What Is a Bariatric Procedure?

What has come to be called “bariatrics” is a branch of medical science that studies and treats obesity. By extension, “a bariatric procedure” is typically surgery, often a gastric bypass or gastric band placement. There are dozens of variations on both procedures, and some others that are still performed.

What is a gastric bypass?

A true “gastric bypass” is just that. A section of gastrointestinal tract is altered or removed and the route we’re born with is ‘bypassed’. Sometimes, it’s a small part of the duodenum, the first 12 inches of the small intestine that leads from the stomach. Other procedures make the stomach smaller using a kind of medical staple. By contrast, a Lap Band constricts the stomach by use of an adjustable sleeve.

Most of the variations share the same basic goal. They’re aimed at reducing the consumption or retention of food. The result is fewer calories absorbed, leading to weight loss. Diets vary. Some emphasize protein over carbs, or the reverse. Details aside, the basic weight loss equation remains the same: consume fewer calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight.

Many potential bariatric patients are grossly obese (having a BMI of 40 or more). They may have tried diet and exercise without success. In that case, a bariatric procedure is often the best sometimes, the only viable option. Specialist physicians will urge a commitment to a tailored post-procedure diet. Vitamins and other supplements are a part of that, but lifestyle adjustments are essential, too.

The post-procedure routines entail careful monitoring and control of the type and amount of food and drink. Many long-time obese individuals see that as a drastic change. It can be. After a recovery period and a certain amount of weight loss, exercise becomes an important part of the total effort. Serious effort to change attitudes toward food are important, as well, in order to retain the benefits of the surgical procedure long-term.

Which procedure is right for any specific person will depend on a wide variety of personal factors. That’s why consultations with a team of specialists are held with the patient, to provide all the information needed and make a wise choice. A surgical procedure is not for everyone. Also, no matter what procedure is recommended, it’s no substitute for the need for willpower and a sincere desire to change.

Not surprisingly, the different procedures carry risks as well as benefits. Surgery is typically recommended only for those who’ve made serious efforts to reduce weight by other means, but failed. They’re only for those seriously overweight who have exhausted other options. The initial process usually takes two years and even then involves a lifelong commitment to weight control.

Yet, despite all the challenges, the overwhelming majority who elect to begin the procedure report being satisfied with the outcome. Weighing less reduces the strain on joints and the heart. It drastically reduces the risk of diabetes. Patients gain energy and enjoy an enhanced feeling of well-being overall. They look more attractive and relationships often improve with a rise in self-esteem.