Though there are many benefits patients experience after they’ve had bariatric surgery, the surgery does have side effects, especially if the patient has had a type of surgery that bypasses much of their stomach. One of the side effects is that it’s hard for the body to absorb Vitamin B12, or cobalamin. Read more to learn why Vitamin B12 is important after bariatric surgery.
About Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 requires a mucoprotein enzyme called intrinsic factor to be fully useful to the body. Though some vitamin B12 is absorbed in the mouth, it needs the intrinsic factor that’s made in the stomach to be effective. When vitamin B12 binds with this enzyme, it can be absorbed in the small intestine.
During a gastric bypass weight loss surgery, the part of the stomach that makes intrinsic factor is no longer used to store and help digest the patient’s food. Hydrochloric acid is also necessary for the stomach to produce intrinsic factor, so there is less hydrochloric acid. This results in vitamin B12 being poorly absorbed into the body. The condition is called pernicious anemia.
Why Vitamin B12 is Important After Bariatric Surgery
Vitamin B12 is needed in tiny amounts but is necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system. It helps the body metabolize fat, protein and carbohydrates.
The good news about vitamin B12 is that it is stored in the body, especially in the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, brain, bone marrow and blood. The stores of B12 can last for years before the person begins to experience symptoms of vitamin deficiency. Still, there is a small percentage of people who have a vitamin B12 deficiency even before they undergo weight loss surgery.