When you’re preparing for a gastric bypass, one of the first things you research might be gastric bypass recovery time. Even after your surgery, looking for swift recovery tips is totally normal. You’ve spent months, maybe even years, on the road to a healthier you.
After surgery, the pain, fatigue, and sudden diet changes may leave you feeling sicker instead of healthier. But once you make it through your gastric bypass recovery timeline, you will feel better.
The good news is, you don’t just have to sit around and wait to feel better. You can help your body heal from this intense healthcare procedure.
Your gastric bypass recovery time will be unique to you and your body. This means you’ll need to keep in close contact with your healthcare team during recovery. Since they know all the details of your specific situation, they’ll be able to guide you through potential roadblocks best.
That said, there is a general timeline you can expect your recovery to follow - and a few tips everyone can use to speed their gastric bypass recovery time along.
Before we get started with those tips, let’s make sure you understand what a gastric bypass is, and how that affects your recovery time.
What is gastric bypass surgery?
There are a few kinds of weight loss surgery – or “bariatric” surgery – available today. Bariatric surgery recovery time depends on what kind of surgery you get.
In a gastric bypass surgery, your surgeon will separate a small pouch from the rest of your stomach. Then, they’ll connect that pouch directly to a lower segment of your small intestine.
This reduces the amount of food your stomach can hold and changes the way your stomach absorbs calories and other nutrients.
A gastric bypass is done one of two ways: open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Basically, this means you’ll either have one large incision or several smaller ones.
Today, the majority of gastric bypass surgeries are performed laparoscopically, but some situations require open surgery instead.
Open surgery has a longer recovery time, but don’t worry. The things you can do to speed up gastric bypass recovery time will be the same regardless of what kind of surgery you go through.
Let’s take a look at what the gastric bypass surgery recovery timeline is like.
What is recovery like after gastric bypass surgery?
After your surgery, you’ll be kept in the hospital for 1-3 days for observation. Your healthcare team will be monitoring you for any immediate signs of complications. They’ll also help you to manage your pain and care for your other bodily needs.
Once you’re released from the hospital, you’ll head home for some time to rest and recover. You may still be taking some pain medication for the first week or so, and you’ll have a specialized dietary plan to follow.
You’ll spend the first 2 weeks on a liquid diet. During weeks 3-4, you’ll only eat pureed foods and only soft foods for weeks 5-12. This diet is very important – it reduces the effort your body has to use to digest food so that it can focus on healing.
Check-ups are also important during your gastric bypass recovery time. You’ll follow up with your surgery team about two weeks after your surgery and again after four weeks.
At the six week mark, your recovery process will be mostly finished, and you’ll be able to go back to normal life.
Your appointments will move to once every three months for the first year. After that, your appointments will move to once every six months and then once every year for the rest of your life.
During these appointments, your care team will check in with your recovery. They’ll also help you monitor for signs of vitamin deficiency or other complications. If anything feels unusual during your recovery, tell your team! They’ll make sure you get the care you need.
Now that you have a snapshot of the average gastric bypass recovery time, how can you make it faster and more comfortable?
7 tips for shortening your gastric bypass recovery time
There are seven key things you can do to help your body recover from gastric bypass surgery as swiftly as possible:
1. Call in some support
You'll want to have a support person at your home for the first week or so of your gastric bypass recovery time. This could be a partner, close friend, parent, sibling, or another family member. The important thing is having someone nearby to help you out.
You’ll likely feel very tired and be in a lot of pain in the early days after your surgery. You may struggle with things like getting up, lying down, showering, and general self-care. This is perfectly normal – gastric bypass is a serious surgery. Your body will be working hard to recover!
Your support person can also help you manage pain, stick to your diet, and follow your healthcare team’s specialized recovery plan. Your recovery for gastric bypass will be so much quicker when you can focus on rest and let someone else take care of the details!
After your initial recovery period, you may want to join a bariatric support group to work through your emotions about your changing body and life after surgery.
2. Care for your incision(s)
This step is especially important for patients undergoing open surgery. However, even laparoscopic patients will have incisions to care for. Even though they’re smaller, these are still open wounds that will need extra care and are at risk for infection.
Ask your surgical team for specific instructions on how and when to change your bandages. Some surgery centers use steri-strips that you don’t need to touch until they fall off, while others will use normal bandages that you’ll need to change.
You can also look for general wound care solutions to help speed your gastric bypass recovery time. Your body will heal your gastric bypass incisions the same way it does any kind of injury!
Keep a close eye on your incision for signs of infection, such as:
- A sudden increase in bleeding or fluid
- Bad-smelling fluid or pus leaking from the wound
- Extreme swelling or redness
- Heat coming off of the wound
- Developing a fever or chills
- The wound getting larger
If you notice any of these signs of infection, seek medical attention immediately.
3. Get plenty of rest
Your body does its best healing work while you’re asleep. You’ve probably already planned out how you’ll handle the diet after gastric bypass surgery, but make sure rest is part of your gastric bypass surgery recovery timeline, too!
Besides getting plenty of sleep, rest your body during the day. Allow your body to focus all its energy on healing for the first 2-3 weeks of your gastric bypass recovery time.
This includes food! Liquid and puree diets are partly in place to allow your body to access nutrients without doing extra work to break food down first. The more nutrition you can squeeze into a fully liquid diet, the shorter your gastric bypass recovery time will be.
4. But don’t forget to get your steps in!
Your healthcare team will show you how to do foot and leg exercises after your surgery. They’ll also recommend walking around your house a few times a day – even in the earliest days after your surgery.
After gastric bypass, you’re at risk of developing blood clots, especially in your legs. Moving around will reduce that risk. Walking has also been linked to faster wound healing, so don’t overdo it, but make sure you’re getting those steps in.
You can use a treadmill, a gym with a walking track, or just get outside and enjoy the weather! If you’re not used to it, walking can feel like a chore, so make sure to reward yourself. Save a podcast, playlist, or tv show just for walking so you can turn it into an occasion you look forward to.
5. Keep yourself hydrated
You’ll be more susceptible to dehydration after gastric bypass surgery. During your surgery, you’ll likely experience some blood loss. This is normal, but your body will need extra fluids to make up for it.
And since moving around will be more difficult and painful, you’ll likely sweat more frequently – especially on those long walks.
Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why your body needs lots and lots of water during your recovery for gastric bypass surgery. Make sure you get enough by keeping water close by throughout the day.
You can even have several tumblers with lids placed throughout your house, so you always have water when you need it! Don’t use straws, though, since they can introduce air to your stomach pouch and cause complications.
Typically, you’ll want to aim for 48-64 ounces of water a day to speed up your recovery time.
6. Fuel your body well
Food is fuel, especially when you’re recovering from surgery. Without the calories and nutrients your body gets from food, it can’t heal. The better you get at fueling your body, the quicker your gastric bypass recovery time will be.
Find bariatric-friendly snacks to try that are packed with protein, healthy carbs, and vitamins. These snacks look different at different points in your gastric bypass surgery recovery timeline. That’s ok! The important thing is ensuring that your body has everything it needs to heal quickly.
Early on, homemade bone broth is a great way to pack your liquid diet full of nutrients. Later, smoothies with fresh fruits and veggies, along with a high-quality protein powder, make a quick snack that gives your body everything it needs to heal.
7. Take daily collagen and vitamin supplements
Taking vitamins will be necessary for the rest of your life after gastric bypass. Remember, the surgery changes the way your body absorbs calories and nutrients. So it needs a little extra help on top of your normal diet.
Liquid bariatric vitamins and liquid protein supplements are easy to stir into coffee, tea, water, broth, and even foods like porridge. The more consistently you can incorporate these, the shorter your gastric bypass recovery time will be.
When it comes to protein supplements, you have three options: whey, plant-based, and collagen.
Whey protein is often an unfriendly choice in recovery for gastric bypass patients. Many people develop a dairy intolerance after their surgery, and since whey protein is made with dairy, their protein powder upsets an already delicate stomach pouch.
High-quality protein will contain a mixture of 9 essential amino acids. These are chemical compounds that your body needs but can’t make on its own. Unfortunately, plant-based protein powders are often incomplete, meaning they don’t contain everything your body needs to heal.
Collagen protein supplements already contain 8 of the 9 essential amino acids. When you get a fortified collagen supplement, you’ll get all 9, giving your body everything it needs for the shortest possible gastric bypass recovery time.
Collagen has been linked to faster wound healing, less scarring, stronger joints, and even quicker weight loss - making it our top choice for protein during your gastric bypass recovery time.
Supporting your gastric bypass recovery
After gastric bypass surgery, your body will be working as hard as it can to recover - so it’s important to support it! When it comes to shortening gastric bypass recovery time, you just need to give your body what it needs. The rest happens naturally.
And what your body needs more than anything else is building material. When you eat anything, your body breaks it down and rebuilds it into whatever kind of cell and tissue you need right then. The easier something is to break down, the better your body can use it.
A nano-hydrolyzed, medical-grade collagen supplement is one of your very best options. This type of supplement is broken into the smallest possible particles for easy digestion, and is a formula trusted by medical professionals across the country.
Your body uses collagen protein to create new tissues and reknit wounded areas, so giving your body easy access to the building material it needs will help you achieve the quickest possible gastric bypass recovery time.