What are the Potential Side Effects of Weight Loss Surgery?
On top of degrading your self-esteem, obesity poses many health risks to the affected individual. It causes cardiopulmonary conditions like diabetes type 2, hypertension and heart attack. That being the case, most obese people resort to weight loss surgeries when all other forms of weight loss methods such as exercise and dieting have failed. However, even as you decide to have bariatric surgery, it is important that you first learn all the possible side effects associated with these types of surgeries. The side effects vary depending on the type of surgery you have but this article focuses on the most common ones across the board.
- Food Intolerance
A patient has to undergo nutritional counseling sometime before the surgery, usually 6 months before the surgery. This counseling extends during and after the surgery and is aimed at informing the patient about the foods they should and should not take. This is because weight loss surgeries work by limiting the amount of food you consume, hence the normal way your digestive system functions is altered. This makes the body develop intolerance to certain foods, especially hard foods.
Most bariatric surgeries work by inhibiting the amount of food intake while some like gastric bypass reduce the amount of calories absorbed into the body, leading to weight loss. In the process of limiting the amount of calories absorbed by the body, certain vital nutrients may not find their way into the body. The eventual effect is that you may experience nutrient deficiency conditions such as anemia. This side effect is usually reversed by taking multivitamin pills.
- Dumping Syndrome
Dumping syndrome is the condition that occurs when food moves from the stomach into the small intestine so fast. This is a common side effect with most bariatric surgeries and fortunately, most patients usually can tell what caused it. Dumping syndrome can make you experience diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This effect is reversed by taking food in small portions and chewing it thoroughly until it feels like soft liquid in the mouth.
- Bowel Infections
The stomach has several bacteria and enzymes that help in the digestion of food. After bariatric surgeries that involve making incisions in the stomach and the small intestines, a fresh wound is left in place. The wound may sometimes go back to bleeding when you take hard foods or may face another form of complication. Should you notice any spots of blood in urine and stool, you should contact your surgeon immediately since this could be a sign of the wound bleeding. At times, bacteria in the stomach may attack the wound, leading to infections. Hernias and abdominal cramps are signs of bowel infections and should never be ignored. Fortunately, your surgeon can prescribe antibiotics to treat bowel infections.
Gallstones are foods rolled into small balls found in the walls of the stomach as well as those of the small intestines. They are risky since they inhibit the smooth flow of food from the stomach into the small intestines. They are caused by a drastic weight loss, meaning that 50% of bariatric surgery patients will experience this side effect. The common signs and symptoms of gallstones include abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. If the stones are causing you some discomfort, the surgeon may decide to remove your gall bladder through surgery.
- Nausea, Vomiting, and Hernia
Most people after the surgery are tempted to jump to their previous menus and way of eating, forgetting the digestive system has adjusted to a different way of absorbing food. Doing this may lead to a condition known as dumping syndrome because food moves from the stomach into the small intestines so quickly. Alternatively, this may make you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and hernias. These side effects are reversed by sticking to the right dietary guidelines prescribed to you by your nutritionist. During the first days after the surgery, you are advised to take liquid foods followed by soft liquids after a week or two. In the 5th week or so, you can experiment with soft foods and finally hard foods.
Most side effects of bariatric surgery are digestion-related. This, therefore, means that by sticking to your surgeon and nutritionist’s advice, you will keep most of these side effects at bay. Most importantly, be sure to vet your surgeon by checking their license of operation and patient reviews and ratings. This is important because if you fell into the hands of a quack, serious complications and death are imminent.
Dr. Saniea F. Majid, MD, FACS, FASMBS, is our founder, director, and award-winning surgeon with more than 10 years of experience treating patients. She is the President of the New Jersey state chapter of ASMBS, a member of the Board of Directors at New Jersey Doctor-Patient Alliance, and Chair of the Post Operative Weight Recurrence Task Force (POWER). Dr. Majid has devoted her life to helping people like you lose weight and transform their lives and not only started and directed the Metabolic and Bariatric Center at Saint Michaels Medical Center but also achieved the National Center of Excellence. Dr. Majid is one of only three bariatric doctors and surgeons featured in the 2023 Healthy Living magazine published by NJ Top Docs. She is also a regular guest speaker for the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) where she trains bariatric surgeons on the latest methods and techniques.