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Vitamin D – A Crucial Need Before and After Bariatric Surgery

Vitamin D pills scattered on counter

Vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is one of the building blocks of our physical and mental health. It may seem like such a small part of our lives, but it truly affects many bodily systems. Importantly, you should know that many Americans, up to 35%, are deficient in this critical vitamin. Many more do not get enough (insufficiency). Reasons for this include not getting out in the sun enough or using lots of sunscreens (not a bad thing!) Also, we cannot get enough Vitamin D from food. There are fortified cereals and dairy products out there, but they often do not contain enough vitamin D to avoid a deficiency.

Why Is Vitamin D So Important?

On the physical side, vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium and phosphorous, both promoting strong bones and warding off osteoporosis. Postop bariatric patients will know that they are screened for vitamin D and calcium levels periodically after surgery. And taking calcium supplements, for example, without adequate vitamin D intake, simply allows the mineral to be flushed from our bodies underused. Vitamin D can boost our immune systems, something that was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vitamin D is also crucial for our mental state and plays a big part in mental health, including warding off depression and anxiety, boosting mood, and increasing energy.

How Long Does It Take To Get the Benefit of Vitamin D?

The benefits of vitamin D supplementation are not immediate, and it can take between a few weeks and a few months to achieve its full effect.

How Do I Find Out if I Have a Vitamin D Deficiency?

It’s difficult to diagnose a vitamin D deficiency from outward signs alone since there are many overlapping symptoms with other diseases and conditions. But it is one of the most manageable problems to detect and treat. A simple blood panel taken at your primary care physician’s office, or if you are a bariatric patient, at one of your follow-up appointments, can quickly detect abnormally low values. The treatment of a vitamin D deficiency is similarly straightforward. Your doctor will likely ask you to supplement using a vitamin D3 pill. This is its most bioavailable form. Of course, only supplement your diet with vitamin D if your doctor has told you this is necessary.

Does Vitamin D Help if I Don’t Have a Deficiency?

While higher vitamin D levels are unlikely to cause significant problems, if your blood work comes back in normal ranges, there’s typically no need to increase your supplementation regimen. Not only is there no additional benefit, but it’s a waste of money.

Can I Get Vitamin D Naturally?

The short answer is yes, but with a big caveat. The body synthesizes vitamin D through the absorption of UV rays from sunlight. Spending about 10 minutes a day in the sun is a great way to naturally boost your vitamin D levels. However, patients with darker skin color tend to absorb less vitamin D and require more time out in the sun. Spending too much time in the sun and routinely getting sunburned can increase the chance of skin cancer, so speak to your primary care physician about a good balance of sun exposure and protection using sunscreen or SPF-rated clothing.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin D is an essential micronutrient and one that should not be ignored. These significant benefits of vitamin D reinforce the need for proper follow-up care after your bariatric procedure. You will be asked to visit your bariatric surgeon periodically, oftentimes to take blood and ensure that you are not experiencing any deficiencies. Since vitamin D is not consumed in sufficient quantities through food alone, even if fortified, you may require additional time in the sun or a supplement, as directed by your doctor. Of course, if you have any questions about supplementation or potential nutritional deficiencies after bariatric surgery, we encourage you to contact our office. You can also shop our online store to get the vitamins and nutrients you need to stay healthy after weight loss surgery.

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