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The Doctors: Is gastric bypass surgery right for you? / Photo: Getty Images / Illustration: Leon Lawrence for USA WEEKEND
The Doctors: Is gastric bypass surgery right for you? / Photo: Getty Images / Illustration: Leon Lawrence for USA WEEKEND

Gastric bypass is the most common of weight-loss surgeries, and research shows itís most effective. Hereís what you should know.

Your stomach becomes the size of a walnut. Thatís the first step in Roux-en-Y surgery, the most common method of gastric bypass. Surgeons divide your stomach to create a small upper portion, sealed off from a larger bottom section. That pouch is where the food goes; it holds only 1 ounce. (The stomachís capacity is about 48 ounces.) Next, surgeons will connect the pouch directly to the middle of the small intestine. The result: food intake per meal is limited, and fewer calories are absorbed.

New research on mice suggests the surgery also may change the makeup of microbes in the intestine, which contributes to weight loss. Scientists donít know whether the same effect applies to humans, but what they do know is on average, people lose about 60% of excess weight in the first year.

BMI numbers matter. If your body mass index (BMI) is 40 or higher, gastric bypass or other weight-loss surgeries could be an option; itís also considered for those with a BMI of 35 or more and a serious weight-related health problem. Obesity isnít the only factor for weight-loss surgery; doctors also evaluate diet history, all medical conditions and psychological health to make sure the surgery is safe and the patient can maintain the benefits.

It comes with risks. Some are short-term, such as excessive bleeding, infection, leaks in your gastrointestinal system or increased risk of blood clots; later, potential side effects can include hernias, ulcers or poor absorption of nutrients.

Post-surgery maintenance lasts a lifetime. Youíll follow a liquid diet for the first few months. To keep weight off and avoid complications, you have to stick to a strict diet and exercise plan; keep meals small, eat slowly and chew thoroughly, and take vitamins and minerals as directed.

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The Doctors

The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork and plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.