As obesity becomes the main cause of chronic disease in developed countries worldwide, everyone is seeing for solutions and many people are desperate to lose weight. Now, more often than not gastric banding Gastric Lap Band Surgery seems to be the go-to procedure. Sure, the results look impressive – radical weight loss in short periods of time with apparently less effort. But what happens when it all goes wrong? What are the long term influence on health? More importantly, what about the reasons why persons become fat in the first place? Can the benefits of a drastic surgery really outweigh dietary education, positive lifestyle changes and dealing with underlying psychosocial problems?
The Lap-Band Procedure
gastric Lap band surgery involves the placement of a gastric band around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch that can hold only a small amount of food.The band between the stomach pouch and the rest of the stomach controls how quickly food is passed through the stomach in an aim to increase satiety and limit the amount of food that can be eaten at one time. It also increases the amount of time it takes food to be digested. To tighten the band following surgery, salt water is injected into the band via a port under the skin. In Australia, gastric lap band surgery is usually a key-hole surgery day procedure, costing around $10, 000 through the private healthcare system.
A Life-Threatening Decision: While it may seem like a quick and easy fix for obesity, gastric lap band surgery carries considerable risks. In extreme cases, it can cause life-threatening complications or set you up for years in and out of hospital for corrective surgeries. Apart from standard surgery risks, most of which are more serious when operating on overweight people, complications of the Lap-band procedure may include
- Digestive symptoms including nausea, vomiting, heartburn and abdominal pain
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux causing increased rates of oesophageal cancer
- Lap-band slippage or erosion requiring follow up surgery
- Poor digestive function including difficulty swallowing, constipation
- Malnutrition causing anaemia and symptoms such as dry skin, hair loss and muscle wasting
- Bowel and gallbladder problems commonly leading to gallbladder removal
- Liver failure
- Kidney stones or renal failure
- Serious infections involving the surgery wound, lap-band or surrounding organs in the abdomen
- Excess loose skin following weight loss that may require surgical removal
Life After Lap-Band : General recommendations for post-surgery recovery include following a liquid diet for 2-4 weeks, followed by a vitamised (blended) diet for another 2-4 weeks as the lap-band settles into place. Drinking enough fluids just to avoid dehydration will be a difficult task with your newly reduced stomach capacity, and vomiting is likely to occur if you drink or eat too fast or too much at once, and do not chew thoroughly enough.Fluids must be restricted in the half hour before, during and after meal times to avoid overfilling the stomach. Finally, once the band has settled and inflated, the post-surgery diet can move towards a more normal diet, however it is recommended to stick with soft and easy-to-chew foods.Some foods such as pasta, rice and bread may need to be avoided permanently as they expand too much when they hit the stomach pouch and come into contact with gastric fluids.
While a normal stomach can hold up to 4 cups volume of chewed food, after gastric lap band surgery, only around 1 cup of chewed food can be help in the smaller stomach pouch, so meal sizes will need to be drastically reduced. Snacking between meals should also be avoided and supplementation with multivitamins becomes an every day necessity to compensate for the lack of nutrients obtained from the diet.Food getting ‘stuck’ in the entrance to the stomach pouch and productive burps or spit ups are common occurrences post-surgery which happen when a piece of food that is too big hits the stomach pouch and cannot be digested, so travels back up to the throat.
Risks Of Rapid Weight Loss So you might lose a lot of weight after surgery and manage to reach a ‘healthy’ BMI (Body Mass Index), but does that mean you are healthy?
Quite the opposite! Rapidly releasing so much stored fat from fat cells during weight loss, as well as the toxins that have built up over a lifetime and been stored in those fat cells can have disastrous consequences on health. Firstly, the body and particularly the liver are exposed to more toxins than they can safely handle and eliminate from the body. This means the toxins end up circulating in the blood stream causing damage to body tissues and cells. The liberated fats can also cause serious liver and gallbladder problems such as gallstones and fatty liver. This happens because there is more fat in the body than the liver and gallbladder (bile-producing organs) can safely process and eliminate via the digestive tract. Once gallstones are a problem, gallbladder removal surgery is often the next step in action, and can further exacerbate the problem causing worse reflux, fat malabsorption and ongoing unpleasant digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea.
You Can Still Gain Weight After Surgery!
If you stick to your old eating habits and eat larger amounts than recommended post-surgery, the smaller stomach pouch created by the lap-band can be irreversibly stretched.This cancels out the restrictive effect of the lap-band on the stomach and appetite, and will require surgical correction. Eating calorie-rich, nutrient poor foods like soft drink or chocolate bars in liquid form will slow or stop weight loss as well. If you missed Australian Lap-Band patient, Kate Finlay’s story on the recent ‘Fat Fighters’ episode of Insight, SBS, click on the following link to read about her fascinating but devastating experience with gastric lap band surgery.