A gastrectomy is a serious operation, and recovery can take a long time.
After the operation
After having a gastrectomy, you may be fitted with a nasogastric tube for about 48 hours. This is a thin tube that passes through your nose and down into your stomach or small intestine. It allows fluids produced by your stomach to be regularly removed, which will stop you feeling sick.
You'll also have a flexible tube catheter placed in your bladder. This is to monitor your fluids, and to drain and collect urine while you recover.
Until you can eat and drink normally, nutrition will be given directly into a vein (intravenously) or through a tube inserted through your tummy into your bowel. Most people can begin eating a light diet about a week after a gastrectomy.
After the operation, you'll need to take regular painkillers until you recover. Tell your treatment team if the painkillers you're taking do not work – alternative painkillers are available.
You'll probably be able to return home 1 to 2 weeks after having a gastrectomy.
Adjusting to a new diet
Whatever type of gastrectomy you have, you'll need to make changes to your diet. It may be months before you can return to a more normal diet. A dietitian should be able to help you with this adjustment.
Food or drink you enjoyed before the operation may give you indigestion. You may find it helpful to keep a food diary to record the effects that certain types of food have on your digestion.
You'll probably have to eat frequent small meals, rather than 3 large meals a day, for a fairly long time after having a gastrectomy. However, over time, your remaining stomach and small intestine will stretch and you'll gradually be able to eat larger, less frequent meals.
Avoid eating high-fibre foods immediately after having a gastrectomy, as they'll make you feel uncomfortably full. High-fibre foods include:
- wholegrain bread, rice and pasta
- pulses – which are edible seeds that grow in a pod, such as peas, beans and lentils
- oats – found in some breakfast cereals
You'll gradually be able to increase the amount of fibre in your diet.
Vitamins and minerals
If you've had a partial gastrectomy, you may be able to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet by eating foods that are high in nutrients – in particular, foods high in iron, calcium, and vitamins C and D. If you've had a total gastrectomy, you may be unable to get enough of these from your diet so may require supplements.
Read about vitamins and minerals for information on foods that are high in these nutrients.
Most people who have had a total gastrectomy, and some who have had a partial gastrectomy, need regular injections of vitamin B12 because this is difficult to absorb from food if your stomach has been removed.
After a gastrectomy, you'll need regular blood tests to check you're getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals in your diet. Not enough nutrition can lead to problems such as anaemia.