What is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric or weight loss surgery is a catch-all term that includes any surgical procedure performed on the stomach or intestines with the goal of inducing significant weight loss. It is one of the only weight loss treatments with a proven track record of success and, for many people, it is the only option for achieving durable weight loss. While any surgical procedure carries some level of risk, bariatric surgery is a safe treatment option for patients struggling to maintain a healthy weight.
Despite its proven safety and efficacy, many patients battling obesity view bariatric surgery as a last resort and not a first-line treatment. However, bariatric surgery is the most effective tool available to clinicians when treating obesity, due to the fact that the procedures work on multiple levels. By shrinking the size of the stomach and changing the anatomy of the digestive tract, bariatric surgery works to decrease hunger, limit food intake, and promote satiety. This in turn leads to rapid, significant weight loss, which has cascading benefits in almost all areas of a patient’s health.
Why Does Bariatric Surgery Work?
Generally speaking, bariatric surgery works via two mechanisms: restriction and malabsorption. Bariatric surgery decreases the volume of a patient’ stomach, thereby restricting the amount of food they can consume (restriction), and/or alters the digestive tract itself to decrease the amount of calories that can be absorbed from digested food (malabsorption). Some procedures only aim to decrease the size of the stomach and some just decrease the length of the digestive tract, but there are some procedures that do combination of both. In any instance, the end result of bariatric surgery is drastic weight loss in a short period of time.
Bariatric surgery also has the ability to manipulate gut hormones in such a way that decreases hunger, promotes satiety, and slows or minimizes the digestion of consumed food. There are also studies that point to the possibility that weight loss surgery “resets” the body’s metabolism, allowing patients to better maintain their new, healthy weight. This hormonal change, coupled with the diet and lifestyle adjustments required to succeed with bariatric surgery, lead these patients to be much more successful with long-term weight loss than those who just use diet and exercise.
Another reason for the massive success of bariatric surgery is that it’s benefits go far beyond simple weight loss. Patients who undergo bariatric surgery can improve or outright reverse the course of a number of obesity-related co-morbidities, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Resolving obesity-related co-morbidities improves overall health, increases longevity and raises quality of life for bariatric surgery patients.
The primary reason that bariatric surgery works when diets don’t is that surgery has the potential to induce weight loss on a mechanical and chemical level, while diets do not. Diet programs work by creating a daily calorie deficit, requiring participants to consume fewer calories than they expend on a daily basis, while bariatric surgery creates a calorie deficit but also goes one step further. By altering gut hormones, resetting the metabolism and limiting the amount of calories that can be absorbed from food, bariatric surgery had hormonal and chemical effects that do not exist with diet and exercise alone. These secondary effects either do not exist with, or are much harder to achieve and maintain using, diet and exercise alone, which gives bariatric surgery the edge when comparing tools for fighting obesity.
While bariatric surgery has been proven to be safe and efficacious, optimal outcomes are not guaranteed. One of the most important factors in determining the success or failure of a given surgery is the patient themselves and the team with which they surround themselves. That is why The Surgery Group takes a comprehensive approach to bariatric surgery that includes a multi-disciplinary team that will provide you with everything you need to find success in your weight loss journey.