How Does Weight Loss Surgery Work?
There isn’t just one operation. There are several kinds of these metabolic and bariatric surgeries, as doctors call them. They work in one of the following ways:
Limit how much food your stomach can hold, so you eat less and lose weight.
Stop your digestive system from absorbing some of the calories and nutrients in the foods you eat.
Use both of the above methods.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Your doctor will screen you care to check that you are physically and mentally ready for the surgery, as well as prepared to commit to the big changes needed to keep the pounds off. You’ll discuss the risks and benefits of the procedure you’re considering. Your doctor may ask you to do some things before the surgery, such as quit smoking, lose some weight, and make sure your blood sugar is under control.
Preparing for Surgery
Your doctor will tell you exactly what you need to do. You’ll avoid aspirin or any products that have it, and herbal supplements, 1 week before your operation. You’ll need to eat or drink only clear liquids for 24-48 hours beforehand. You’ll get general anesthesia during the surgery.
After the Procedure
No matter the type of operation you have, your surgeon will close any cuts with surgical stitches or staples. You’ll stay in the hospital for a short time to make sure you’re OK. You’ll take pain medications and your doctor will closely watch you for any problems, like low blood sugar, dehydration, or blood clots.
Eating After Weight Loss Surgery
You’ll be on a liquid diet at first. After a few weeks, you can eat solid foods. You’ll work closely with a nutritionist who’s familiar with weight loss surgery to make an eating plan. You may not be able to eat what you did before. You must eat smaller portions and fewer calories. You’ll need to make sure you get enough nutrients, which may mean taking supplements.
How Much Weight Will You Lose?
Weight loss may be dramatic in some cases — as much as a pound a day in the first 3 months. Combination surgery, which causes malabsorption and shrinks the stomach, leads to more weight loss than restriction-only operations. Strictly malabsorptive procedures cause the most weight loss but can make it hard to get the nutrients you need.
Other Health Benefits
If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or other weight-related health problems, they may get better or go away after your surgery. Work with your doctor to adjust any medications you take for those conditions. Weight loss also can help arthritis, joint pain, or sleep apnea. You may also find it easier to be physically active.
Lifestyle Changes After Surgery
It takes a long-term commitment to make the results last and keep the pounds off. So you must make lifestyle changes you can live with forever. You’ll need to eat many small meals throughout the day, and make good nutrition and exercise into daily habits.
Risks of Surgery
All operations carry some risk. For weight loss surgery, there is a small risk for serious complications. People most at risk are those who are older, have a history of deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots), and are very obese. The best way to avoid complications is to go to all your follow-up visits and stick to your prescribed diet and lifestyle plan.
Complications After Surgery
People who’ve had weight loss surgery are at risk for problems such as:
Gallstones form weight loss
Not getting enough nutrients
Problems with the gastric band or sleeve (if you got one of those procedures)
In areas where you lost weight, your skin may sag or be loose. You may want to consider plastic surgery to take up that extra skin, but you might need to wait at least 18 months to do that. Also, some health insurance policies don’t cover it.
Gastric bypass surgery also may cause food and drinks to move too quickly through your small intestine. Symptoms include nausea, weakness, sweating, faintness, and, sometimes, diarrhea after you eat. You may also not be able to eat sweets without feeling very weak. To avoid these problems, follow your nutritionist’s advice. Tell your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
Supplements for Low Nutrient Levels
After malabsorptive weight loss surgery, many people don’t absorb vitamins A, D, E, K, B-12, iron, copper, calcium, and other nutrients, as well as they, used to. Supplements can help you get what your body needs and help prevent conditions like anemia and osteoporosis. Ask your doctor which ones you should take. You will need to have labs done routinely to be sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Adjusting to Your New Life
You may feel many different emotions after weight loss surgery. You may be happy or excited as you begin to lose weight. And you may also feel overwhelmed or frustrated by the changes that you have to make in your diet, activity, and lifestyle.
These ups and downs are normal. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns or questions as you get used to your new body