Having a gastric balloon placed in your stomach comes with expectations that your body may take a little while to get used to its new, ever-present companion. Naturally, the gastric balloon will make you feel full, that’s the whole purpose, but other common side effects include nausea, vomiting, gas and more. Most cases are mild and annoying but rarely bothersome enough to prompt removal of the balloon. Side effects also improve with time as individuals and their bodies grow accustomed to the balloon. Most bariatric surgeons offer their patients medications and other advice to help minimize side effects. Dietary recommendation are also designed to help individuals with gastric balloons avoid unpleasant reactions.
Here, we’ve listed a few common side effects and tips to manage them so you can have an optimal experience with the gastric balloon and long term weight loss success.
- Nausea – Probably the most common side effect associated with balloon weight loss, nausea can be a frequent visitor due to the fact the body thinks there is something in the stomach that shouldn’t be there. It’s more pronounced during the first few weeks and gets better as time go by. Things that help include:
- Diet – whenever nausea hits, reduce intake and return to liquids until symptoms improve; chew on ginger (cut in slices and chew or suck, tea, gums, chews, hard candy), eat saltines or something just a little salty, eat low-fat foods because fatty foods can cause further delay in digestion, mint – chew a leaf or mint tea can help significantly.
- Prescription meds – ondansetron, promethazine, compazine, scopolamine patches can be prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- OTC meds – meclizine (a.k.a. Non-drowsy dramamine, Bonine), activated charcoal, vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine.
- Alternative Therapies – Acupuncture; Aromatherapy – inhaling peppermint, lemon oil or others, applying small amount camphor (i.e. Tiger Balm) to the temples.
- Bad breath – Bad breath after balloon weight loss surgery can occur when you’re slightly dehydrated, food isn’t moving through in a timely fashion or certain foods (typically starchy) are sticking to the balloon. To help:
- Drink water frequently – Sip water frequently. A general rule of thumb is to divide your weight in pounds by 2 and drink that much fluid ounces a day. (i.e. If you weigh 250 lbs, you should be drinking approximately 125 fluid ounces a day).
- Brush your teeth after every meal, liquid or solid. Also, brush your tongue, gums and inside of your cheek since bacteria and food particles can build up on these surfaces as well.
- Chew cinnamon sugar-free gum to stimulate the production of odor-fighting saliva. Research suggests that cinnamon can decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth.
- Floss or use a waterpik to get in between the teeth to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
- Stay on top of dental cleanings and visit your dentist to rule out other possible causes of bad breath.
- Gas – The delay in digestion and dramatic change in your diet can contribute to an increase in gas which then can lead to discomfort and cramping. Although this too should improve as time goes by, here are few things that can help.
- Activated charcoal works to absorb excess gas and fluids which then can ease bloating and discomfort.
- Beano, GasEx and Phazyme can aid in digestion as well as the absorption of gas.
- Eat slowly
- Take a little walk to help move the gas a long
- Applying a heating pad to your abdomen can aid in dissipating the gas
- Certain yoga positions and exercises can help you pass gas and relieve the pressure.
- Cramping – Usually caused by excess gas and pressure, cramping can range from mild to outright painful. Definitely see your healthcare provider if the pain is significant. For more milder symptoms, some things that can help include:
- Peppermint oil – often found in the herbal supplement section of most stores, especially natural food stores
- Heating pad applied to abdomen
- Eating slowly or go back to fluids for a time
- Activated charcoal – by absorbing fluids and gas, charcoal can also relieve any subsequent cramping.
- Belching – Often related to trapped gas, belching can be mild or extremely foul smelling and bothersome. If it is severe, we recommend seeing your provider to make sure all is okay with the balloons. Otherwise, a few tips that can help include:
- Drink fluids regularly to rinse off the balloons
- Activated charcoal works to absorb excess gas and fluids
- Beano, GasEx and Phazyme can also aid in digestion as well as the absorption of gas.
- Constipation – Due to the drastic decrease in intake and likely lack of fiber the first few weeks, constipation is a common occurrence after gastric balloon procedures. To avoid severe constipation and the discomfort and pain that can accompany, here are few tips:
- Stool softeners – have a low threshold to use a gentle stool softener like MiraLAX, dulcolax or colace. They are non-habit forming and are not likely to cause cramping unless you’re already pretty backed up. If you are having severe pain with constipation, you might have an obstruction and should call your physician and/or go directly to the nearest emergency department.
The Serious Stuff
Above we’ve talked about some of the common, day-to-day side effects that can occur during gastric balloon weight loss but there are some things that may require immediate attention. These include:
- Increased hunger, weight gain and no full feeling – May indicate deflation of the balloon(s), check in with your physician.
- Increasing nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain, inability to keep food or fluids down – May be from an obstruction, call your physician asap.
- Intense abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, blood in vomit or stool – May be signs of an ulceration in your stomach or intestinal tract.
- No urination for 8-12 hours, headache, lightheadedness, increase heart rate, dry mouth or intense/constant thirst – May be signs of dehydration, contact your physician asap, you may need some IV fluids.