By: Dr. Scott Perryman
Bariatric surgery, or weight loss surgery, is an umbrella term for various surgical procedures that restrict the amount of food the stomach can hold and cause hormonal changes, ultimately leading to weight loss. Individuals typically seek out weight loss surgery when their excess weight is impacting their quality of life. Weight loss surgery is ideal for those who are obese and have been unsuccessful at losing weight with diet and exercise. There are many benefits to weight loss surgery, including long-term weight loss, improved health markers and mobility, improved confidence, longer life span, and more.
Today, most weight-loss surgeries are performed using minimally invasive techniques (laparoscopic surgery), making them a safe and effective way to fight obesity. The most common bariatric surgery procedures are gastric bypass, gastric sleeves, gastric (lap) band, and gastric balloons. Each type of weight loss surgery has its advantages, disadvantages, and recovery times. Keep reading for more details on what to expect from weight loss surgery recovery.
Gastric sleeve surgery is ideal for those with a BMI of 40 or more, who may be too heavy for gastric bypass surgery. This weight loss procedure involves the removal of a portion of the stomach. To alter the stomach size, a surgeon will carefully create a narrow sleeve by stapling the abdomen and removing the curved part of the stomach. The part of the stomach that is removed produces the hunger hormone ghrelin, so the surgery leaves you feeling less hungry and leads to impressive weight loss.
After surgery, patients will be limited to sugar-free, noncarbonated liquids for the first seven days, then pureed foods for three weeks, and finally to regular foods about four weeks after surgery. Patients are encouraged to take a multivitamin twice a day, a calcium supplement once a day, and a vitamin B-12 injection once a month for life. In addition to diet and supplement changes, patients will also need to attend regular medical follow-ups to ensure everything is working properly.
Some of the common side effects of gastric sleeve surgery include body aches, fatigue, feeling cold, dry skin, hair thinning, and mood changes.
For those looking to lose significant weight without major invasive surgery, a gastric balloon may be the ideal solution. A gastric balloon is a highly safe and effective way to reduce appetite and regain control of body weight. During the gastric balloon procedure, a medical balloon is filled with saline until it is about the size of a grapefruit. The entire process is typically under an hour, and after six months, the balloon is removed from the stomach.
Following the gastric balloon procedure, patients are relegated to water, herbal tea, fruit juice, nonfat milk, and decaf coffee with no carbonation, alcohol, or caffeine. After the first week, soft, pureed foods are permitted. After two to three weeks, patients can slowly introduce more foods, spread out into four to six meals per day. Foods like bread and pasta are not recommended because they can stick to the balloon. Heartburn and reflux are common with gastric balloons.
If you have tried every diet and workout plan under the sun and are still unable to lose weight, you may be a good candidate for a gastric band. A gastric band limits the amount of food the stomach can comfortably hold at a time for increased portion control and significant weight loss. Gastric banding is a type of weight loss surgery involving a silicone band around the upper part of the stomach to decrease stomach size and reduce food intake. One of the main benefits of lap bands is that the surgery does not involve cutting or stapling inside the belly.
After the lap band is placed, you will need to stick to clear liquids. As with a gastric sleeve and gastric balloon, you can slowly start introducing soft foods after the first week of recovery and more diverse foods in the following weeks.
One of the main differentiators between other weight-loss surgeries and gastric bands is that the band can be adjusted over time. Tightening the band can enhance weight loss, especially if there is a plateau phase in weight loss, and loosening the band can be performed if weight loss is too rapid or causing nausea.
Finally, the most well-known weight loss surgery option is gastric bypass. Gastric bypass is a weight loss procedure that involves reducing the size of the stomach by 95% and redirecting the flow of food into the lower small intestine. Benefits of this procedure include significant restriction during meals and a reduction in the absorption of calories from food. This surgery has been proven safe and effective and is suited for those with a BMI of over 35 who have serious weight-related health problems.
Recovery from your gastric bypass surgery takes about three to six weeks. Over six weeks, patients will slowly transition from a strict liquid diet to soft foods and solid foods. Supplements like multivitamins, calcium, vitamin D, iron, vitamin C, and vitamin B12 are encouraged to avoid malnutrition. In addition to diet supplementation, patients should aim to stay hydrated and walk as much as possible, reserving strenuous activity for six weeks after surgery. Many patients experience fatigue, body aches, dry skin, hair thinning and loss, feeling cold, and mood changes following surgery.
Remember, each patient is different and will recover at different speeds following weight loss procedures. Recovery will also vary greatly depending on which type of procedure was performed. Above all, be patient with yourself, adhere to your physician’s recovery guidelines, and commit to a healthy lifestyle for the remainder of your life; surgery is just a launching pad.
If you are clinically obese, bariatric or weight-loss surgery may prove to be the best medical option for you to take your health back. Let the team at Whole Health Weight Loss Institute help you reclaim your health and quality of life.