Common gastric bypass surgery side effects that you should know about before surgery
Many American adults suffer from obesity, resulting in more than 200,000 metabolic and bariatric surgeries each year. Some patients who are looking for a quick-fix solution to their weight problem don’t always take the time to fully understand the bariatric surgery risks before committing to the procedure, but the problems that could arise may surprise you. Gastric bypass surgery entails sealing off most of the stomach, while leaving a small functional pocket at the top. A portion of the small intestine is bypassed during digestion, which means the body absorbs fewer calories. Because the procedure changes the way your digestive system functions, gastric bypass side effects are almost inevitable.
Hypoglycemia is one of the more serious gastric bypass side effects. People who suffer from hypoglycemia have too much insulin and not enough glucose in the bloodstream, resulting in an imbalance that can cause serious medical issues. The remedy for hypoglycemia often includes eating proteins and slow-acting carbohydrates to produce more blood glucose, but this can cause problems in gastric bypass patients who are limited in the amount of food they can eat at any given time. Hypoglycemia can have swift and severe complications, including extreme sweating, seizures, excessive hunger, dizziness, confusion, shaking, elevated heart rate, and even blackouts. An adjustment in eating patterns and medication can often control the problem, but some severe cases have required complete or partial removal of the pancreas to limit the amount of insulin it produces.
2) Dumping Syndrome
The medical community believes that one of the common gastric bypass surgery side effects, hypoglycemia, might be caused by a condition known as dumping syndrome. Since gastric bypass surgery limits the size of the functional stomach, excess amounts of undigested food can spill over and be dumped directly into the small intestine. Many patients will feel the effects immediately after eating, while symptoms may not show up in others for up to three hours after a meal. This is one of the more common gastric bypass side effects, and it can also result in extreme nausea, diarrhea, or painful abdominal cramps.
More than one third of previously obese bariatric surgery patients experience gallstones, one of the painful gastric bypass side effects. Gallstones often occur during substantial or rapid weight loss when clumps of cholesterol and other substances form small masses in the gallbladder. Obese adults are more prone to gallstones because they often produce a higher level of cholesterol than the body can dissolve, or because their gallbladders do not function adequately to begin with. The National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney Disease reports that people who lose more than three pounds each week have a greater risk of developing gallstones. While some gallstones do not cause symptoms and do not need treatment, severe symptoms might require a complete cholecystectomy, or removal of the gallbladder.
Fecal incontinence is one of the least-discussed gastric bypass side effects, but it can be one of the most emotionally devastating. Popular weatherman and gastric bypass patient Al Roker had an embarrassing public episode while at the White House, and it has helped to make some of the more common gastric bypass surgery side effects more public. This particular symptom often occurs as the result of dumping syndrome. It may also be caused by the surgery simply exposing an underlying weakened continence issue that the patient did not know existed. In fact, a study conducted in 2010 shows that more than half of all women and almost one third of all men who had minor incontinence issues before the surgery suffered from more severe symptoms after the procedure. While fecal incontinence may not cause serious medical issues, it can often curtail the patient’s social life and emotional well-being.
5) Nutritional Deficiencies
A gastric bypass limits the amounts of calories the body absorbs, which also limits the amounts of nutrients absorbed. In addition, gastric bypass patients must limit the amount of food they eat. If they do not pack their small meals with nutrient-dense foods, malnutrition can easily occur. Any nutritional deficiency can easily result in severe medical conditions, including anemia, metabolic bone disease, or osteoporosis. In order to reduce or eliminate the risk of these types of common gastric bypass surgery side effects, patients should eat meals that are packed with nutritional foods and also discuss the possibility of additional vitamins and supplements to ensure they are getting adequate nutrition on a daily basis. It is important for gastric bypass patients to follow a strict diet with small meals that are packed with nutritional foods to avoid any serious long-term complications from nutritional deficiencies.
In addition to the gastric bypass side effects already mentioned, there are a host of other things that can go wrong. Some, including infection, are commonly associated with any type of bariatric surgery, but others are more specific to the gastric bypass operation. Abdominal hernias are a somewhat common side effect of the surgery. Not only can these be extremely painful, but they almost always require additional surgery to repair them. Each additional surgery heightens the risk of typical complications, including infection and internal scar tissue that can compromise the intestines. Some gastric bypass patients, particularly those who don’t follow a strict diet, may find they are suffering from a stretched stomach outlet. This occurs when the small stomach pouch created during surgery becomes too stretched, resulting in it returning to its normal size. While this may not carry serious medical consequences, it can result in the patient experiencing weight gain and losing all of the benefits of the surgery in the first place. This always requires another surgery to fix the problem to ensure that the patient does not become obese again, which carries its own set of medical and health issues.