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Questions To Ask Before Bariatric Surgery

With 70 percent of the United States’ population overweight or obese, and many dealing with chronic health issues, weight-loss surgery has become an increasingly sought after solution.

By restricting or repositioning your stomach and small intestines, bariatric surgery can dramatically decrease your appetite and your waistline. But for it to work, it requires significant diet and lifestyle changes. To get a clearer picture of what you are committing to do, ask these important questions.

1. Why am I choosing bariatric surgery?

It’s not unusual to have a patient come in and ask for the same surgery that worked for someone they know. But just as no two people are alike, bariatric surgery is not a one-size-fits-all solution. You and your doctor will need to determine together which procedure is right for you.

The first step will be to find out what is driving this choice. For example:

  • Do you want to address health concerns like diabetes or kidney disease?

  • Is your weight causing mobility issues or arthritis?

  • Are you having digestion or blood pressure issues?

Different bariatric procedures come with advantages and disadvantages, and your doctor can offer advice about which surgery is the best match for you.

2. Am I fully committed to the lifestyle changes bariatric surgery requires?

Bariatric surgery is not a quick fix, so you need to set realistic expectations. Preparing and recovering from this surgery requires physical and mental stamina, and the changes in diet and activity afterward can usher in unexpected psychological and social shifts.

3. What will I have to do before having surgery?

Before any procedure can be done, there are a couple steps to prepare your body and lifestyle for the changes it requires.

  • Work with a nutritionist. Bariatric nutritionists work with you to lose weight and lower your BMI to levels that make your surgery safer. They provide nutritional and lifestyle counseling both before and after surgery. Plus, many insurance companies now require documentation of prior nonsurgical attempts to lose weight for policies to cover the procedure.

  • Shift to a liquid diet. Two weeks before the actual surgery, you will be put on a modified diet that replaces most meals with a liquid protein drink. This is to reduce a condition often tied to obesity called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The liquid diet will shrink your liver to create safer surgical conditions.

4. How can I prepare for recovery and my new lifestyle?

To aid with the surgical recovery and required lifestyle changes after bariatric surgery, you want to be organized and diligent.

  • Have your vitamins and supplements ready to go. Bariatric procedures alter how your body processes food. To ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need, you’ll be on a lifelong regimen of vitamins and supplements. Purchase and measure them out ahead of time to make your new daily routine easier.

  • Prepare to drink a lot of water, a little at a time. You will need to drink 64 ounces of fluid a day post-surgery, but your new, much smaller stomach will only comfortably take in small amounts. Consider getting a set of one-ounce cups to help.

  • Decide what protein shakes you like ahead of time. For a few weeks after surgery, you will be on a liquid diet that is high in protein and low in sugar and starch. Since this will be the mainstay of your meals for a while, have a variety of shake flavors you’ll enjoy ready to go.

  • Update any medications. While bariatric surgery itself should only require simple pain relievers, you may need to alter the dosage for other medications you are taking. Fill those prescriptions before surgery day.

  • Consider using a bariatric abdominal binder. This elastic belt goes under your stomach to support it during healing and is usually provided by your doctor’s office before surgery.

  • Stop drinking alcohol and smoking. Not only will it hinder proper and timely healing, but the metabolic changes from your operation will also drastically change how your body responds to those substances.

  • Plan for movement and exercise. Bariatric surgery generally only requires one night in the hospital, and you’ll be advised to avoid lifting anything heavy for a few weeks. However, this doesn’t mean you can recover in bed all day. Your doctor will want you to be up and moving within hours of your surgery. To keep the weight from returning, you will need an exercise routine ready that will take you from post-op to day-to-day healthy living

Bariatric surgery is a game changer for many obese people, but it's not a one-step solution. It involves several big changes that will ultimately extend the length and quality of your life. If you are up to the commitment, bariatric surgery may be right for you.

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