Is bariatric surgery the solution to morbidly obese persons? To help us understand this medical procedure, it is important to first define bariatric surgery and also shed more light on who is eligible for the procedure. In layman’s language, it is a medical procedure that involves making changes to your digestive system to help you lose weight. Doctors recommend bariatric surgery when diet and exercise haven’t worked in a bid to lose weight or when one has serious health problems because of weight.
Oftentimes, most people mistakenly associate Bariatric Surgery with plastic surgery. However, this could not be further from the truth because unlike plastic or cosmetic surgery which involves various procedures that enhance the body for cosmetic reasons, Bariatric Surgery is purely done for health reasons.
Take for instance an obese person who’s tried losing weight using different diets, exercise, slimming pills, and sometimes even injections but has not managed to lose weight. Or when they are lucky to lose a few kilos, it all comes back so you feel like giving up and never wanting to see the inside of a gym again. “Hitting the gym can be a tall order when you weigh over 120kg as the body can barely sustain the strenuous work-outs due to exhaustion,” explains Dr. Theophilus Wangata, The Senior Medical Consultant at Viva Serenity. “The extra weight also causes the body to tire fast due to exhaustion and breathing is also laborious,” he adds.
Most people who are obese (the obese range starts from 30), usually resign to their fate as they get tired of trying other methods of losing weight. Unfortunately, most continue to seek solace in food, which only serves to pile the kilos. “The stomach continues to crave for more food as it grows with your body size, which explains the insatiable desire for more food,” notes Dr. Wangata. At this point, the body has re-adjusted to this new norm and can only be corrected through surgery, says Dr. Wangata. In addition, obesity is linked to various medical conditions the common ones being; diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, gastric reflux, and certain cancers like breast and prostate and gastric reflux among others. Obese people, Dr. Wangata says are also more likely to have fertility issues as a result of hormonal imbalances.
“When a person exceeds a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 35, they become a candidate for Bariatric Surgery. In some cases where the BMI is slightly lower than 35 but the person has obesity-related health problems, we also advise them to have the procedure,” explains Dr. Wangata. Bariatrics is the branch of medicine, which deals with the causes of obesity, its prevention, and how to treat obesity. Bariatric Surgery, therefore, is introducing the surgical angle in weight loss. “Bariatric Surgery has various procedures, which include among others, the gastric sleeve and gastric balloon. The most prevalent procedure though is the mini-gastric bypass, which involves reducing the size of the stomach and bypassing a part of the small intestines,” explains Dr. Wangata.
Due to the decreased stomach size, the patient naturally eats less food, which also means that less food is absorbed in the body. But what risks are involved in Bariatric Surgery one wonders? “Just like every other medical procedure, there is always a risk involved. However, the risk in Bariatric Surgery has been greatly minimized as the surgeries are done with small incisions using minimally invasive keyhole surgical techniques (laparoscopic and robotic surgery),” Dr. Wangata explains. Further, besides healing faster, the small incisions reduce the risk of losing too much blood, he adds.
Does the weight loss occur immediately after the procedure, one wonders? “No it does not,” says Dr. Wangata. “Weight loss after surgery occurs in phases, where after the first month, an individual losses about 10 percent of their total weight. The weight loss is then gradual over a period of roughly one to one and a half years to attain the desired weight, he says.
Weight loss comes with a wealth of advantages among them a general sense of well-being. Also, since most obese people are anti-social due to low self-esteem and lack of body confidence, losing weight makes them more confident and they can now comfortably chase their dreams. Their social lives are transformed as they can now interact with their peers without the fear of rejection or being the target of mean jokes. Depression, which plagues a good number of obese people also lifts with time when they lose weight. In addition, they also reduce their chances of dying from a heart attack or the risk of strokes and other lifestyle diseases and can now sleep better without sleep apnea, which dogs most obese people.