Being overweight can have all sorts of side-effects. There are lots of well-advertised health risks associated, like heart attacks and strokes, but it can affect you in other ways too. It can cause your joints to hurt, make it difficult to get pregnant, or drag down your self-confidence and make you miserable.
If you’ve been trying to lose weight but struggling using the conventional methods of diet and exercise, weight loss (otherwise known as ‘bariatric’) surgery could be an option.
There are different types of weight loss surgery and BMI Healthcare have written this guide to explain how they work. Some options are usually only recommended for people with a body mass index over 40, or 35 if you have certain medical conditions.
Some procedures are more extreme than others, and your doctor can talk you through which options are available for you based on your current health.
Option 1: Gastric Balloon
Gastric balloon surgery is temporary. A soft, silicon balloon is inserted into your stomach through your gullet and filled with sterile saline. By partially filling your stomach, the balloon will make you feel less hungry, and also feel fuller much sooner whenever you eat. As a consequence, you should lose weight because you’re eating less. The balloon is removed after six months.
While the balloon is in your stomach you’ll undergo a healthy eating and drinking programme, in which dieticians and nurses will teach you about how to maintain a healthier lifestyle after the balloon is removed. After it is removed, you could regain weight if you allow your new diet and exercise regime to slip, but help and support is on hand to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Option 2: Gastric Band
With gastric band surgery, an inflatable band is placed around your stomach to (not quite completely) divide it into two parts. When you eat, your stomach will be tricked into thinking you’re full much sooner. Your food will then pass into the second, larger part of your stomach and continue through your gut as normal. The band isn’t inflated until you’ve recovered from the surgery, and can be adjusted to change the size of the opening into the lower part of the stomach.
If you lose weight successfully and are confident about keeping it off, the procedure can be reversed and you will be able to eat full-sized meals again.
Option 3: Banded Gastric Band
If your BMI is over 40 and you are at least 100lbs overweight, you may be considered for banded gastric band surgery, in which the stomach is divided into two parts using an elasticated band. Your gut is re-routed to connect it to the new, smaller stomach, and an additional ring is placed between the new stomach and the gut to prevent it from stretching – and you from regaining weight. As with gastric band surgery, this is reversible.
Option 4: Gastric Bypass
During gastric bypass surgery, a stapler is used to divide your stomach into two parts, leaving you with just a small, pouch-sized stomach. Your gut is then re-routed and connected to this small, remaining part. Because you eat much less than before and you’re bypassing part of your bowel, you’ll lose a significant amount of weight very quickly.
It’s a major procedure with permanent effects and lots of risks associated. You won’t be able to eat a full-sized meal ever again, and will need to take nutritional supplements for the rest of your life. A gastric bypass is therefore only recommended for a small number of patients.
Option 5: Sleeve gastrectomy / ‘Gastric Sleeve’
When you undergo a sleeve gastrectomy, about 75% of your stomach is removed, turning it from something that looks like a bag into something that looks like a sleeve. Aside from this, everything else remains unchanged, so your stomach continues to function in the way it used to – you’ll just feel fuller much sooner.
As a result, there are fewer side-effects and complications associated with gastric sleeve operations than with a gastric bypass. You can lose weight quickly, although it’s possible your stomach will stretch again in future if you overeat. This means you could regain weight in future if you don’t permanently change your lifestyle.
Life after surgery
Weight loss surgery is usually a last resort for those people who cannot lose weight through diet and exercise. To keep the weight off, you’ll need to change what you eat, stop smoking and, if possible, start exercising.
Some options can have a profound and permanent impact on your day-to-day lifestyle, so think carefully about how this will make you feel. If you have a gastric bypass, for instance, this will make going out for a meal with your family or friends extremely challenging.
Rapid weight loss resulting from surgery can also leave you with sagging or excess skin that requires more operations to remove. These additional surgeries can leave you with large and visible scars, so you should take this into account.
Find out more about weight loss surgery options here, or you can make an online enquiry and a member of the BMI Healthcare team will be in touch.