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Written by Trish Fine, RD, LD
on August 24, 2017

Losing weight is a great way to lower your risk of health related diseases as well as gain your life back again through increased mobility and energy. So it may be surprising that you are noticing a sluggish feeling to your everyday life, leaving you feeling tired and unmotivated. There are several reasons that may reverse the "traditional" symptoms of weight loss including a lack of sleep, an unbalanced diet, and mineral deficiencies. 

Following weight loss surgery, we stress that our patients be diligent about scheduling and attending regular follow-up appointments. Although we are curious about your weight loss progress and your overall health, we are also interested in looking at your labs to make sure you are not developing any mineral deficiencies. In most cases, a feeling of fatigue is attributed to your nutritional intake however in other instances it can be related to changes in your lifestyle. 

Nutritional Causes 

The most common long-term deficiencies that we see in our patients is iron and B12.  These vitamins are necessary in the production of red blood cells (anemia), therefore an iron or B12 deficiency, along with other mineral deficiencies, can lead to clinical symptoms of weakness, fatigue and feeling cold. 

Iron Deficiency

What is it: Iron deficiency, which results in anemia, is quite common in many people and has several root causes including your diet. Iron is essential for producing a protein called hemoglobin that carries oxygen to your lungs, and the rest of the cells in your body. When your iron levels are too low, common symptoms can include fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath.

How to treat it: If you become anemic (determined by lab test) we recommend you take iron supplements to restore healthy iron levels. In severe cases we will often give patients an iron infusion (similar to a blood transfusion). However, you can also alter your diet to include more iron rich foods such as dark leafy vegetables, red meats and liver.

To read more about iron deficiency and how to treat it, follow this link

fatigue after weight loss surgery

B12 Deficiency

 What is it: Vitamin B12 is necessary in maintaining your blood cell production and nervous system health. It is a vital nutrient in creating DNA. When your B12 levels are low, you may feel fatigue, but you can also feel depressed. 

 How to treat it: Vitamin B12 is a naturally occurring nutrient that is found in high protein foods. If you have a B12 deficiency, we recommend changing up your diet to include more fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy products. Of course oral supplementation is the easiest way to increase b12 levels.  These supplements are inexpensive and can be administered orally, nasally   or by injection. I our program we regularly check these levels to make sure our patients are maintaining an appropriate level.  

B1 (Thiamine) Deficiency

What is it: B1 converts the carbohydrates you eat into energy for your cells. Therefore a lack in B1, directly affects your energy level leaving you feeling fatigued. You may also experience irritability and depression, suffer memory loss or confusion, and have neuropathy, nausea and vomiting.We worry about our patients becoming deficient in thiamine if they are eating poorly and have frequent vomiting.

How to treat it: B1 can be found in many foods. Some good sources of B1 include asparagus, spinach, plant seeds, and beans. 

In addition to these key nutrients, there are also other nutritional deficiencies that can cause fatigue, muscle aches and weakness such as low levels of Potassium and Vitamin C, D and other B vitamins. If you are struggling with constant feelings of fatigue and weakness, we recommend you schedule a consultation to find out the root cause of your low energy levels.

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Lifestyle Causes

Increase in Activity Level:

It is no surprise that jumping into a strict exercise regimen can cause fatigue and sore muscles. Although exercise is vital for your health and continued weight loss/maintenance, we recommend taking it slow and integrating exercise into your daily life. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults engage in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. This is a lofty goal for our patients therefore we recommend starting out by exercising for 15-30 minutes 2 to 3 days a week. By slowing integrating exercise into your weekly schedule, you can avoid extreme feelings of tiredness, muscle fatigue, and in some cases irritability.

Cutting Calories:

Oftentimes when we try to lose weight, we turn to cutting calories by significant amounts.  Significantly cutting calories can lead to intense feelings of weakness, fatigue, difficulty concentration, irritability and even depression. This is to some degree expected side effects of weight loss surgery.  Often times our patients are not hungry and just don't eat.  It is important to eat a small amount at regular intervals during the day even if you are not very hungry.   We recommend you eat lots of healthy, protein pack foods to ensure you are fueling your body and receiving the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals. 

always tired after having weight loss surgeryLack of Sleep:

Sleep is vital to restore your body's chemical and hormonal levels and thus is a major contributing factor in operating at optimal levels. We recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Make sure you are not oversleeping though, as this can actually cause continued feelings of fatigue as well as contribute to cognitive ability and other physical health related illnesses

We welcome your comments or concerns that you might have on this topic.

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