Starting Out Slowly: Clear Liquids after Weight Loss Surgery

Immediately after your weight loss surgery, on the day of the surgery itself, you may not be allowed to have anything to drink, and you definitely won't be allowed to have anything to eat. Your surgeon may allow you to have ice chips.

Stage 1, which is the clear-liquid stage, starts the day after your surgery. Clear liquids are any liquids you can see through — but before you go getting any funny ideas, you should know that this doesn't include alcoholic beverages. In addition to good old H2O, you can now expand your palate to include

  • High-protein broth (chicken or beef)
  • Sugar-free gelatin
  • Sugar-free ice pops
  • Decaffeinated tea
  • Crystal Light
  • Sugar-free Kool-Aid
  • Sugar-free Tang
  • Juices you can see through

You may have some problems with juices, because juices are high in sugar. Most surgeons discourage their patients from drinking juice. If you're sick of water, though, and you want more flavor, diluting juice with a lot of water is okay. Some people like to use apple juice, but others find it so sweet that it makes them nauseated. Orange juice and tomato juice are acidic and not considered clear liquids. Many patients like a cranberry juice mixture sweetened with Splenda so it's lower in sugar.

Your main goal in this stage is to stay properly hydrated, so try to drink 2 or 3 ounces every 30 minutes. Keep sipping as much as you can tolerate. You may be surprised at how difficult it is to drink enough fluids after surgery. Generally, 64 ounces of fluids per day is a minimum. (Note: Fluids means low-calorie, caffeine-free liquids.)

Right after surgery, many patients are constipated. If you experience constipation, you'll be given fluids, fluids, and more fluids. Constipation is usually caused by dehydration. Drinking enough clear liquids is the best thing you can do to prevent this from happening. Your doctor may suggest a gentle stimulant such as milk of magnesia after she's made sure that you're adequately hydrated.

Drinking water throughout the day is essential in order to keep up with your body's needs. In the first few days to weeks after surgery, you'll need to relearn how to take in fluids. You'll need to drink fluids at a constant rate to ensure that your daily requirements are met — you can't drink all the fluids in the first half of the day and then spend the afternoon and evening not drinking at all. It only takes a few days of falling behind with your fluid intake to get dehydrated. The fatigue and lack of energy you'll feel when dehydrated will seriously hinder your recovery process.

When you notice you're feeling sluggish, take in more clear liquids. Additional side effects of dehydration include dizziness, dry skin, and headaches. Be aware that caffeine can contribute to dehydration, so avoid caffeinated beverages whenever possible. Remember to take extra caution during hot weather.

The color of your urine can provide a good clue as to whether you're drinking enough liquids. Your urine should be pale yellow or clear. If it's dark yellow (and if you aren't taking a medication that colors your urine), you need to drink more water.

Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. By the time you begin to feel parched, your body has already started to dehydrate. Drink water or other beverages in small, frequent sips throughout the day. Always carry a water bottle with you wherever you go.

Your new pouch will fill with liquids quickly and empty slowly. That is why sipping is so important. Don't use straws — they can cause you to swallow a lot of air, which can cause gas. Also be sure not to gulp too soon after surgery, for the same reason. Here are a couple of ways to slow yourself down:

  • Freeze water bottles overnight and sip them the next day while they're melting.
  • Set your cup down after each swallow.
  • Use children's sippy cups.

Make sure you can tolerate clear liquids before moving on to the next stage. Your surgeon will let you know whether you're ready to move on to the next stage. When in doubt, ask.

You'll be able to eat more with time. In case you're curious, here are the amounts you can eat after weight loss surgery:

  • 1 month: 1 to 1-1/2 ounces (2 to 3 tablespoons)
  • 3 months: 3 ounces (1/4 cup)
  • 6 months: 4 to 5 ounces (1/2 cup)
  • 18 to 24 months: 8 to 10 ounces (1 to 1-1/4 cup)
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