If you’re considering lap band, gastric bypass or any other type of surgical weight loss procedure, you should ask yourself, “What are the pros and cons of weight loss surgery?” In this article, we’ll examine how the digestive system works, the various types of weight loss procedures, the advantages of weight loss surgery and the disadvantages of weight loss surgery.
How The Digestive System Works
In order to answer the question, “What are the pros and cons of weight loss surgery,” we must first understand how the digestive system works.
When you eat, food moves from the esophagus to the stomach. When it reaches the stomach, it is covered by an acid which begins the digestive process. The contents are then moved to the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine.
In the duodenum, digestion is continued with pancreatic juices and bile. At this stage, most of the calcium and iron in our food is absorbed into the body.
Food then moves through the remaining 20 feet of the small intestine, specifically the jejunum and ileum. During this process, the remaining nutrients are absorbed into the body.
Anything which cannot be digested is then stored in the large intestine. This organ is comprised of the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and rectum. Waste stays in the large intestine until it’s time to be passed from the body.
How Weight Loss Surgery Works
- Restrictive Surgery – A section of the stomach is removed to make it smaller. This limits the amount of food which can be eaten, and the patient feels a sense of fullness without having to eat as much. As the patient continues to eats less, body weight will begin to decrease. Lap band is a type of restrictive surgery.
- Malabsorptive Surgery – Since the bulk of digestion takes place in the small intestine, this surgery alters the length or connection to the stomach. Less food is absorbed into the body, and the patient loses weight as a result. Recipients of this surgery often need to take a multivitamin to compensate for a reduction in absorbed nutrients.
NOTE: In some cases, weight loss surgery includes a combination of restrictive surgery and malabsorptive surgery.
Advantages Of Weight Loss Surgery
The following are the primary advantages of weight loss surgery. For more information, consult your family physician.
- Improved Health – As the patient becomes less obese, conditions such as high blood sugar levels and high blood pressure improve. Risk of heart attack and cancer also decrease.
- Weight Loss – Patients usually rapidly shed weight for the first 18 to 24 months following weight loss surgery. Some weight will be regained at a point, but this can be limited through proper diet and exercise.
Disadvantages Of Weight Loss Surgery
While weight loss surgery can change a person’s life for the better, there are some risks associated with the procedure. The following disadvantages of weight loss surgery are most likely to occur (be sure to consult with a doctor before surgery).
- Complications – Complications from surgery include abdominal hernias, stretched stomach outlets and infections.
- Vomiting – If food particles are not thoroughly chewed, the stomach can be stretched. This will result in nausea and possible vomiting.
- Insurance – Many forms of insurance will not cover the cost of weight loss surgery. While it is becoming more common, many patients will have to pay for the entire cost out of their pockets.
- Gallstones – Over one-third of patients will develop gallstones. To prevent this, patients must take supplemental bile salts for the first six months following their weight loss surgery.
- Changes To Lifestyle – Patients will have to adopt an exercise and diet regimen for the rest of their lives.
- No Pregnancy – Women who undergo weight loss surgery must wait until their body mass becomes stable before becoming pregnant. Otherwise, the fetus could be harmed by rapid changes to the mother’s body.
- Nutritional Deficiencies – Following surgery, some patients may suffer from metabolic bone disease, anemia and osteoporosis. This can be avoided by regularly taking vitamins and minerals.
- Side Effects – Some side effects of weight loss surgery include: diarrhea, increased gas, dizziness, vomiting, bloating, nausea and excessive sweating.
- Dumping Syndrome – When the contents of the stomach move too rapidly through the small intestine, a patient may suffer what is known as “dumping syndrome.” This results in diarrhea after eating, weakness, faintness and sweating.