Iron Deficiencies After Weight Loss Surgery
There are several vitamins and minerals that we have to think about after weight loss surgery to prevent deficiencies. In today’s post I want to discuss the importance of iron.
Why is iron important?
Well, iron is important because it is the key building block of our red blood cells. So whenever we have iron deficiency or a lack of iron on the diet, it will lead to a reduced production of the red blood cells circulating around in our arteries and veins. That’s important because the red blood cells are what carry oxygen to all of the tissues of the body including the brain, the heart and all of the muscles and everywhere else in the body. When iron deficiency occurs, it tends to produce symptoms of fatigue, pale skin, and feeling cold. In some more severe cases it can lead to a swollen tongue or what is referred to as glossitis.
Is iron deficiency very common?
Well, in mild forms it is actually very common in the general population. When there are people who have some small amounts of chronic blood loss, most commonly with menstruating women, we see iron deficiency very commonly. Some studies have shown that over 40% of menstruating women have iron deficiency anemia before they would even think about weight loss surgery. So, it’s a fairly common problem just in the general population. So does iron deficiency occur more after weight loss surgery? Well, the answer is yes and particularly with the procedures that involve more of a malabsorptive component. So, there may be a very mild increase in iron deficiency anemia as a result of Lap-Band surgery, but this is probably only due to the decrease of intake of meats and vegetables that contain iron. With the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass procedure, however, we do see that iron deficiency occurs in fairly significant levels. In fact, if we did not take multivitamins with iron, we would probably see that over half of people with gastric bypass surgery would develop some level of iron deficiency. So, we generally will supplement iron for every single patient who is undergoing Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and the kind of iron that we think probably works best is what is called the ferrous sulfate and that standard dose is usually 320 mg taken daily. Now you can look at your own multivitamins and see if you are getting 320 mg daily of iron. Sometimes the iron is packed right in within the multivitamin and sometimes it needs to be taken as a separate supplement all on its own.
I will discuss other vitamins and minerals with regard to possible deficiencies after a bariatric procedure in future posts. I have begun with iron because it is the most common deficiency and it is most common after operations, any operation that results in impaired absorption. It is prevalent in the population commonly, especially among women of childbearing age and the prevalence of a deficiency of iron becomes much greater after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and after biliopancreatic diversion or other malabsorptive procedures. It is probably not increased markedly after Lap-Band procedures, but it is still a good idea to take a general multivitamin with iron even after a Lap-Band procedure.