12 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Gastric Bypass Surgery

Diet and exercise are optimal for losing weight, but sometimes, no matter how diligent a person is, they just aren’t enough. When it comes to significant weight loss, the best option to facilitate the process is often surgery like a gastric bypass. Diet and exercise are still a vital part of the process. They just get a boost from a procedure designed to help you eliminate up to 80% of your excess weight.

The decision to undergo gastric bypass surgery is not one you should take lightly. It can be a lengthy process, especially to get insurance approval. Before you begin, here are some tips from RealSelf doctors and community members that might help you on your way.

1. Gastric bypass is not a quick fix.

Gastric bypass has proven to be an effective weight loss solution for many people, but it’s not a “get out of jail free” card. You still have a lot of work to do before and after surgery. That includes incorporating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding things like smoking and alcohol.

It is also a lifetime commitment. You will need checkups with your doctor. You’ll also need to take a vitamin supplement for the rest of your life, according to New York bariatric surgeon Dr. Shawn Garber in a RealSelf guide.

2. Weight gain is possible, even after having a gastric bypass.

Gastric bypass surgery can help you lose weight, but if you don’t follow the diet, exercise, and nutrition guidelines from your doctor, you could gain weight after the procedure.

“Bariatric surgery is a tool and not a cure for obesity, and you need to work with it to get the best results,” Dr. Garber said in a RealSelf Q&A.

It’s also possible for your newly formed “pouch” to expand over time. Most patients lose the majority of their weight in the first 12-18 months. It will take continued discipline to retain the results from surgery.

3. Dumping syndrome is very common.

Dumping syndrome occurs when undigested food from the stomach rapidly enters the small bowel, which is not prepared to accommodate it. This is then rushed, or dumped, into the intestines with a lot of fluid. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it is very common.

“This can cause discomfort and nausea with the rapid expansion and electrolyte imbalances, or diarrhea due to the undigested materials,” Chicago plastic surgeon Dr. Otto Placik said in a RealSelf Q&A.

Dr. Placik said avoiding excessively fatty or high-sugar, simple carbohydrates can help reduce the symptoms.

4. Insurance won’t always cover the cost of gastric bypass surgery.

Insurance coverage of your gastric bypass will depend on a number of factors including where you live, your individual insurance plan, and your health needs. Some insurance companies require certain body mass index requirements to approve coverage. Risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, or sleep apnea can also impact whether you will receive coverage.

In some cases, insurance companies will ask you to undergo psychological review and even be on a diet plan for months prior to approving your surgery.

Every insurance company works with different guidelines, so you should always check with your insurance company first.

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