Vitamin deficiency can pose problem after gastric surgery

By • Published: June 14th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Don’t forget to take your vitamins.

That’s good advice for most people, but for those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery to treat obesity, this reminder could be especially important.

A new study published in the journal Neurology shows that a handful of patients have developed a neurological condition after the surgery. The reason? A thiamine [thigh-a-min] deficiency.

A lack of the vitamin B1, or thiamine, can lead to a condition called Wernicke [VARE-na-key] encephalopathy [en-seph-a-lah-pathy]. Aside from the small number of patients who developed the condition after obesity surgery, it mostly afflicts alcoholics because alcohol can disrupt how the body absorbs thiamine.

Wernicke encephalopathy mainly affects the nervous system, resulting in poor muscle coordination, memory loss, confusion and visual changes such as double vision.

Researchers studied patients who had obesity surgery and then started showing symptoms of the neurological condition a few months afterward. Generally, these folks had stopped taking the vitamin supplements doctors prescribed or had vomited frequently after surgery.

Gastric bypass surgery makes the stomach smaller so patients feel full faster than they did prior to the operation. According to the study, about a hundred-seventy-thousand gastric bypass surgeries are performed in the United States each year.

If you have had gastric bypass surgery, it might be a good idea to tie an extra string around your finger to remember those vitamins. And if you feel like you are getting sick or experiencing unusual symptoms, play it safe: Call your doctor.