Bariatric surgery has been a boon for many morbidly obese people who can’t seem to lose weight through diet or exercise. In many cases, the surgery is literally life-saving and has resolved such maladies as Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. However, with some bariatric surgeries the way the body digests food changes in sometimes drastic ways. For example, some vitamins need to pass through the gastric juices in the stomach for the body to use them, and this can no longer happen if the stomach is bypassed. Because of this, bariatric patients need to take supplements to make sure they get the right amount of vitamins and minerals to support their health.
Vitamin C is crucial for a bariatric patient. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it protects the body against damage from free radical molecules, oxygen molecules that steal electrons from other, including DNA. But vitamin C’s most important function is to maintain a protein called collagen, which helps form connective tissue in the bones, skin, ligaments and other tissue. Because of this, vitamin C is important in wound healing, especially the wounds that were inevitably sustained during the bariatric surgery itself. Without the right levels of vitamin C, the surgical wounds won’t heal well. Vitamin C also helps the body make red blood cells and prevents hemorrhaging. A lack of vitamin C leads to blood clots which may then result in strokes and heart attacks.
Vitamin C is necessary for the absorption of other nutrients. It helps the body metabolize amino acids like tyrosine and phenylalanine. Amino acids help to build proteins. Vitamin C also converts folic acid, which can’t be used by the body, into folinic acid, which the body can use. Vitamin C helps the body use calcium and protects vitamins A and E and the B complex vitamins against attack by free radicals. Vitamin C has been shown to raise the levels of iron in young women who suffer from an iron deficiency.
A prolonged vitamin C deficiency can lead to a rare but life-threatening disease called scurvy. Bariatric patients who do not take supplemental vitamin C have been known to contract this disease. Its symptoms are:
• Bleeding and swollen gums
• Tooth loss
• Bleeding skin
• Bleeding into the joints
• Psychological symptoms such as hallucinations
• Increased risk of infection
• Suppurating wounds
• Spots over the body, especially the thighs and the legs
Fortunately, this condition is completely curable with supplemental vitamin C.
According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, a bariatric patient needs to take 120 milligrams of vitamin C every day.