An acquaintance recently told me that she was trying to gain weight so that she could have gastric bypass surgery. I was shocked and very concerned about her casual view of a major surgical procedure. Gastric bypass is not a silver bullet for weight loss. It requires a major diet overhaul, a lifetime of vitamin supplementation, regular doctor’s visits. It is not a guarantee for weight maintenance.
The number of people who have had gastric bypass surgery has spiked in the last few years. I worry that people are forgetting that this is a very serious surgery with many risks, including death. The number of gastric bypass surgeries performed per year increased from 14,000 in 1998 to 108,000 in 2003. I’m sure that these numbers have increased even more in the last three years.
Gastric bypass surgery enables patients to lose a significant amount of weight. It also improves many obesity related health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and sleep apnea. However, research has shown that 1 in 10 people who have this surgery report complications. While this surgery can be extremely beneficial, it should not be taken lightly.
Gastric bypass surgery reduces the size of the stomach so that the patient feels fuller sooner and is not physically able to eat as much food as he/she once could. It also bypasses part of the stomach and small intestine so that fewer calories are absorbed. This bypassing also results in a loss of nutrient absorption. People who have gastric bypass surgery must monitor their nutrient levels and take vitamin supplementation for the rest of their life. They run a very high risk of iron, calcium and Vitamin B12 deficiencies.
People who have gastric bypass surgery must completely change their eating and lifestyle habits or it will not be successful. The important thing to realize when considering this surgery is that it does not enable you to continue to overeat and lose weight. People who have gastric bypass are not likely to reach their ideal body weight, but they should lose enough weight that they will reduce their risk of weight-related health problems. And it is possible to regain weight after gastric bypass surgery.
Post-surgery, you must commit to eating six small meals per day because your stomach size is drastically decreased. Eating smaller meals more frequently enables you to meet your nutrient requirements. In the weeks immediately following the surgery you will be limited to a liquid diet and then a pureed diet. In fact, the progression to solid food is relatively slow following this surgery. Luckily, most people are not hungry and so this is usually not a problem.
After the surgery, you must avoid high sugar, high fat foods, refined sugar and flour and alcohol forever. You must chew your food into very small pieces before swallowing to reduce the risk of vomiting. You will also need to separate the consumption of food and beverage so that you do not fill your stomach with less nutritious liquids. Many people find that they have certain foods that they can no longer tolerate post-surgery, these foods vary by individual.
I don’t want to discourage people who qualify for gastric bypass surgery from having the procedure. I just want to make sure that people know how serious the surgery is and that it requires a lifetime dedication to a new lifestyle to succeed. People who approach gastric bypass surgery seriously, commit to the diet changes, regular activity and regular follow up with their doctor and nutritionist can have great success.
Published On: January 25, 2007