When Is Bariatric Surgery Necessary?

When Is Bariatric Surgery Necessary

Obesity is one of the great health issues of our time, beginning to transcend the barriers of race, class, and even country to become a growing health crisis. On top of the correlation between obesity and a variety of different health issues, it is also creating a financial crunch on the healthcare industry that could lead to all types of other issues down the line.

One of the best ways to try and combat obesity is not let it take hold in the first place by eating well and keeping a regular exercise regimen. But the fact of the matter is that this isn’t a reality for everyone.

Bariatric surgery has become a potential way to help those with extreme obesity reach some sort of normalcy-but it isn’t for everyone.

Who Needs This Surgery

Bariatric surgery causes weight loss indirectly, though it is quite a dramatic procedure. This class of surgeries reduces the amount of food the stomach can hold. There are several different options to choose from:

Gastric Bypass:

This procedure is the signature weight loss surgery practice, and take place with two main procedures. First, a small stomach pouch is created by dividing it from the rest of the stomach. Then, the first portion of the small intestine is divided.

The bottom end of the divided small intestine is brought up and connected to the small stomach pouch that was completed earlier. Finally, the top portion of that divided small intestine is attached to the rest of the intestine further down.

This is done so stomach acids and digestive enzymes from those passed portions will mix with the food. By rerouting the path the food takes, gastric bypass surgery changes gut hormones, inducing satiety.

Sleeve Gastrectomy:

This procedure actually removes a large portion of the stomach outright rather than simply rerouting the way food takes. This has a similar impact to the gastric bypass, but it cannot be reversed, and there is potential for vitamin deficiencies in the long term.

There are other options as well, including the gastric band and biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch. These all differ in terms of impact, duration of recovery, and other factors, but all work towards the same goals, drastically altering the way the body processes food with the goals of weight loss.

Only those in dire need should consider this option. In general, there are three main characteristics that people should have before even thinking about bariatric surgery.

  • Having a BMI ≥ 40, or more than 100 pounds overweight.
  • Having a BMI ≥35 and at least one or more obesity-related co-morbidities. These include type II diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea and other respiratory disorders, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, osteoarthritis, lipid abnormalities, gastrointestinal disorders, or heart disease.
  • Inability to achieve a healthy weight loss sustained for a period of time with prior weight loss efforts. This would generally need to include serious exercise and dieting with no results, not trying for a short period and giving up. A nutritionist is a good asset here to make sure you’re taking the right path.

Weighing Your Options

Bariatric surgery is notable in that it is not an instant fix for those who are obese, nor is it for every single person with obesity. Not only do you want to find a skilled and experienced surgeon, you are also going to be working with a healthcare team to monitor your diet, exercise, and general health in the period after the surgery.

Some things you may need to consider that you didn’t think about at first are mental health concerns.  Studies have shown higher rates of suicide in people who have done weight loss surgery, which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. What you want is a careful evaluation of your history and progress, especially if you have past mental health issues.

It’s important to also note that while this can help you lose weight, you need to pay extra attention to your health in certain other areas after your surgery. For example, a smaller stomach means a smaller diet, which means you need to work extra hard to get all the nutrients you need in those smaller portions.

This is a reason why many people need added vitamins after bariatric surgery to help meet those needs.

Overall, bariatric surgery can be effective, but it is a dramatic solution to a dramatic health problem. This requires doing the research and respecting the recovery process, in order to see proper results and avoid potential complications.

Editorial Team
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