12 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Gastric Bypass Surgery
- Last updated: 6 months ago
Diet and exercise are optimal for losing weight, but sometimes, no matter how diligent a person is, they just aren't enough. When it comes to significant weight loss, the best option to facilitate the process is often surgery like a gastric bypass. Diet and exercise are still a vital part of the process. They just get a boost from a procedure designed to help you eliminate up to 80% of your excess weight.
The decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery is not one you should take lightly. It can be a lengthy process, especially to get insurance approval. Before you begin, here are some tips from RealSelf doctors and community members that might help you on your way.
1. Gastric bypass is not a quick fix.
Gastric bypass has proven to be an effective weight loss solution for many people, but it’s not a “get out of jail free” card. You still have a lot of work to do before and after surgery. That includes incorporating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding things like smoking and alcohol.
It is also a lifetime commitment. You will need checkups with your doctor. You’ll also need to take a vitamin supplement for the rest of your life, according to New York bariatric surgeon Dr. Shawn Garber in a RealSelf guide.
2. Weight gain is possible, even after having a gastric bypass.
Gastric bypass surgery can help you lose weight, but if you don’t follow the diet, exercise, and nutrition guidelines from your doctor, you could gain weight after the procedure.
“Bariatric surgery is a tool and not a cure for obesity, and you need to work with it to get the best results,” Dr. Garber said in a RealSelf Q&A.
It’s also possible for your newly formed “pouch” to expand over time. Most patients lose the majority of their weight in the first 12-18 months. It will take continued discipline to retain the results from surgery.
3. Dumping syndrome is very common.
Dumping syndrome occurs when undigested food from the stomach rapidly enters the small bowel, which is not prepared to accommodate it. This is then rushed, or dumped, into the intestines with a lot of fluid. It doesn't happen to everyone, but it is very common.
“This can cause discomfort and nausea with the rapid expansion and electrolyte imbalances, or diarrhea due to the undigested materials,” Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Otto Placik said in a RealSelf Q&A.
Dr. Placik said avoiding excessively fatty or high-sugar, simple carbohydrates can help reduce the symptoms.
4. Insurance won't always cover the cost of gastric bypass surgery.
Insurance coverage of your gastric bypass will depend on a number of factors including where you live, your individual insurance plan, and your health needs. Some insurance companies require certain body mass index requirements to approve coverage. Risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea can also impact whether you will receive coverage.
In some cases, insurance companies will ask you to undergo psychological review and even be on a diet plan for months prior to approving your surgery.
Every insurance company works with different guidelines, so you should always check with your insurance company first.
5. Support groups are very useful.
There will likely be ups and downs throughout your process. Joining a support group either prior to, or after surgery, can help you through the good and the bad. Support groups are an excellent way of connecting with people who have been through, or are going through, the same situation.
“The most important things is that you find a group that fits you and that can help you through your harder periods and celebrate with you through the good,” Dr. Garber said.
6. You will still have an appetite and a relationship with food, it will just be different.
Your diet after surgery will likely be drastically different than it was before. You’ll still eat, you’ll just be eating less. With that in mind, what you eat becomes more important. Since you have a limited amount of space in your new smaller stomach, you need to fill it with quality foods. That means food high in protein and low in carbohydrates, sugars, and fats, according to Dr. Garber.
You’ll also need to avoid foods that could not only inhibit your progress, but make you ill. Staying away from fatty, high carbohydrate, and high sugar foods can help you avoid dumping syndrome.
7. You will need to drink a lot of water.
Dr. Garber said it is vitally important to drink enough water after surgery. It’s recommended to drink approximately two liters or roughly 64 ounces of water per day. If you aren’t in the habit of drinking a lot of water, it will be a process to get to where you need to be. Drinking water can enhance your results and can help avoid complications, according to Dominican Republic bariatric surgeon Dr. Pablo Garcia in a RealSelf video.
8. Trying to get enough protein into a post-op diet can be difficult.
Protein will be a major part of your post-operation diet. In a RealSelf Q&A, New York bariatric surgeon Dr. David Buchin said 75% of the post-surgery diet should be protein with the other 25% made up of fruits and vegetables. Getting that much protein in your diet can be a challenge. Protein shakes are one way many people increase their post-surgery protein intake.
9. One day you will plateau.
You can not continue to lose weight forever. Your body may stop losing weight, or plateau, long before you are ready. This is not uncommon. It might be possible to push back your plateau by changing your diet or exercise routine.
In a RealSelf Q&A, Dr. Garber said most patients lose most of their weight in the first 18 months. The average weight loss after surgery is 60-80% of excess weight.
10. Gastric bypass surgery may lead to the need for other surgeries.
Successful gastric bypass surgery results in significant weight loss. By doing so, it can also lead to the need for additional surgery, especially procedures to remove excess skin. That could include a total body lift which can be performed in one to three stages depending on your need, according to Orange County plastic surgeon Dr. Siamak Agha in a RealSelf Q&A.
11. You may be asked to see a psychologist before surgery.
Gastric bypass is a high risk surgery, so doctors and insurance companies will often request potential patients see a psychologist to ensure there are no psychological conditions that could impair a patient's understanding of the operation, the risks, and the benefits.
“This surgery is very high risk, and the overall success of the surgery depends greatly on you and what you do after your recovery,” Atlanta plastic surgeon Dr. Carmen Kavali said in a RealSelf Q&A. “Insurance companies and bariatric surgeons both need to know that you are stable and capable of understanding the gravity of your situation and your responsibility in the success of your procedure.”
12. It is a hard journey, but the highs are better than you could imagine.
Gastric bypass surgery requires a major life change. Not only is it major surgery, but success and your health depend on lifestyle changes both with diet and exercise. Adjusting can be a difficult process, but it can also be a very rewarding one.
“I feel like I have my life back and I wouldn't trade it for anything,” RealSelf member pwoo10 wrote in a review four years after her surgery.
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