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Anemia is when your blood has lower levels of red blood cells, or your red blood cells don’t have enough of the protein hemoglobin. Hemoglobin carries oxygen, which is sent around the body through blood. Anemia may occur after weight-loss surgery (bariatric surgery).
Anemia be caused by:
Teens, women who still have their periods, and pregnant women are at higher risk for anemia after bariatric surgery. Some people may be anemic even before they have bariatric surgery. Chronic inflammation caused by obesity may lead to anemia by affecting the immune system. In these cases, the surgery alone may not have caused the anemia.
Anemia can cause symptoms such as:
You will likely need to tests to check for anemia. Blood tests can check your red blood cell and hemoglobin levels. Your doctor may want to check your stool for small amounts of hidden blood. If there is blood your stool, you may need a colonoscopy, endoscopy, or upper gastrointestinal radiologic study. These are to check for bleeding in your digestive system that may be causing hidden blood loss.
People with severe anemia may need a blood transfusion to replenish oxygen-rich red blood cells. You’ll also need to make sure your diet contains iron-rich foods and vitamins and minerals. Your healthcare provider will check your blood every so often. You may also need supplemental iron or vitamin B-12. Your healthcare provider may prescribe them for you.
After bariatric surgery, your doctor will need to check you for anemia for the rest of your life. This is because anemia may not develop until many years after bariatric surgery. You’ll have regular blood tests 6 months after weight-loss surgery, and at least once a year after that.
You may need to work with a nutritionist or registered dietitian to watch your diet after surgery. It's important to take daily vitamin and mineral supplements after bariatric surgery to prevent anemia and other nutritional problems. It's also important to eat iron-rich foods such as:
Vitamin C from foods and from supplements can help your body absorb iron. Make sure take iron supplements with foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits.
If you had a gastric bypass, the amount of iron in a standard multivitamin—about 18 mg—may not be enough to prevent anemia. Your doctor may give you more iron to take.
If you are a teen boy or girl or a menstruating woman, you may need extra iron no matter what type of weight-loss surgery you had. Your healthcare provider will use blood tests to help figure out your iron supplement dose. This is important because too much iron can be as bad for you as too little iron.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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