Bariatric surgery, also commonly known as “gastric bypass,” is a procedure available only to morbidly obese individuals. The surgery essentially aims to physically decrease the size of one’s stomach, so that less food can be consumed. As the stomach cannot hold a great amount of food, individuals lose weight as they are physically forced to eat fewer calories and smaller portions.
How Does Bariatric Surgery Work?
During a bariatric procedure, doctors divide the stomach into two different parts: a small pouch and a large pouch. After this, doctors will also cut the small intestine, and then redirect it to the smaller pouch.
- The Smaller Pouch
Once the smaller pouch is cut and redirected to the small intestine, this portion of the stomach can only hold about a few ounces of food. Therefore, patients will feel fuller when eating smaller potions, as the small stomach pouch will fill up quickly. Immediately after surgery, patients tend to feel full on approximately one cup of food, although the stomach will gradually stretch out after time.
- The Larger Pouch
This remaining portion of the lower stomach will no longer receive food. During surgery, doctors will attach the lower and larger portion of the stomach to the small intestine, as this will allow the small intestine to deliver digestive juices and hormones.
In addition to separating the stomach into two parts, the surgery also:
- Allows food to bypass most of the stomach and small intestine, allowing the body to absorb fewer calories from food
- Decreases an individual’s appetite and improve metabolism from an altered release of hormones
Who is Eligible for Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery is only available for individuals whose body mass index (BMI) is greater than 40. Individuals with a BMI over 40 are considered to be morbidly obese, and are most often eligible for surgery. Exceptions are made, however, for patients with a BMI of 35, and who are struggling with serious illnesses, such as:
- Sleep apnea
- Joint disease
- Other potentially serious / fatal illnesses
Potential Side Effects of Bariatric Surgery
While any surgical procedure poses potentially serious side effects or threats, some of the most common post-surgical side effects include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Patients often complained of stomach discomfort in the first 2-3 months after surgery, as the body is adjusting to the new diet and eating habits
- Patients are advised to drink 2 liters of water per day in the months following surgery, as dehydration can lead to an increased number of complications.
- Food Intolerances
- Patients report new intolerances to foods after surgery, especially when foods are high in protein or are difficult to digest.
- Bowel Movement Changes
- Patients report having experiences of either diarrhea and/or fewer bowel movements and/or constipation
- Thinning Hair
After surgery, some patients report transient hair loss within 2 to 10 months after surgery; however, this phase is considered to be temporary, as hair growth tends to return back to normal.