Although weight-loss surgery can help obese people reduce extra pounds, a new study says the procedure may also cause long-lasting stomach issues for a lot of patients.
A Dutch research study found that individuals who underwent the most common type of weight-loss surgery – known as laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass – suffered gastrointestinal issues and food intolerance up to two years after the surgery.
The procedure involves stapling the tummy and re-routing the intestines, so what is consumed bypasses the majority of the stomach and caloric consumption is decreased.
However, these issues are not likely to be restricted to this type of weight-loss surgery alone, said study author Dr. Thomas Boerlage. He is a researcher in the department of internal medicine at MC Slotervaart, in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.
“I would very much expect other bariatric [weight-loss] procedures to [cause] gastrointestinal complaints, too,” Boerlage cautioned. He said that gastric banding, along with newer types of weight-loss options, are “fairly certain” to spark long-term gastrointestinal complications. This gives me reason to believe that any procedure that deals with the stomach will most certainly cause lasting gastro issues.
Boerlage also mentioned that “it was already known from previous studies that patients can develop gastrointestinal complaints after a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. However, most of those studies concerned only the first year after surgery, and you can imagine that people might have complaints shortly after surgery, whatever kind of surgery it is.”
To exam the risk of long-term gastrointestinal issues, Boerlage’s team focused on the experience of almost 250 patients who had the surgery in 2012. They all completed a food tolerance and gastrointestinal survey two years after having the operation. The patients’ answers were compared to 295 obese patients who did not have the procedure.
For the most part, the weight-loss surgery patients were found to be battling with significantly more gastrointestinal problems at the two-year mark that those who had not undergone the operation, the investigators found.
For instance, surgery patients were found to be struggling with more indigestion, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation, compared with the non-surgical group. Surgery patients did, however report lesser levels of both acid regurgitation and hunger pain, compared with non-surgical patients. This is a surprise to me because usually patients who undergo surgery would seem to have higher levels of hunger pains and acid problems than non-surgical patients.
In relation to food intolerance, 70 percent of surgery patients said they experienced some form of intolerance to an average of four different foods, and more than 90 percent said the problem emerged only after the procedure.
According to the report, problematic foods included red meats and items that contained high amounts of fat or sugar, such as cakes, pies, sodas, fried foods and pastries
With that being said, only about 14 percent of those having ongoing lasting food intolerance said the problem bothered them “much” or “very much”
However, less than 17 percent of the non-surgical group reported experiencing any comparable form of eating issue.
These findings were reported in the December issue of British Journal of Surgery.
So what can bypass patients do?
“In general, it is advisable for patients to stick tightly to the dietary guidelines that are given after surgery,” said Boerlage. “This will surely help to alleviate symptoms, although not all symptoms can be prevented,” he added.
“We do advise our patients to avoid certain foods with a high sugar or fat content. And, indeed, these are the types of food that are a problem in obese patients in the first place. So, in a way you could say that these complaints are also useful because they remind patients to avoid certain foods,” Boerlage suggested.
I agree with Boerlage and the problem can be easily fixed if patients stick to the recommended dietary guidelines. I believe weight-loss surgery is a lifesaver for many and the benefits clearly outweigh any dietary issues.
Source: Thomas Boerlage, M.D., doctoral candidate, resident and researcher, department of internal medicine, MC Slotervaart, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Dec. 19, 2016, British Journal of Surgery
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