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Life After Weight Loss Surgery

Gastric bypass surgery can definitely change a person's life for the better, but there are also some serious risks and profound life changes that go along with the surgery.

Not a magic bullet. continued...

For starters, Odom tells WebMD, there are the chemical changes that are causing a loss in appetite. The hormone ghrelin decreases in patients after gastric bypass surgery. This contributes to the decrease in appetite, which helps people not crave foods they used to.

However, she adds, most of the patients report that this stabilizes and that their urges for food start coming back within six to nine months.

Three months after her surgery, Kathy, 43, a home health care specialist in Watervliet, Mich., eats by the clock.

"You are on a really strict regimen of eating six times day," she says. But "I have no desire to eat."

Janice agrees: "When we talk about going out for a meal, I always opt out of the selection of where we are going because it really makes no difference for me."

But Anita, a 44-year-old mother of two from Dearborn, Mich., who underwent her gastric bypass surgery in February 2002 and has since lost 132 pounds, knows first hand that appetite does, in fact, return.

"In my case, it did come back because I tend to be an emotional eater and even though I can't eat as much, the reasons I eat are still there," she says. "I still give in to emotional cravings, but not to the degree that I did before."

Smith says the new stomach will eventually stretch to be the size of a tennis ball. "I tell my patients that they can never eat more than equivalent of a tennis ball in a seating and if they do eat more, they will be miserable," he says.

Sweets, in any volume, can also make many patients sick, Smith says.

Elena (not her real name), age 57, a former teacher from Racine, Wis., who has gone down five sizes since undergoing gastric bypass surgery in early April 2003, says this makes her nervous. "I don't want to be sick and there are still some stomach episodes from eating the wrong things or the right things in the wrong amount."

More surgeries?

The weight loss surgery isn't the last surgery people undergo - not by a long shot, says Lawrence Reed, MD, a New York City-based plastic surgeon. "Post-bariatric surgery is a very important part of rehabilitation," he tells WebMD.

Reed says he typically does a series of procedures in three stages after weight loss surgery starting with a lower body lift "that will improve the tummy, the thighs, buttocks and back."

Then, several months later, "the patient will undergo a breast lift and complete inner thigh reconstruction because I only get some of it with lower body lift and then months down the road we do the face, neck and arms," he says. "You break it down because it's unsafe to do it all at once."

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