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Gastric bypass is a type of bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery) used to help people with morbid obesity lose significant weight. The procedure reduces the size of your stomach, so you cannot eat as much as you used to. It also reroutes, or bypasses, most part of your digestive system, so your body does not absorb as much food.
Gastric bypass is one of the most successful bariatric surgery for sustained, long-term weight loss. Besides aiding dramatic weight-loss, it may also improve or resolve weight-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, obstructive sleep apnea, and infertility.
While gastric bypass is an effective way to lose weight and reduce the risk of weight-related problems, not everyone who is severely overweight can have it. The procedure is generally an option for you if your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher, or your BMI is between 35 and 39.9, but you have a serious weight-related disease. Since gastric bypass is a major and irreversible surgery that involves permanent changes, it should only be done after you have tried to lose weight by diet and exercise.
The total period of recovery following a gastric bypass may take around 4 to 6 weeks. For the first few weeks, you may experience moderate to severe pain, but your surgeon will prescribe pain medication to ease the discomfort. You may also experience swelling and bruising around your surgical wounds, which will subside within a few weeks. You may be able to resume your normal activities in 4 to 5 weeks, but make sure to talk to your surgeon about your recovery timeline to avoid any complications.
In the last few years, the success rate of gastric bypass surgery has increased significantly. While the amount of weight you lose is determined by your change in lifestyle habits, it is possible to lose 60% or more of your excess weight within two years following the surgery. Over a third of patients who have had a gastric bypass lost 80% of their excess weight. Also, 90% of patients maintain a loss of 50% of their original body weight within ten years after their gastric bypass.
As with any surgical procedure, gastric bypass also comes with some potential drawbacks. Many patients experience “dumping syndrome,” which happens when food moves too quickly from your stomach to your small intestine, causing weakness, nausea, diarrhea, sweating, and fainting.
There is also a risk of malnutrition because your body’s ability to absorb nutrients is reduced. This is why it is important that you take vitamin and mineral supplements each day. Other risks include infection, excessive bleeding, blood clots, lung problems, gallstones, hernias, low blood sugar, and stomach perforation.