Health & Medicine

Bariatric surgery can help morbidly obese

Central Baptist
Central Baptist submitted to the Herald-Leader

As everyone is all too aware, obesity in America has reached epidemic proportions. The "good life" Americans enjoy has had its consequences on our waistlines.

Our digestive system is expertly designed to protect against famine, not feast. For generations, having a large reservoir for food (our stomachs) gave us a distinct survival advantage when food was scarce and took a lot of energy to obtain. Today, however, we wonder more about what's for lunch, not if we are going to get to eat.

It wasn't long ago that it took a great deal of personal effort and toil (calories) to procure food. It was critical that we had a stomach that could hold more food than we needed at one time. To feel full, the stomach needs to be stretched, and this requires 1 to 1.5 liters of food.

Clearly, in today's world of sedentary jobs, mass transit and unlimited access to high calorie foods, having a large stomach is a liability rather than an asset.

Dieting usually involves eating small, healthy balanced meals, cutting out junk food, and exercise. Although we know this works and we understand we're getting the right amount of food to meet our needs, small meals do not stretch our stomachs. We're hungry, and we want more.

Once we become morbidly obese, or about 80 to 100 pounds or more over our ideal body weights, there is a significant decrease in our life expectancy and overall quality of life. Morbid obesity also is associated with multiple illnesses that can be significantly improved or reversed with weight-loss surgery — including diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, arthritis, fertility issues, and high cholesterol.

Study after study has shown that diet and exercise alone are not long-term solutions for the morbidly obese. The National Institute of Health has reviewed this information and says that for the morbidly obese, the only consistent solution to long-term weight loss is bariatric (weight-loss) surgery.

Bariatric surgical operations are not miracle cures — they are tools that allow patients to eat small, diet-size portions and actually feel full. This is accomplished by several surgical procedures, such as the laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, Lap-Band and laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Individuals should look for a weight-loss surgical program that offers a framework of comprehensive pre- and post-operative care, which is crucial to long-term success.