A bariatric surgical procedure results in weight loss by making changes to an individual’s digestive system. Such a procedure restricts the amount of food held by the stomach, causing malabsorption of nutrients. Often, these surgeries also cause hormonal changes in the individual. Typically, this surgery is performed when diet and exercise have failed to yield results or when obesity poses serious health problems.
As opposed to dietary weight loss plans which can often lead to regaining weight, bariatric surgery affects hormone production such that long-term and sustainable weight loss is achieved.
What is bariatric surgery?
Bariatric surgery is a term used to refer collectively to several types of weight loss surgeries that either limit the amount of food intake or reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, or both.
This type of surgery is performed to help lose excess weight and reduce the risk of life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Typically, this surgery is done only after an individual has tried to lose weight through diet and exercise.
Generally, bariatric surgery is an option for obese individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of higher than 40 or those that have serious weight-related health problems. However, bariatric surgery isn’t meant for everyone who is overweight. You must meet certain medical guidelines to qualify for the surgery. Additionally, you may be asked to participate in long-term follow-up programs that involve the monitoring of nutrition, lifestyle, and medical conditions.
Types of bariatric surgery
The following are some of the most common types of bariatric surgery –
- Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass: This is an irreversible surgery that works by decreasing the amount of food intake by the stomach and the absorption of nutrients in the body. In this procedure, the surgeon cuts a part from the top of the stomach, making a sealed off pouch that can hold just about an ounce of food. This pouch is then sewn directly into the small intestine. Food, once swallowed, passes from the small pouch to the small intestine, bypassing the rest of the stomach.
- Sleeve Gastrectomy: In this procedure, multiple incisions are made on the upper stomach, thus effectively reducing 80% of the entire stomach. A long, tube-shaped pouch is left behind, which doesn’t hold much food. Additionally, hormonal changes are also induced that further aid weight loss by reducing appetite.
- Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch: In this two-part and less common surgery, a procedure similar to a sleeve gastrectomy is performed first. Then, the end portion of the intestine is connected to the duodenum, bypassing the majority of the intestine. This procedure both limits food intake and reduces nutrient absorption. While it is very effective, it has greater risks such as malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. Thus, it is typically recommended to individuals with a BMI of more than 50.
The best weight-loss surgery for you will depend on many factors – dietary habits, BMI, health issues, and the risks involved in each procedure.
How bariatric surgery results in weight loss
To put it simply, bariatric surgery causes weight loss in two primary ways –
- Restriction – Physically limiting the amount of food the stomach can hold
- Malabsorption – Bypassing or shortening part of the small intestine to reduce the body’s calorie and nutrient absorption
Combined with a comprehensive treatment plan, this procedure can be an excellent tool to facilitate long-term weight loss and boost the patient’s health. Moreover, bariatric surgery has been proven to help improve many obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, high blood pressure, etc.
Bariatric surgery works by changing the anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract – the stomach and digestive system – and/or causing different hormonal changes in the body. By changing the anatomy, bariatric procedures modify the production of some intestinal hormones such that and appetite is reduced and the patient experiences a feeling of “fullness” with less food intake.
When significant weight loss occurs, other changes in the body take effect, that further reduce defects in fat metabolism. The patient is likely to find themselves engaging in more physical activity, which improves the body’s ability to burn fat. Massive weight loss also reduces hormones such as insulin and cortisol, reducing the uptake and storage of fat in the body.
In addition to improvements in health, surgical weight-loss improves an individual’s quality of life by positively affecting self-esteem, mobility, social interactions, psychological conditions, and sexual functions. Thus, bariatric surgery can prove to be a useful tool to break the vicious cycle of weight gain and achieve long-term weight loss.
What to expect after bariatric surgery
After bariatric surgery, patients are typically not allowed to eat for a couple of days to allow the digestive system time to heal. After this, they are put on a specific (mostly liquid and puree) diet for some weeks. Patients must also get frequent medical checkups to monitor their health in the initial months.