Obesity is just one of the major health crises facing Americans today. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has even reported that over a third of Americans are overweight or obese. This continues to be a major health concern, as excessively overweight or obese individuals significantly increase their chances for developing health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and bone degeneration.
Although diet and exercise can help to alleviate some of these health issues, they are often not enough for those who are suffering from severe obesity. This is why bariatric surgery, commonly referred to as weight loss surgery or obesity surgery can become a necessary course of action.
Candidates for Bariatric Surgery
For many people, a well-balanced diet and exercise routine are usually the best way to manage weight. However, those who are extremely overweight can often be candidates for different types of bariatric or weight loss surgery. Most doctors and health experts recommend weight loss surgery for patients who are obese, which usually means they have a BMI >40. An individual’s BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure of body fat based on certain factors including their height and weight. The BMI used to determine candidacy for bariatric surgery is typically equivalent to being around 80 pounds overweight for women and 100 pounds for men.
It’s also common for those who have a lower BMI to be considered for weight loss surgery, especially if a serious health condition is related. However, prior to opting for a surgical procedure, it’s important for individuals to try and lose the weight on their own through such means as diet and exercise.
Types of Weight Loss Surgery
The two major types of weight loss or obesity surgeries are gastric bypass surgery and lap band surgery.
- Gastric Bypass Surgery: Most people are familiar with gastric bypass surgery because it has been around for a long time, not to mention the countless celebrities who have endorsed the surgical procedure over the years. This type of bariatric surgery involves stomach stapling to achieve weight loss. A small section of the stomach is stapled off, which makes it unusable. The intestine is then reattached to the smaller section of the stomach. The overall purpose of gastric bypass surgery is to reduce the stomach capacity for food intake, which as a result leads to weight loss.
- Lap Band Surgery: A minimally invasive procedure that involves no incisions in the patient’s stomach. Rather, the surgery involves the placement of a band around the patient’s stomach, which serves to restrict its size, making him/her feel fuller quicker. The recovery time for lap band surgery is generally faster than gastric bypass surgery, and the band can be tightened or loosened by the physician as necessary. Unlike gastric bypass surgery, lap band surgery can also be reversed by surgically removing the band.
Associated Risks & Complications
As with other types of surgical procedures, there is potential for certain risks and complications to occur with weight loss or obesity surgery. Although serious complications are uncommon with lap band surgery, the band can slip out of place. Some of the health risks associated with gastric bypass surgery includes the following:
- Dumping syndrome
There are also other, more serious risks involved with bariatric surgery procedures that may require immediate medical attention, such as blood clots, infection, stomach acid leakage, and hernia. Although the risk for death is significantly minimal (less than 1%), the threat still exists and needs to be taken into account. Finally, the likelihood of regaining the weight back is also possible, but can be avoided if patients follow through with proper aftercare.
Gastric Bypass Nutrition
It’s important for individuals who are considering different types of weight loss surgery to be aware of the diet and nutrition involved after the procedure. For example, making lifestyle changes are a big part of an individual’s ability to lose the weight and keep it off post gastric bypass surgery. Immediately following surgery, patients are put on clear liquids. Once at home, gastric bypass patients have a choice of baby food, pureed food or liquid protein. The consumption of protein helps patients heal faster and regain their strength after surgery.
Chewable vitamins are also necessary to compensate for other types of nutrients patients may not be getting from food during this time. Patients can usually begin to reintroduce soft foods into their diet after about 2 weeks. However, the food should be chewed thoroughly in order to avoid any pain. Gastric bypass patients can usually consume most foods after a period of about two months. As a general rule of thumb, patients will typically be required to cut courser meats into smaller pieces and limit their sugar intake.
[page updated December 2008]