The Role of Acid Blockers After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

Acid reflux is one of the many diseases and conditions gastric sleeve in Mexico can relieve. But VSG can also introduce acid blockers to people who’ve never had to use them before. Why the seeming paradox? And will you live on acid blockers forever?

VSG and reflux
For reasons science can’t fully explain, overweight and obese people are more likely to suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and symptoms just get worse as the number on the scale goes up. Losing weight is a great way to reduce or eliminate those nasty reflux symptoms. But acid blockers will still play a role in your vertical sleeve gastrectomy journey. Not only will you be more comfortable, but you might lose more weight with them.

We give patients acid blockers while they’re still in Mexico, and we really advise you to take it before traveling home. The reason? Acid reflux symptoms may worsen initially after VSG because the process of reshaping your stomach may initially delay the emptying of your stomach. If you have heartburn in the early days, I recommend slowing down the pace of your eating or drinking (in addition to taking acid blockers), which is actually good advice in general post-VSG. But that heartburn feeling may also be a spasm or stricture in the days right after the procedure, so get in touch with us or your personal physician for an evaluation.

The two reasons to take acid blockers
Yep, you might need them for different reasons. The first is (duh!) traditional problems with acid reflux. The second is to help you lose weight. No, they aren’t a magic diet pill. But they can help you with “hunger pangs,” which are usually issues with stomach acid rather than real hunger. Let’s look at the first reason. If you finish the acid blockers we recommend right after VSG and are still dealing with acid—or are experiencing it for the first time—get in touch with us so we can help you sort it out. Continuing on acid blockers is a good idea, but there are other things you can do to reduce reflux feelings. My patient, Michelle, was on a heavy dose of acid blockers until she realized her attacks came on only if she ate or drank something acidic. “I also never eat multiple new ingredients at the same time…so I can really tell if something is going to upset me,” she says.

Now onto reason number two. It seems strange that an acid blocker would help take away that hungry feeling, but it makes sense physiologically. When your stomach is saying “feed me” at times when it doesn’t make sense (ie: an hour or two after your last meal), acid is likely to blame. One way to test that idea is to take an acid blocker when one of those “not time to eat” stomach rumbles hits. Not hungry anymore? Acid. Still hungry? Maybe it’s a true pang. Says Heather about the sensation, “It’s that kind of hunger that makes no sense. Your stomach feels empty because the acid is irritating the lining.”

Are acid blockers safe?
There are conflicting studies on this, and much of it depends in the type of blocker you’re taking. Some acid blockers, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), can lower the body’s ability to absorb some minerals. In the case of calcium, for example, that lack of absorption could lead to osteoporosis down the road. The key takeaways are that 1) There’s no consensus that it’s a bad idea to take them long term and 2) You can switch the type of blocker you take and/or adjust your dosage downward if and when you’re able. The bottom line, at least for me, is that if you need them, it makes sense to take them. As with any medication, if you can get along fine without it after VSG, then do so.

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“Changing lives…one sleeve at a time”.