While weight loss surgery provides lasting results for some, it may also come with lasting issues affecting digestion and food tolerance.
Every medical surgery or procedure comes with its own laundry list of risks and possible side effects, but research shows that gastric bypass surgery can lead to long-term digestive issues and even cause the patients to develop food intolerances in the years following.
A study was performed on 249 extremely obese people who underwent gastric bypass surgery. This was the most common form of this surgery, specifically known as laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. The results in weight loss were highly motivating, with an average loss of 31 percent body fat among the patients two years later. However, as weight decreased, gastrointestinal issues increased.
Compared to a control group of extremely obese people who did not undergo the laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, those who had the procedure done were significantly more likely to have digestive issues and to develop food intolerances.
Two years after the operation, participants had, on average, at least two symptoms of gastrointestinal issues. These symptoms include indigestion, stomach gurgling, flatulence, belching, and hard or loose stools.
In addition, these participants showed a much higher increase in food intolerances in the two years following the surgery, with 71 percent of patients reporting such issues. Compared to only 17 percent in the control group, this alarming statistic shows cause for concern among postoperative patients.
The most common foods that caused issues among the participants were fried, spicy or sugary foods and carbonated drinks. Patients are often warned about this prior to surgery, as these foods can become harder to digest. When the stomach is reduced in size so drastically, digestive issues can occur. Some researchers suggest that the participants reporting food intolerances did not follow the postoperative guidelines they were given, which could account for their reported discomfort.
Despite these possible side effects, gastric bypass surgery still remains a highly recommended treatment for extreme obesity and Type II Diabetes and is currently endorsed by over 45 organizations internationally. However, it is crucial that patients follow pre- and postoperative guidelines in order to ensure that side effects remain at a minimum.
Additionally, there are forms of gastric bypass surgery that have fewer risks of gastrointestinal issues developing. This includes sleeve gastrectomy, which does not reduce the size of the stomach as much as laparoscopic Roux-en-Y. This comes with far fewer complications, and is becoming a more and more common form of weight loss surgery. Even so, extreme caution is always suggested, and strict following of any recommendations given by a doctor are key to making a full recovery and avoiding the development of any issues.