People in pursuit of healthy weight management know to stick close to the veggie tray at parties and buffets. After all, vegetables are good healthy food full of beneficial vitamins, nutrients and fiber. But some vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables like the ubiquitous broccoli and cauliflower, can cause severe gastric upset when eaten raw by patients of gastric weight loss surgery. In fact, there are many examples of weight loss surgery patients who have experienced gastric distress so severe after eating raw broccoli or cauliflower that a trip to the emergency room was needed.
The reason weight loss surgery patients of all procedures (gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, adjustable gastric banding or lap-band) are prone to discomfort after eating raw cruciferous vegetables is a matter of balance. The vegetables are rich in enzymes which are believed to aid digestion. However, due to the shortened gastric tract and loss of stomach acid the vegetables cannot be fully digested in their short trip through the intestinal tract. The problem is compounded by the presence of cellulose, the dietary fiber in the vegetables that requires intestinal bacteria to process. Even without gastric weight loss surgery many humans lack enough intestinal bacteria to break down the cellulose enough to avoid symptoms of gas, bloating, and cramping.
After weight loss surgery many patients are intently focused on becoming healthy and in control of their weight through proper diet and nutrition and increased daily activity. These are admirable pursuits which often lead to the conundrum over eating good healthy vegetables at the risk of severe gastric distress. Frustrated patients wonder, If it is so good for me why does it make me feel so bad? Good question. There are a few measures that may be taken to reduce the discomfort that follows eating raw vegetables so we can have our nutrients and enjoy them too. Take a look:
- Experiment cautiously. If you do not know how you will respond to raw vegetables go easy at first and avoid discomfort or embarrassment that may come from eating too much of a good thing. In addition, remember that from day to day foods will sit differently. Always practice restraint while you get a feel for how food is setting with you that day.
- Lightly steam or parboil vegetables to begin breaking-down the cellular structure thus helping the intestinal acid get busy more quickly with digestion. Remember, if you cannot digest the vegetable you will not be able to absorb the vitamins and nutrients in the vegetable. To serve the steamed or parboiled vegetables chilled simply prepare them in advance, drain of water and pat dry. Plate, cover and chill. Then serve cold with a lightly seasoned veggie dip made from yogurt which contains healthy bacteria that will aid in digestion. Avoid dairy-based dips, such as those made with sour cream, as this may increase the chance of stomach discomfort.
- Take a digestive enzyme as directed prior to or shortly after eating raw vegetables. There are many digestive enzyme supplements available at reasonable cost. Many weight loss surgery patients report that papaya enzyme is effective in reducing digestive discomfort. According to one maker of papaya enzyme the dietary supplement contains “papain, a proteolytic enzyme and a popular ingredient in dietary supplements used for digestion. Taken after meals, it is a perfect natural supplement that may assist in digestion and may help reduce the effects of poor digestion, including heartburn and gas.” As with all dietary supplements keep in mind the FDA does not evaluate these claims or approve supplements for their claimed use. Consumers should consult with a health care professional before using any dietary supplement.
- Chew, chew, chew. Remember that digestion begins in the mouth and it is critical to chew completely all raw vegetables in order to give your gastric system the best conditions under which to digest food and benefit from the vitamins and nutrients it contains.