Bariatric Vitamins - Don't forget them!
By Heather Mackie MS, RD, LD
While many patients have pursued bariatric surgery to get rid of several medications, some patients may feel as though they’ve traded their medications for bariatric vitamins. Although I’m sure that most patients would agree they’d rather take vitamins than medications any day! Many patients report struggling to remember to take their vitamins following surgery on a daily basis. Below are a few tips to help you be more compliant with your vitamin routine while following the nutrition “rules.” This can be especially challenging when you’re on the go. Please keep in mind skipping one dose of multivitamin may not cause problems in the long run, but it can be dangerous to miss several doses over several days in a row.
The “Nutrition Rules.” Many of you have probably heard these already. Based on the research and how our body works and absorbs certain nutrients, you can’t take iron and calcium at the same time. These two items have to be taken separately by at least two hours. Also, you can’t take more than 500-600 mg of calcium per dose. The body can only absorb somewhere around 500 mg of calcium per dose period, so it’s best to split your daily dosage of calcium into 500 mg doses. For example, if your surgeon/dietitian tells you to take 1500 mg of calcium per day, then you would need to take 500 mg of calcium split into 3 different doses. There might be other interactions or rules specific to you, so talk to your healthcare professional to learn your “rules.”
Make a Plan. The first step is to make a plan of attack! How did you do it when you were taking several medications? Work with your surgeon and/or dietitian to develop a specific time to take your medications and vitamins that goes along with your schedule. Some may need to be taken with food while others may not. Some may not be properly absorbed if taken together (example: iron and calcium), while others may not be taken all at once (example: calcium). There are other interactions, which may come into play with medications and vitamins or minerals as well. These can be discussed with your pharmacist, surgeon, and/or dietitian. Once you have your plan, write it down!
Post your Plan. Post your new schedule somewhere you will see it over and over throughout the day until it feels like a routine. Some may recommend posting in a couple different places, such as bathroom mirror (read while you’re getting ready for the day), next to computer screen, on refrigerator door, etc.
Pill Dispenser. Consider using a weekly or daily pill dispenser to help you remember what to take and when throughout the day. Fill your pill dispenser at the start of each week or month. Keep you pill dispenser with you or in an easily accessible location. Make sure to keep out of children’s reach.
Tape Reminders Everywhere. Tape sticky notes in places where you would usually look before a scheduled dose of vitamins. For example, if one dose period is right before bed, place a sticky note on your bedside table or on your bathroom mirror so you see it while brushing your teeth before bed. These notes won’t need to stay up forever, but only until you develop a routine that works for you.
Clever Calendars. These can be either hand-written calendars or calendars on your computer/phone. Put a task in to take each vitamin with the appropriate time and then cross it off or delete the task once it’s complete. You can set your computer/phone calendar to send you alarms to remind you to take certain doses.
Consult your Support Staff. You most likely already have a wonderful support system including your family, friends, and/or thoughtful co-workers that are willing to support you along your journey to wellness. Enlist their help to remind you to take a certain medication/vitamin if they’re around you at that same time daily.
Use a Reminder Service. There are many apps out there that can help you to remember to take certain medications and/or vitamins. Find what works best for you.
Sound the Alarms. Set the alarm on your watch, cell phone, or computer to remind you to take your vitamins at the appropriate times throughout the day. While this may be annoying in the beginning, it could be a lifesaver long-term!
Association. If you make coffee every morning, consider keeping your vitamins close to your coffee maker (of course out of the reach of small children). This way, as your fumbling to make your morning cup of joe (decaf of course ☺), you might remember to take your morning dose of vitamins. Then keep your mid-day dose close to where you might eat lunch and so on and so forth.
Please keep in mind that it’s very important to get your bariatric vitamins and minerals in on a daily basis and each day you should strive to get better and better at completing your routine. While taking vitamins may not seem like a big deal, they may prevent things like osteoporosis, the “pins and needles” feeling in your arms and legs, blindness, hair loss, etc. Don’t stress yourself out, but work to make improvements on your daily routine.
Please remember to talk to your healthcare professional to find a plan that meets your nutritional needs and works for your schedule.