The Problem with Weight Loss through Surgery

I am often asked this question – Why not lose weight through surgery?

The answer is more complicated than meets the eye. It takes a good understanding of the risks involved and the end goal for patients to make informed choices.

Surgical procedures started becoming popular in the early 2000’s for a ‘quickie’ weight loss. Many people figured out that it is better to lose weight than to face conditions such as Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiac Problems. While this is true, it is important to consider all factors before opting to go under the knife. Most obese people generally get there due to poor diets, and a lack of an ability to resist food. This is often compounded by hormonal and mental conditions that reduce a person’s control of their food intake.

Procedures such as gastric sleeve and gastric bypass (bariatric procedures) are popular considerations for weight loss. They work on reducing the volume and surface area of your stomach and bypassing much of the small intestine. This works two fold. It limits the quantity of food a person can eat, and reduces the absorption of nutrients in the stomach and intestine.

Risks and Problems

The results of bariatric surgery are quite drastic. Often, patients mistake this drastic effect to them having to make no effort in terms of weight loss. Barring any complications (which are quite frequent), the side effects of this procedure are pronounced over the long term. These include obstruction of the bowel, dumping syndrome, malnutrition, and in some rare cases, death. In the short term, the patient may suffer from leaks within the gastro-intestinal system, blood clots, and adverse immediate reactions to the trauma of undergoing surgery. This leads to a more significant question:

Is it worth it?

Bariatric procedures require people to make changes with their lifestyle. A few of these changes would be forced – such as the volume of food one can consume. Most changes will remain voluntary – such as the quality and nutritional value of food consumed.

Further, post-surgery, patients are required to follow a strict 12 to 16 week diet. This ensures that the stomach heals properly and adjusts to its now smaller size. This period of dieting can be grueling, and failure to follow the diet can result in many complications which can have fatal consequences.

Ironically, 12 to 16 weeks is exactly how long it takes to readjust lifestyle and make changes to diets. Most patients are able to achieve this under the guidance of a functional doctor and coach. They are thus able to implement lifestyle changes that are effective, safe, and have the same net effect as going under the knife, without any of the side effects. This period gives patients a good time to experiment dietary changes, avoid a lengthy stay in hospital, slowly and surely change their habits, discuss difficult areas with their coach, and figure out good alternatives to ingredients and cooking methods to incorporate into their daily lives. It also ensures that patients do not have issues with digestion of critical nutrients. Surgery reduces the surface area available for digestion and therefore patients require more rigorous supplementation.

Good health is a choice rather than an imposition. The choice to take health into your own hands is one that you can succeed at given the right guidance and will power.

About the Author Dr. Shenal