How to Deal with Low Iron Post Bariatric Surgery – Expert Advice

Medically Reviewed by Katelyn J. Mock, US-Registered Dietician (R.D.)

Let’s focus on iron and the role that it plays in our body and why it is essential to have your iron levels monitored after bariatric surgery.

Why is Iron Important to Human Body

Iron is an essential nutrient for the production of hemoglobin, the part of our red blood cells that helps carry oxygen to the various organs and tissues in our body. (Here’s a list of minerals and vitamins to be taken after bariatric surgery.)

If you are low or deficient in iron, iron-deficient anemia can develop, and some symptoms may appear.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Cold extremities (hands/feet)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • A headache

It is important to know that the first stages of low iron have no ill side-effects.

After bariatric surgery, individuals can develop an iron deficiency from not eating as many iron-rich foods as before surgery, due to food intolerances/aversions, and having smaller portion sizes.

Women are also at higher risk due to menstruation and pregnancy.

Foods High in Iron

Good sources of iron are:

  • Heme (Animal Sources)
  • Non-heme (Plant Sources)
  • Chicken/beef liver-enriched cereal (raisin bran/oatmeal)
  • Oysters beans (kidney, navy, lima)
  • Lentils
  • Beef Tofu
  • Clams, shrimp, and tuna with spinach
  • Turkey leg molasses
  • Eggs with whole wheat bread
  • Leg of lamb with brown rice
  • Peanut butter

How to Have Better Absorption of Iron Post Bariatric Surgery?

Having a non-heme form of iron with a little vitamin C like orange juice (1/4- 1/3 cup) can help with absorption in the body as well.

When looking at your multivitamins and iron supplements, make sure you’re getting at least 45-60mg of elemental iron.

The best forms for absorption are:

    • Ferrous Sulfate
    • Ferrous Fumarate
    • Ferrous Gluconate

Have your iron levels checked at three months post-operative, six months, and then if within range, at your 1-year surgery anniversary date.

Again, if your levels remain normal, most individuals can maintain a yearly lab check.

However, if you notice any symptoms of iron deficiency, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with your doctor to have your iron/ferritin levels checked. It is a simple test that can prevent a multitude of problems.

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, the main reason for iron deficiency after gastric bypass is the fact that post-surgery, the area where iron-rich foods get absorbed (duodenum) gets bypassed.

Can Gastric Bypass Cause Low Iron?

  • A person who’s had gastric bypass cannot meet their iron needs from a standard multivitamin containing 18 mg of the mineral.
  • It is crucial to monitor iron levels after gastric bypass surgery.
  • Follow the diet guidelines.

Remember to monitor your iron levels after weight loss surgery. Hope these tips work for you. If you have any questions, leave us a comment!

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