Weight Loss Surgery

Is Weight Loss Surgery Right For You?

As the social pressure to be thin continues to rise and obesity-related illnesses skyrocket, the search for the fastest way to lose weight is growing in epic proportions. As a result, people are beginning to view weight loss surgery as an instant, easy solution to their weight loss woes. However, these procedures are not appropriate for most people, nor are they simple and quick.

There are two main types of weight loss surgery, and several variations within the two categories. The first type is restrictive surgery and the second type is malabsorptive surgery. Throughout the following paragraphs, we are going to explore the variations of these two different types of surgery and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Restrictive Weight Loss Surgery

Restrictive weight loss surgery involves reducing the size of the stomach either temporarily or permanently so that you are forced to eat less and therefore consume fewer calories. This method also slows down digestion because the band that is used slows down the rate at which the food leaves the stomach. There are several types of procedures, some more invasive than others, that utilize the restrictive method.

Adjustable gastric banding is probably the least invasive weight loss surgery and utilized an inflatable band that is wrapped around your stomach to divide it into two portions, a small upper pouch and a larger lower pouch. The two portions are still connected but the  upper portion drastically reduces the amount of food that you consume and the food empties more slowly into the lower pouch. Since the band leaves only a small channel between the upper and lower pouches, food must be soft and chewed thoroughly so that it doesn’t get lodged.

Vertical banded gastroplasty also divides your stomach into two separate parts but this procedure uses both a band and staples. Because vertical banding hasn’t had the success rate that adjustable gastric banding has had, it isn’t as popular and is used much less often now that there are more effective options available.

Perhaps the main advantage to gastric banding is that it’s not as invasive as malabsorptive surgery. The surgery is often performed using minimally invasive, small incisions, small surgical tools and a small camera called a laparoscope to insert the band. After the band is in place, the doctor fills it with saline using a needle. Because the band is inserted very near the surface of the skin, it’s easy for your doctor to adjust the band by either adding or removing saline to change the size of the channel between the upper and lower portions of the stomach.

Since gastric banding isn’t necessarily meant to be permanent, many people only control their eating habits because the band physically only allows them to eat small amounts. People who do not make permanent, healthy adjustments to their diets may not experience long-term success with this procedure. Some risks of restrictive weight loss surgery include vomiting from eating too quickly and sometimes there are complications with the band such as slipping or leaking.

A sleeve gastrectomy is a newer form of restrictive surgery and involves removing about 75 percent of the stomach using a laparoscope. The remainder of the stomach is simply a sleeve that is attached to your intestines. This procedure is often used as a first step toward malabsorptive surgery for people who are extremely obese or aren’t healthy enough to undergo the more invasive surgery. For some people, though, this surgery is enough to produce the desired weight loss. The advantage to the sleeve gastrectomy is that the intestines aren’t affected so nutritional absorption isn’t affected.

Malabsorptive Weight Loss Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery (Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass) is the most common type of weight loss surgery and involves a combination of malabsorptive and restrictive procedures.  Your stomach is divided into two portions and the upper portion is connected to the lower section of the small intestine, thus decreasing the size of the stomach and shortening the time that food remains in the digestive tract. This effectively decreases calorie absorption. A more drastic form of this is called biliopancreatic diversion and involves bypassing even more of your small intestine.

Gastric bypass has swift, drastic results and people that have obesity-related illnesses such as sleep apnea and diabetes will often experience rapid improvement. Much of the weight loss will occur in the first six months following the surgery and will continue for up to two years. Because the digestive tract is modified, nutritional deficiencies may occur and cause long-term issues such as anemia and osteoporosis. If you have this surgery, you will need to take supplements for the rest of your life in order to ensure that you are getting the nutrients that you need.

There is a condition called dumping syndrome that is related to gastric bypass surgery and is the result of food passing too quickly into the intestines before it’s been properly digested. This results in diarrhea, bloating, cramps, nausea and sweating and is frequently the result of eating foods high in carbohydrates. Unlike banding surgery, gastric bypass is almost always permanent so weight loss tends to be maintained but you will have to make life-long, drastic adjustments to your eating habits.  Additional risks of weight loss surgery include infection from the procedure, gallstones, and large pockets of loose skin that require surgical removal.

Is Weight Loss Surgery For You?

Doctors won’t generally consider you for any weight loss surgery unless you have a body mass index (BMI) over 40. This equates to being about 100 pounds overweight for the average man and about 80 pounds overweight for the average woman. In 2011, the FDA approved the use of laparoscopic banding for those with a BMI of 30 or greater who also have at least one obesity-related health condition such as diabetes.

The idea of jumping on an operating table and solving all of your weight loss woes may seem to be a dream come true, but is it a good option for you? Not unless you have exhausted all other options and your weight has become such an issue that you are at risk of terminal illness or death. Unless your life is at stake, you’ll be much better off grabbing some celery and stepping onto the treadmill.