Bariatric surgery helps people who are very obese to lose a lot of weight and improve their health. Most weight-loss surgeries limit how much food your stomach can hold, making you feel full after just a small meal (called restriction). They sometimes also limit the calories and nutrients your body can absorb (called malabsorption). Studies show that bariatric surgery also changes the action of certain hormones, such as ghrelin—“the hunger hormone.” People have these types of surgery if other methods of weight loss have not worked for them and/or if they have serious health problems caused by obesity.
Bariatric surgery could have both benefits and risks for your endocrine system—the network of glands that produce, store, and release hormones. Hormones play a part in your body’s energy balance, reproductive system, growth and development, and reactions to stress and injury. Different types of bariatric surgery vary in the kind and degree of risks and benefits.
Although new techniques are always evolving, the most common types of bariatric surgery today are:
Bariatric surgery and the weight loss that results can:
Endocrine-related complications can occur with any type of bariatric surgery. Most complications are often linked to the surgery which changes how food is routed through the intestine or how the stomach empties. Risks include:
You should ask your surgeon about the potential risks for the procedure you are considering. If you are experiencing any of these problems, or have a strong family history of these problems, it is very important to let your surgeon know, as it could help to guide which surgical procedure is best for you. For example, if you have a history of low blood sugar, you may be at higher risk for developing more severe hypoglycemia after surgery. Be sure to let the surgeon know!
Some of these surgical effects take a long time to develop, and symptoms may only occur many years after surgery. You can prevent some of these complications by getting enough protein in your diet, taking daily vitamin and mineral supplements for life as recommended by your doctor. You should also follow up with your primary physician and surgeon for lifelong monitoring. The effects on other hormonal systems are still unknown and are areas of active research.
The Hormone Health Network is the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society dedicated to helping both patients and doctors find information on the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions.
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