Gastric Bypass Surgery and If You Qualify

by Nancy

Gastric Bypass surgery is a generic term for bariatric surgery. With a bariatric procedure either the stomach’s capacity is reduced or the body’s ability to absorb nutrients is affected. Depending on each individual’s situation one or both procedures may be utilized. Gastric Bypass surgery is often indicated when your body mass index (BMI) is so high as to cause health concerns. Your BMI is considered concerning when you are too heavy for your height and age.  Many free online calculators can help you determine what your BMI is prior to speaking to your doctor about the possibility of gastric bypass for weight loss.

Keep in mind that bariatric surgery is not recommended for everyone, even if their BMI is high. This caution is because this type of surgery is considered major surgery and there are side effects and potential risks associated with it. This is why most physicians evaluate if you are a good candidate for this type of surgery before agreeing to perform it.  If you have been considering gastric bypass surgery, this quick overview can help you decide if you would meet the qualifications necessary to receive the procedure.

What is gastric bypass surgery?

As its name suggests, gastric bypass surgery ‘bypasses’ a portion of your digestive system. A physician may recommend the procedure if your health may be compromised as a result of obesity. Untreated you could suffer from diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and even a stroke.

When you receive this gastric ‘sleeve’ procedure your stomach is reduced in size, so you feel full even when eating less food. The food ‘bypasses’ a portion of your stomach and small intestine that is responsible for food and nutrient absorption. This part of your stomach and intestines that are not involved in food absorption still continues to produce necessary enzymes and acids to help in the digestion of your food.

When you go for your surgery the surgeon creates a new smaller stomach, often called a pouch. This connects to your small intestine directly. The surgeon removes up to 80% of your original stomach. A gastric bypass surgery should not be confused with a lap band procedure. In that type of procedure an elastic band is placed across the top portion of your stomach, effectively reducing the amount of your stomach that can hold food. Lap bands are reversible, gastric bypass is permanent.

Reasons to Get Bypass Surgery

If your BMI is a 40 or higher your physician may recommend gastric bypass as a way to reduce your obesity. This suggestion is never made lightly and doctors recommend the surgery only after all other possibilities have been exhausted. Many reasons exist as to why you may want to get a bypass surgery, including a high BMI, you already have a medical condition arising from obesity, and weight loss attempts have failed.

With a BMI of 40 or higher the chances are good you are already suffering from weight related health concerns. If none have occurred yet, understand that left untreated obesity can cause kidney and liver diseases, heart attacks and heart disease as well as sleep apnea. Your doctor may not suggest gastric bypass if you already have conditions that do not allow safe use of anesthesia, or a blood clotting disorder.

Reasons to get bypass surgery should not merely include wanting to look nice in your clothing, or as a quick way to lose weight. In general, if those are your only reasons very few physicians will perform the procedure. Part of the qualification process is your mental and emotional health, the support network you have in place, and your family history, among others.

What to Expect from a Gastric Bypass Procedure

Most believe that gastric sleeve bypass surgery automatically makes you lose weight. It makes it easier to do, but it is not a quick fix. You must be willing to embrace new lifestyle changes and be motivated to learn a new way of eating. If eating patterns have been problematic in the past you can expect these will be addressed by a nutritionist after your surgery. It is possible to gain weight after this surgery, even with the reduced stomach capacity.

For most who undergo this procedure there is a 60% reduction in extra weight if guidelines are followed. With such a significant reduction in weight you may see a drastic improvement if you have type 2 diabetes or sleep apnea.

After surgery expect to stay at least a couple of days post-surgery in the hospital. The surgery, itself, is minimally invasive in that the surgeon does the surgery laparoscopically. Most resume normal activities in around a month after surgery. The following side effects may be experienced, and often do go away over time:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • General weakness
  • Gallstones
  • Constipation
  • Sagging skin

You must also expect to make lifestyle changes. Since your stomach is smaller you must eat smaller, more frequent meals in order to get the nutrients you need. Large meals will cause you severe distress and should be avoided at all costs. Your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients it needs is impacted so you must be prepared to take supplements in order to remain healthy. Most surgeons recommend a nutritionist so you can learn how to eat, and may also recommend a physical therapist to assist you in developing a healthy exercise routine to help you keep the weight off.

Another aspect of gastric bypass surgery is the way others may react to your sudden weight loss. For those who are close to you it may be a cause for celebration as they see it as a positive change. However, be prepared for others to be highly judgmental if you share that you have had the procedure performed. Gastric bypass surgery is still misunderstood by the general public and it may fall to you to educate those who are less informed.