Gastric Bypass Surgery-What REALLY Happens to Your Body After?

Obesity continues to spiral out of control and now the discussion about teens having bypass surgery is on the table. But what does it really DO to your body?

Initially, medicine thought they could handle the problem with drugs, but every drug developed to combat obesity has failed miserably, producing only a small amount of weight loss counterbalanced by serious side effects (think Phen-Fen and heart valve damage). The drug companies have even gone far enough as trying to use an anti-seizure drug (Topamax) as a weight loss drug because this is a common side effect.

Since we’ve realized that drugs and not likely to be the answer, surgery is the next available tool in the toolbox of mainstream medicine. The most aggressive of these surgeries is the gastric bypass, that actual takes a portion of the anatomy Mother Nature gave you and throws it to the side. I guess the rationale is that, if we can screw up digestion enough, we can cut down on the calories that get absorbed by the body (with no actual thought to what nutrients may not get absorbed as well).

I had a patient in yesterday who had the gastric sleeve procedure done several years ago.  She relates that, while she lost some 100 pounds, she was not healthy.  If it weren’t for a growing fascination with weight training and some very good dietary advice, her path would’ve turned out much differently than where it is today.  Many bypass patients are not this wise.  Studies have shown that the long term outcomes (5+ years) of gastric bypass are not stellar, with some 85% of patients putting a large chunk of weight back onGastric bypass surgery may increase the risk of cancer as well.

What happens to the average gastric bypass surgery patients’ body composition years after the surgery?  At least the ones who don’t become weightlifting fanatics addicted to good nutrition?  This particular study begins to look into that question.

In it, researchers followed 43 obese women submitted to bariatric surgery and kept an eye on their body composition (as measured by bioimpedance analysis) during the preoperative period as well as 1, 2, 3 and 4 years after surgery.  Here’s what they found:

  1. Initially, bariatric surgery promoted a lowering of the body fat, but there was also a loss of other tissues you don’t want to lose, like muscle (referred to as fat-free mass).
  2. Over time, however, the body composition changed too much, leading to the classification of cachexia and water retention.

In other words, the body composition changes that started to occur with the gastric bypass surgery spun more and more out of control with time, leading to enough muscle mass to be considered cachexic (think AIDS and end stage cancer patients who have lost all their muscle mass) and bloated.

Worse, the road back for these patients is going to be a massive uphill battle.  The digestive system is destroyed and the ability to properly absorb nutrients, minerals and healthy fats has gone to pot along with it.  For those of you out there considering gastric bypass surgery, if your surgeon does not stress the idea that maintaining health will be a lifetime challenge, it’s time to run the other way and find a clinic that’s going to be honest with you.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.