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The importance of drinking water after bariatric surgery

Guest blog by Sonia Raudszus RD(SA)

“I don’t drink enough water”

This is a phrase some of us are quite familiar with. Along our lifespan, most of us have heard that it is very important for us to drink 8 glasses of clean water each day. Almost 60% of the human body is made up of water, so it goes without saying that the body cannot survive without water. But many patients often do not know why it is important specifically after bariatric surgery.

Functions of water in the body include:

  1. Temperature regulation

  2. Blood volume regulation that directly affects blood pressure as well

  3. Flushing the kidneys from toxins

  4. Keeps the skin healthy

  5. Transports nutrients into body cells

  6. Keeps the gut healthy

Did you know dehydration is one of the leading causes of hospital readmission after bariatric surgery?

Immediately after surgery, your stomach size has been reduced by around 85% and the pouch you will be left with can manage significantly smaller volumes of food and fluids going forward (especially in the first few months after surgery). This can pose several health risks for a bariatric patient, who already has reduced nutrient absorption. Apart from protein, vitamins and minerals, water is essential to life and the functioning of the body. These functions do not cease to operate after having weight loss surgery and dehydration can occur easily after bariatric surgery as the capacity of your stomach to hold enough water is limited although your demand for water has not reduced. Together with a reduced capacity for water, patients often struggle to consume sufficient volumes of fluid for many reasons including taste alterations that cause a dislike in the taste of water.

Common complaints raised by patients that do not consume adequate volumes of water include headaches, halitosis (bad breath), malaise (feeling of general illness), dry skin, as well as impaired mental agility (your brain is made up of 90% water!). Kidney stone formation and constipation are also common reasons for severe pain and discomfort, even requiring hospitalisation in rare cases. Some patients even experience weight plateaus more often if they do not drink enough water.

Bariatric patients are advised to drink no less than 1500ml fluid each day, with an emphasis on those that are caffeine and sugar free.

Which fluids can help you increase your water intake?

1. Unsweetened coconut water

  • Make coconut water popsicles by blending it with berries and freezing it for a low calorie sweet treat.

  • Use it as a base for protein smoothies/shakes

  • Make coconut water ice cubes for a refreshing beverage, add mint and citrus slices for added flavour

2. Fruit infused water adds variety to any day. Play around with different flavour combinations like mint and raspberries, or watermelon and cucumber.

3. Vegetable juices not only add important antioxidants but also adds colour to your daily food intake. Opt for pure vegetable juices rather than fruit juices as they are lower in sugar. Carrot, beetroot and cucumber juices with ginger and lemon are easy to find in most grocery stores.

4. Bone broth or vegetable soup work great on chilly days when drinking cold water doesn’t seem appealing.

5. Herbal tea, served hot or cold. Make any herbal tea of your liking and mix with Rooibos tea for an antioxidant rich sugar free drink.

  • Serve hot with a slice of lemon to soothe a cold.

  • Chill the hot tea and add ice cubes with added slices of lemon, mint or fruit for a refreshing summer’s day drink. Woolworths and Freshpak have tea bags, that can be made with chilled water and enjoyed immediately after being made.

Water can be, but shouldn’t be boring to drink.

If you are struggling to reach your water goal- reach out to your team dietitian for guidance on how to ensure a healthy balance between water and other fluids that will promote optimal weight loss and health after surgery.

Sonia Raudszus RD(SA) is a registered dietician working with the multidisciplinary bariatric team at Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital in Pretoria.

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