For people who are struggling with morbid obesity, bariatric surgery and weight loss may be their best chance at improving their overall health. Weight loss surgery involves one of several procedures designed to reduce the size of a person's stomach or cause malabsorption of food. Both mechanisms prevent the body from gaining more weight and will hopefully trigger weight loss.
Common bariatric surgery procedures include stomach stapling, gastric bypass, and the newer laparoscopic gastric banding technique. Individuals seeking bariatric surgery and weight loss must typically complete a long preparation period that includes a psychological evaluation, nutritional counseling, and a medically supervised weight loss diet. If the individual is unable to lose weight through dieting and is judged by medical and mental health professionals to be suitable for weight loss surgery, he or she may choose to undergo the procedure.
In the stomach stapling or adjustable gastric banding procedures, the stomach of the patient is significantly reduced in size. The reduced stomach capacity limits the amount of food that a person can consume, thus reducing caloric intake. In a gastric bypass, stomach capacity is reduced and the intestines are rerouted so as to make it more difficult for the patient to absorb calories. In both cases, calorie restriction can result in significant weight loss.
These restrictions on food consumption and nutrient absorption can result in malnutrition. Even those individuals who clearly benefit from bariatric surgery and weight loss will have to take especial care for the rest of their lives to prevent medical conditions caused by nutritional deficiencies. Individuals who lose weight through bariatric surgery may need to take nutritional supplements every day, a regimen that may need to be adjusted over time if they begin to develop nutrition-related medical problems.
Surgical weight loss is not, as some people presume, an easy way of coping with eating disorders and severe obesity. For one thing, bariatric surgery and weight loss do not always go hand in hand, at least on a permanent basis. Individuals who undergo weight-loss surgery must make permanent dietary and lifestyle changes. If they don't, eventually their stomachs can expand and they may regain much of the weight that they lost. In addition, bariatric surgery and weight loss can have some significant side effects that can greatly affect an individual's health. Such individuals, along with their doctors, will have to decide if the risks of weight loss surgery outweigh the risks of remaining morbidly obese.