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4 Ways Bariatric Surgery Could Affect Your Medications

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A healthier, happier you is waiting on the other side of bariatric surgery. But with that comes many lifestyle changes that affect your eating habits, activities and even medications.

If you are undergoing bariatric surgery and take any prescriptions, you should be aware of the adjustments you may have to make.

“Some people can cut back or stop their medicine after bariatric surgery. Others need to increase their dose or take it in a different form,” advises AdventHealth bariatric surgeon, Dr. Gustavo Bello.

Here are four possible issues to discuss with your doctor before surgery.

Decreasing Your Medicine

Many people with obesity take medicine for related health problems, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease

“These conditions are likely to improve after surgery therefore you may need less medicine to control them. Sometimes you might be able to stop taking it altogether,” says Dr. Bello.

Blood sugar levels can improve very quickly after weight-loss surgery, even before you lose weight. So your need for diabetes medicine may change within days. Other health improvements occur more gradually as the pounds come off. Work closely with your provider to keep your medication plan up-to-date. Never reduce or stop taking medicine on your own.

Increasing the Dose

You may not absorb some medicines as well after gastric bypass — a surgery in which a small pouch is created in the upper stomach and attached to the middle of the small intestine. Examples include antidepressants and extended-release capsules. If this is a concern, your health care provider may:

  • Increase the dose
  • Switch to an immediate-release version of the drug

Dr. Bello says, “Other weight-loss surgeries, involving gastric bands and gastric sleeves, may have little or no impact on drug absorption. But it’s best to err on the side of caution.” Ask your doctor whether you need to change how you take your medicine.

The Problem With Large Pills

While very unlikely, there’s a chance that large capsules or tablets could become stuck in your digestive tract for a period right after surgery. To avoid this, your health care provider may temporarily advise you to:

  • Switch to a different form of the drug, such as a chewable tablet, a liquid or an injection
  • Crush your tablets and mix them with food
  • “Not all medicines are safe to crush, however,” advises Dr. Bello, “be sure to check with your doctor first.”

Medications to Avoid

Occasionally, you might need to switch to an entirely different drug.

“Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are widely used to relieve pain and inflammation, can cause an increase in the risk for bleeding ulcers after gastric bypass if they are used carelessly at high doses and for long periods of time,” cautions Dr. Bello.

If you end up needing these types of medications for a long period of time, check you’re your doctor or bariatric surgeon first for advice. Your doctor may advise against taking NSAIDs if you’ve had bypass surgery. Some recommend limiting NSAIDs after other types of weight-loss procedures, as well.

You Got This Because We’ve Got You

“Change can be overwhelming, but it’s also exciting, and at AdventHealth we’re here to guide and cheer you on at every step,” encourages Dr. Bello.

With expertise and compassion, we’ll stay committed to you as you commit to meaningful change. Learn more about our bariatrics program and the multidisciplinary team here.

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