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Probiotics Help After Weight Loss Surgery


Use of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) after gastric bypass surgery may help patients avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, which is a major side effect of the surgery, as well as promote faster weight loss. A research team at Stanford University School of Medicine study reported these findings.

Gastric bypass surgery (Roux-en-Y gastric bypass), according to the Mayo Clinic, is the favored bariatric surgery in the United States because it is associated with fewer complications and is safer than other available weight loss surgeries. Generally, people who undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass achieve long-term, consistent weight loss as long as they adhere to certain permanent eating and lifestyle changes.

In gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon creates a small pouch about the size of a walnut at the top of the stomach and adds a bypass connection around a portion of the stomach and small intestine. The pouch is physically separated from the stomach. The connection redirects food so that is bypasses most of the stomach and the first part of the small intestine. Food then enters directly into the second part of the small intestine, which limits the ability to absorb calories, which results in weight loss.

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In the Stanford study, the researchers followed 44 patients who had undergone gastric bypass surgery. Patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups: those who received a probiotic or placebo daily. Both groups were allowed to eat yogurt, which contains probiotics.

Patients in the probiotic group achieved significantly greater weight loss than those in the control group. After three months of taking either probiotics or a placebo, the probiotics group had a 47.6 percent weight loss compared with a 38.5 percent loss in the control group. Patients who took probiotics also had significantly higher levels of vitamin B12, an important finding because people who undergo gastric bypass surgery typically become deficient in this critical vitamin.

Many people who undergo gastric bypass surgery have difficulty eating after the procedure; some experience intolerance to certain foods, the food doesn’t go down right, or they have nausea or diarrhea. The study’s authors hypothesized that an accumulation of bacteria in the intestinal tract could be a cause. The addition of probiotics in this study seemed to not only promote greater weight loss but to greatly reduce vitamin B12 deficiency. Probiotics are also known to aid digestion and help prevent diarrhea and other intestinal problems.

Mayo Clinic
Stanford University School of Medicine news release