If you're very overweight and can't lose pounds with a healthy diet and exercise, weight loss surgery might be an option for you. The surgery is usually for those with a body mass index (BMI) above 40 or those with a BMI of 35 or greater with serious co-morbidities. In general, this means men who are more than 100 pounds overweight and women who are more than 80 pounds overweight.
Weight loss, or bariatric, surgery, can promote weight loss by limiting the amount of food your stomach can hold, limiting calorie and nutrient absorption, or both. These operations restrict food intake by making the stomach smaller and delaying the emptying of food from the stomach, causing the person to feel fuller faster. These restrictive operations can lead to weight loss in almost all patients.
Gastric bypass surgeries are restrictive operations that construct a pathway from the stomach to the small intestine to avoid nutrient and caloric absorption. These operations produce more weight loss than restriction operations. In fact, patients who have bypass operations generally lose two-thirds of their excess weight within two years of the surgery.
Many of the patients’ obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes or sleep apnea, improve after the surgery. Bariatric surgery can also provide long-term, consistent weight loss when accompanied with a few lifestyle changes.
As with any surgery, there are possible risks with weight loss surgery. A common risk of restrictive operations is vomiting when food is not chewed well and stretches the stomach size. Gastric bypass surgeries may cause “dumping syndrome,” whereby stomach contents move too quickly through the small intestine producing symptoms like nausea, weakness, sweating or diarrhea. There is the potential for small, treatable complications such as abdominal hernias, gallstones and nutritional deficiencies after weight loss surgery.