As the obesity rate in westernized countries climbs higher and higher, so has the rate of bariatric surgery, or surgery that has the primary purpose of encouraging weight loss.

Bariatric surgery is typically recommended to patients who have a BMI of 40 or greater, or who have a BMI of 35 or greater and have experienced serious medical problems due to their obesity.

There are several different kinds of weight loss surgery, and some kinds are more invasive than others. One common operation is the the "lap band" procedure, which uses the "band" to divide your stomach into a small upper pouch into which food can go and a lower pouch which is sealed off.

Other less reversible options include a sleeve gastrectomy, in which most of the stomach is removed and only a small tube-like pouch remains, and gastric bypass, which creates a small pouch of the stomach into which food can go and connects it directly to the intestines, thus "bypassing" the rest of the stomach and some of the small intestine.

1. It Can Cause Medical Complications

Little is known about the long-term risks of weight-loss surgery, but we do know that its more immediate complications can range from uncomfortable to terrifying. One physician reports having patients that are completely unable to tolerate solid food and avoid social occasions because they so frequently vomit.

Another commonly observed complication of bariatric surgery is dumping syndrome, which occurs when food moves from patients' stomachs into their small bowel too quickly. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, and cramping. Other prevalent intestinal issues among bariatric surgery recipients include constipation, loose stools, and frequent and unusually malodorous gas.

Patients also often report lack of energy from their drastically reduced food intake, and they can suffer from malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies due to their new digestive system's reduced ability to absorb nutrients and their inability to eat a normal amount of food. Most will be dependent on supplements for the rest of their lives.

Other problems that occasionally occur after weight-loss surgery can be so severe that they require additional operations. These include bowel obstructions, gallstones, hernias, stomach perforations, abcesses, and ulcers. In rare cases, these complications can lead to death.

The rapid weight loss that occurs after bariatric surgery is also more likely than slower weight loss to lead to loose skin, which one woman referred to as "almost as bad as being obese." Surgeries to remove this loose skin are usually painful and expensive. Though insurance companies will sometimes cover bariatric surgery, they are not likely to cover surgeries to remove loose skin unless that skin is causing specific medical complications.

2. It Won't Fix Your Mental Health Issues And Could Create New Ones

It might be a mistake to try and solve obesity by fixing the stomach when so much of our struggle with weight takes place in our heads! Food has both emotionally and physically addictive properties, so if someone can no longer indulge in food but has not dealt with the underlying issues that caused them to overeat, they may well turn to another substance.

For example, studies have shown that bariatric surgery patients were almost 50 percent more likely than general surgery patients to engage in persistent opioid use after being prescribed painkillers. Others have found themselves turning to alcohol for relief, which is fostered by the fact that many of them will absorb it faster since it will reach their intestines more quickly. Still others resort to cigarette smoking or "behavioral addictions" like gambling, shopping, and sex addiction.

Some patients have also found themselves struggling with bulimia, which was made all the more tempting to them by the fact that their altered digestive system made throwing up almost effortless. Another study found that the change in relationship dynamics that can occur with rapid weight loss puts bariatric surgery patients at increased risk for divorce.

Finally, one study found that a group of patients who had undergone weight loss surgery were over four more times likely to attempt suicide than the general population. Bariatric surgery patients may expect that their life will improve drastically after the operation. So, when losing weight fails to fix all the problems in their life or they fail to lose weight quickly enough, they may thus spiral into despair.

3. It Doesn't Always Work

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Despite the the extreme mental and physical costs of weight-loss surgery, the procedure fails to produce weight loss in as many as 1 in 10 patients. Some bariatric surgery patients are so addicted to food that they overeat even though it will now make them feel incredibly uncomfortable, eventually stretching out their new stomach and undermining their operation.

Others who formerly engaged in binge eating turn to "graze eating," or frequently consuming small amounts of high calorie food, which is not prohibited by their smaller stomach but can still result in failure to lose weight or even weight gain. Most bariatric surgery recipients end up regaining at least some of their lost weight within 5 years.

4. You Can Get The Same Benefits From A Lifestyle Change

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Though some of the physical effects of bariatric surgery do make reducing your food intake a necessity, at least temporarily, it is in no way a quick or easy fix; it will not produce lasting results unless you can also change your lifestyle for the long haul. Experts recommend that bariatric surgery patients should adhere to a balanced low-calorie diet and engage in regular exercise to maintain their weight loss; exactly the kinds of behaviors that could have helped them to lose weight without surgery and all the hassle!

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