What Is Gastric Bypass Surgery?

Gastric bypass surgery (also referred to as Roux-en-Y gastric bypass) is often offered as an alternative approach to weight loss, but surgery can a scary thing if you do not know what you are getting into.

What is it?

A gastric bypass surgery is the creation of a small pouch made from the stomach. By connecting this pouch to the middle section of the small intestine, any ingested food bypasses the stomach, as well as the first part of the small intestine. With a smaller stomach, you will feel fuller much quicker, lowering the desire to eat large amounts of food. The pouch tends to be about the size of a walnut. Not only does it diminish food cravings, but the small pouch also prevents the absorption of increased calories that you would otherwise get. These benefits have a long-term impact on a person’s journey to weight loss.

The surgery itself involves creating an incision (or multiple small incisions) in the abdomen. With the removal of a large portion of the stomach to make the pouch, the surgery is not reversible.

Why you may need it

A gastric bypass is often recommended when other weight loss options have been tried and failed; attempts such medicine, exercise, and dieting may have resulted in little to no change in weight. Other considerations:

  • Having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
  • A BMI of 35 or higher with a life-threatening weight-related issue; these issues could be but are not limited to: type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular diseases, stroke and obstructive sleep apnea

Potential complications

Surgery is not without risk with blood clots a common complication. Your doctor will prevent this by prescribing anticoagulants. The incision itself could become infected, so it is important to monitor for redness, swelling, heat at the site and an increased temperature. With gastric bypass surgery specifically, you could be at risk for poor nutrition, as your body is no longer absorbing as many nutrients. This risk can be prevented with certain vitamin and mineral supplements.

Life post-surgery

Immediately following the surgery, the abdominal area may be sore and painful, requiring pain medication. You will be restricted to a fluid diet. This is an important restriction to follow as your digestive system heals. You will soon be able to consume small amounts of soft food and eventually re-introduce solid foods into your diet as tolerated.

Some common symptoms with the surgery involve discomfort, nausea and vomiting.

Your doctor will more than likely refer you to a dietitian, and as your body heals, exercise will also need to be introduced back to your daily regime. It is important to eat healthy; otherwise, the effects of the gastric bypass surgery will not help in any form of weight loss. While gastric bypass surgery can be an effective tool for weight loss, it is not an instant fix and requires diligence when it comes to your personal health.

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