November 30, 2004

Is Your Stomach In Knots About Gastric Bypass?

With the obesity epidemic hitting over half of American adults today, many overweight individuals have found weight loss success after undergoing gastric bypass or bariatric surgery, colloquially known as “stomach stapling.” But it is not necessarily an option for everyone. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering this procedure.

The Basics:

Gastric bypass surgery reduces the size of the stomach by surgically “stapling” most of it off. So instead of the stomach being able to hold 50-80 ounces of food, its capacity is reduced to about 1-5 ounces. If patients eat larger quantities of food than recommended, they are likely to experience vomiting, nausea, pain, etc. People who undergo gastric bypass surgery need to learn to eat smaller amounts of food more slowly, which can lead to rapid weight loss.

Certain criteria must be met for a patient to be eligible for the surgery, such as being a certain number of pounds overweight, having tried losing weight other ways unsuccessfully, and having a body mass index (BMI) of 35-40.

Intense nutritional counseling should play a large role in the preparation for gastric bypass surgery, as well as the follow-up post-surgery. Patients will need to be counseled on the appropriate diet to follow, first a liquid diet for about a month, gradually progressing to include soft foods and finally small amounts of solid foods again. Behavior modification is NECESSARY to help the patient develop the healthy eating behaviors that will ensure the weight lost stays off.


Unfortunately, this procedure is not without complications and risks, including hernia, infection, gallstones, leakage of stomach contents into the abdomen, and in rare cases, death. The digestive process of food is altered, increasing the risk of nutritional deficiencies such as anemia or osteoporosis. Plus, there are cases where patients have not been successful in maintaining their weight loss in the long run.

The bottom line is, as with any type of weight loss program, gastric bypass surgery is NOT an answer for everyone. Be sure to discuss the possible risks and benefits with your doctor at length to determine if gastric bypass surgery is the right option for you.