The Best Ways to Get Vitamin D After Bariatric Surgery

Vitamin D is an essential part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Without vitamin D, our bodies would not be able to properly absorb and process calcium to strengthen our bones. A deficiency in vitamin D, similar to a deficiency in calcium, can lead to osteoporosis. Vitamin D has many other uses and studies have shown that it can improve our mental well-being by helping depression and even enhancing low calorie diets to lose weight.

After bariatric surgery, many patients will experience a vitamin D deficiency. In fact, most Americans currently have a vitamin D deficiency in their regular lives, whether bariatric patients or not. This is largely due to modern work and lifestyle habits they keep us indoors more often during the day.

So how do we ensure that we receive enough vitamin D?

First, and most importantly, we have to know that there is a problem. That is why post-op visits are so important. Periodically, you will be tested for vitamin deficiencies using a simple blood test. Once we know that a vitamin deficiency exists, we will need to address it in one or more of several ways.

Vitamin D in food

Unfortunately, changing our diet does not necessarily lead to an appreciable increase in vitamin D absorption. Vitamin D is not found in significant concentrations in food. Therefore, changing up your diet to increase vitamin D absorption will probably not yield benefits.

Vitamin D from the sun

Typically, we get the majority of our vitamin D from exposure to the UV rays of the sun. This sun exposure allows our bodies to synthesize vitamin D and process it effectively. There are however a few considerations. First, involves over exposure. We do not need more than 10 to 30 minutes in the sun several times a week to get our full complement of vitamin D. Any more, without appropriate sun protection, can cause sunburn and long-term skin damage as well as increase the potential for skin cancer. On the other hand, when we use sunscreen, we block the very UV rays that provide us with the vitamin D benefit. It’s a bit of a catch 22.

Also, some people, no matter how much time they spend the sun, do not absorb vitamin D efficiently. While this is a small minority of patients, it is important to recognize the possibility.

Vitamin D Supplementation

Luckily, most bariatric patients get excellent results from oral vitamin D supplementation. Your doctor can advise you on an appropriate dosage for your circumstance. While it is difficult to overdose on vitamin D, too much of a good thing is possible. When choosing a supplement, it is important to look for D3 as that is most readily absorbed form of the vitamin.

After a few months of supplementing your diet with vitamin D, you will come back for a follow up appointment to see the results of your supplementation. Typically, we noticed significant improvement in vitamin D levels and most patients recognize the mood benefits that they receive as well.

It is important to remember, however, that supplementation does not cure the underlying reason for a vitamin D deficiency. Therefore, if you do not change your lifestyle to get more vitamin D, you will have to remain on a vitamin D supplement regimen for the rest of your life. Fortunately, vitamin D supplements can be taken with your regular daily multivitamin.

If you have any questions about vitamin supplementation, and in particular vitamin D, we encourage you to contact our office. With that said, know that if you are attending your prescribed postoperative visits, your surgeon will be aware of any possible deficiencies and on top of it with appropriate corrective action.

Our Surgical Weight Loss Program and Bariatric Surgery Center's mission is to deliver safe and effective surgical solutions with a compassionate touch. Our bariatric program is operated by NYU Langone Long Island Surgical Associates, P.C., a network of leading physicians and surgeons that provide comprehensive care for patients.

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