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How Weight Loss Surgery Can Change Your Life

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Choosing a Type of Weight Loss Surgery

Considering weight loss surgery? As you do your homework to see if it's a good choice for you, you'll want to learn about the various types of operations.

What's best for you depends on your goals, your health, your surgeon's recommendation, and which operations your health insurance covers.

Talk it over with your doctor so you can make an informed decision. Weight loss surgery is not for everyone. Doctors only recommend it for people who:

  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more. This would be about 100 pounds overweight for men or 80 pounds for women.
  • Have a lower BMI (but are still obese) and have a serious health problem related to obesity, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, severe sleep apnea, or high cholesterol.
  • Have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight by other means.
  • Fully understand the risks.

Weight loss surgery can be lifesaving, but you need to be dedicated to making dramatic and permanent changes to how you eat, exercise, and live.

Types of Weight Loss Surgeries

There are two basic types of weight loss surgery: restrictive surgeries and malabsorptive/restrictive surgeries. They help with weight loss in different ways.

Restrictive surgeries work by shrinking the size of the stomach and slowing down digestion.

A normal stomach can hold about 3 pints of food. After surgery, the stomach may at first hold as little as an ounce, although later that could stretch to 2 or 3 ounces. The smaller the stomach, the less you can eat. The less you eat, the more weight you lose.

Malabsorptive/restrictive surgeries change how you take in food. They give you a smaller stomach and also remove or bypass part of your digestive tract, which makes it harder for your body to absorb calories.

Doctors don't do purely malabsorptive surgeries -- also called intestinal bypasses -- anymore because of the side effects.

Adjustable Gastric Banding

What it is: Gastric banding is a type of restrictive weight loss surgery.

How it works: The surgeon uses an inflatable band to squeeze the stomach into two sections: a smaller upper pouch and a larger lower section. The two sections are still connected by a very small channel, which slows down the emptying of the upper pouch. Most people can only eat a 1/2 to 1 cup of food before feeling too full or sick. The food also needs to be soft or well-chewed.

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What will be your biggest challenge after surgery?