Gastro issues may be downside to weight-loss surgery

December 29, 2016 by Alan Mozes, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—While weight-loss surgery can help obese people drop unwanted pounds, a new study suggests the procedure may also trigger long-lasting tummy troubles for many patients.

Dutch researchers found that people who had the most common type of —known as laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass—suffered gastrointestinal problems and food intolerance up to two years after their operation.

The procedure entails stapling the stomach and re-routing the intestines, so that food that is consumed bypasses most of the stomach and caloric consumption is reduced.

These issues are unlikely to be confined to this type of weight-loss alone, said study author Dr. Thomas Boerlage. He is a researcher in the department of internal medicine at MC Slotervaart, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

"I would very much expect other bariatric [weight-loss] procedures to [cause] gastrointestinal complaints, too," Boerlage cautioned. He said that gastric banding, along with newer types of weight-loss options, are "fairly certain" to spark long-term gastrointestinal complications.

Boerlage pointed out that "it was already known from previous studies that patients can develop gastrointestinal complaints after a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. However, most of those studies concerned only the first year after surgery, and you can imagine that people might have complaints shortly after surgery, whatever kind of surgery it is."

To assess the risk for long-term gastrointestinal complications, Boerlage's team focused on the experience of nearly 250 patients who underwent the surgery in 2012. All completed a gastrointestinal and food tolerance survey two years after undergoing the procedure. The patients' answers were stacked up against those of 295 comparably obese patients who had not undergone surgery.

By most measures, the weight-loss surgery patients were found to be struggling with significantly more gastrointestinal disturbances at the two-year mark than those who hadn't undergone the procedure, the investigators found.

For example, surgery patients were found to be saddled with more abdominal pain, diarrhea, indigestion and constipation, compared with the non-surgical group. Surgery patients did, however, report lower levels of both hunger pain and acid regurgitation, compared with non-surgical patients.

In terms of food intolerance, 176 surgery patients (70 percent) said they experienced some form of intolerance to an average of four different foods, and more than 90 percent said the problem arose only after surgery.

Problematic foods tended to include red meat and items characterized by high amounts of fat or sugar, such as sodas, cakes, pies, pastries and fried foods, according to the report.

That said, only about 14 percent of those experiencing ongoing long-term food intolerance said the issue bothered them "very much" or "much."

Still, less than 17 percent of the non-surgical group reported experiencing any comparable type of eating problem.

Boerlage and his colleagues reported their findings in the Dec. 19 issue of the British Journal of Surgery.

So what are bypass patients to do?

"In general, it is advisable for patients to stick tightly to the dietary guidelines that are given after surgery," said Boerlage. "This will surely help to alleviate symptoms, although not all symptoms can be prevented," he added.

"We do advise our patients to avoid certain foods with a high sugar or fat content. And, indeed, these are the types of food that are a problem in obese patients in the first place. So, in a way you could say that these complaints are also useful because they remind patients to avoid certain foods," Boerlage suggested.

Dr. John Morton, chief of bariatric and minimally invasive surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine in California, agreed. He suggested that the problem can be easily fixed if patients strictly follow standard nutritional advice.

"These concerns are due solely to dietary indiscretions by ," Morton said. "If you follow dietary recommendations you will avoid these issues."

What's more, Morton stressed that, for many, weight-loss surgery is a "lifesaving procedure," one whose benefits "clearly outweigh" any dietary downside.

Explore further: Weight loss surgery linked to gastrointestinal complaints

More information: Visit the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for more on weight-loss surgery.

Related Stories

Weight loss surgery linked to gastrointestinal complaints

December 19, 2016
Laparoscopic gastric bypass is an effective treatment for obesity, but a new study finds that patients who undergo the surgery often complain of gastrointestinal problems.

Healthy behaviors determine weight-loss surgery success

December 23, 2016
Bariatric surgery can slim your body, but attitude and behavior also play key roles in long-term weight loss, according to new research from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

Weight loss following bariatric surgery sustained long-term

August 31, 2016
Obese patients who underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) lost much more weight than those who did not and were able to sustain most of this weight loss 10 years after surgery, according to a study published online by ...

Bariatric surgery found to reduce future health care costs

November 5, 2015
(HealthDay)—Gastric bypass surgery may save health care dollars down the road, a new study suggests. The findings were scheduled to be presented at ObesityWeek 2015, a meeting hosted by the American Society for Metabolic ...

Does weight loss surgery help with problem eating habits?

June 20, 2016
More Australians are turning to surgery to help treat obesity – but once their surgery is over, what impact does it have on patients' eating habits in the long term?

Five-year outcomes following bariatric surgery in patients with BMIs of 50 to 60

February 4, 2015
The bariatric surgical procedure biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch resulted in more weight loss and better improvement in blood lipids and glucose five years after surgery compared with usual gastric bypass surgery ...

Recommended for you

World's first child hand transplant a 'success'

July 19, 2017
The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months.

Knee surgery—have we been doing it wrong?

July 18, 2017
A team of University at Buffalo medical doctors have published a study that challenges a surgical practice used for decades during arthroscopic knee surgery.

New tools help surgeons find liver tumors, not nick blood vessels

July 17, 2017
The liver is a particularly squishy, slippery organ, prone to shifting both deadly tumors and life-preserving blood vessels by inches between the time they're discovered on a CT scan and when the patient is lying on an operating ...

Researchers discover indicator of lung transplant rejection

July 13, 2017
Research by scientists at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's Norton Thoracic Institute was published in the July 12, 2017 issue of Science Translational Medicine titled "Zbtb7a induction in alveolar ...

New device could make closing surgical incisions a cinch

July 7, 2017
Like many surgeons, Dr. Jason Spector is often faced with the challenge of securely closing the abdominal wall without injuring the intestines. If the process goes awry, there can be serious consequences for patients, including ...

Success with first 20 patients undergoing minimally invasive pancreatic transplant surgery

June 29, 2017
Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine report that their first series of a minimally invasive procedure to treat chronic pancreas disease, known as severe pancreatitis, resulted in shorter hospital stays, less need for opioids ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.