Of course you’ll have no appetite in the days right after coronary bypass surgery — but what if the appetite suppression persists?
Your appetite a few weeks after coronary bypass surgery may still be somewhat suppressed, though some patients will be eating quite heartily even one week out from CABG.
This depends on their preoperation eating habits, and whether or not they decide to change their eating habits for the better, post-operatively.
“Change in the taste of food after surgery is not unusual immediately after surgery, and mostly resolves with time,” begins Michael Fiocco, Chief of Open Heart Surgery at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, one of the nation’s top 50 heart hospitals.
But there are numerous other reasons for losing one’s appetite after coronary bypass surgery.
Ten weeks after my mother had quintuple bypass surgery, she still had much appetite suppression.
“I have to force myself to eat,” she had said. From the get-go, she had no appetite in ICU, but ate a little more once she was moved to recovery.
Once she was home, she hardly ate, though there had been improvement as far as variety of food.
My mother was never a big eater, but the difference in her appetite post-surgery, and her appetite prior, was enough to have caused her weight to drop from 141/140 to 128, though sometimes it was 130.
Initially she claimed that all food, except eggs and potato chips, tasted like cardboard.
Even when Taste Is Normal, Appetite May Still Be Suppressed Weeks after CABG
Over time she began re-expanding the menu to include just about all foods — but in small amounts.
Eventually she was eating every type of food she normally ever did. Her taste had returned, but the appetite still remained suppressed for some time after that.
She had supposed that maybe her stomach had shrunk, and that it would take time to regain her appetite.
“Loss of appetite after surgery is well-described and poorly understood,” says Dr. Fiocco.
“It can be caused by persistent pain, constipation and depression, as well as many poorly understood factors.”
When Eating Less Causes Weight Loss
You might be thinking that weight loss from appetite suppression is a good thing for an overweight coronary bypass patient.
But what if the patient wasn’t overweight in the first place?
My mother is a senior citizen, had not been exercising and had not been eating much following the bypass surgery. This translates to loss of valuable muscle tissue.
A senior citizen cannot afford to lose muscle.
When they do, they become weaker; or, to put it another way, they are not as strong as they could be.
My mother is about 5-4, and when she was 128 pounds, she weighed as much as her 5-6 daughter-in-law. But there’s a huge difference in their body compositions.
The younger woman had been working out to the Insanity DVD series, and plus, she had an excellent appetite and hence, ate full meals.
Though she’s very lean in appearance, she has a healthy amount of muscle.
My mother has always had excess abdominal fat, and following the coronary bypass, had visible loss of muscle in her legs and arms.
My sister-in-law has tight, fit-looking legs and arms (though I think she can add more muscle), and hardly any fat in her abdominal area. In short, two entirely different body compositions were going on.
So what was the cause of my mother’s loss of appetite since her coronary bypass surgery? I don’t know, and neither did her doctors.
Solutions to Appetite Loss After CABG
Dr. Fiocco explains, “Patients with persistent problems will usually find relief through changing or eliminating medications.
“The suggested solutions are as numerous as the causes, including treating the above ailments, using supplements like Boost, eating small non-fatty meals, eating with other people, eating several smaller meals each day, and even stimulating your appetite with small amounts of dark chocolate.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing appetite loss following CABG, it will likely return, as did my mother’s.
Dr. Fiocco specializes in treating artery disease, valvular disease and aortic aneurysm. His heart care expertise has earned him recognition by Baltimore Magazine as a Top Doctor in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2017.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.