weight loss surgery to avoid folate deficiency.
What Causes Folate Deficiency?
It may come as a surprise, but those with obesity often already have vitamin deficiencies. Even though they may be eating more foods than they need, the combination of a poor diet low in fruits and vegetables, and difficulty storing foods due to excess fat in the body make nutritional deficiencies common among those that are severely overweight.
One nutrient that obese people are not lacking, however, is folate. In the American diet, folate is extremely common, and folate deficiencies are rare. But studies have shown that after gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and other bariatric surgeries, patients that are not taking folic acid supplements are at a high risk for nutritional deficiency. The cause of this is a combination of:
- Inadequate Diet
- Less Digestion Time
- Bypassed Intestines
- Inadequate Stomach Secretions
Interestingly, those that underwent gastric sleeve appear to be at greater risk for folate deficiency after weight loss surgery compared to those with gastric bypass, even though a large portion of the small intestine is skipped with gastric bypass surgery. Nevertheless, all forms of bariatric surgery put patients at very high risk for folic acid deficiency without the right supplements.
Signs of Folate Deficiency
Folate deficiency can be easy to miss if you are not prepared for the symptoms. It may also be mistaken for other issues. That is why prevention is important. The body can use up all of its folic acid stores in only a few months without adequate supplementation, so signs and symptoms may come quickly if you are not receiving the vitamin in your diet. Examples of these symptoms include:
- Low Energy
- Decrease Immune Function
- Digestion Issues
- Development of Unexplained Gray Hair
- Poor Immune System Function
- Canker Sore Development
Some of these issues can be hidden by the natural fatigue that comes from changing your diet, but if left untreated can cause even more severe vitamin deficiency issues that could affect your long term health. Severe folic acid deficiency has been reported in patients recovering from bariatric surgery.
The Importance of High Quality Folate Supplements
Whether it is part of your post-bariatric multivitamin or you take them on your own, supplementing folic acid into your diet is an important part of maintaining a healthy body after bariatric surgery. Those that take the vitamin and mineral supplements recommended by doctors are at very low risk of deficiency, and often feel great after losing with weight bariatric surgery.
But those that do not take these vitamins do put their health and their quality of life at risk. Folic acid is only one of several vitamins and minerals that may need to be supplemented after you have completed bariatric surgery, but with a high quality supplement you can avoid these issues and continue to lose weight safely.