Weight Loss Surgery Linked to Recurring Indigestion, Food Intolerance

Weight Loss Surgery Linked to Recurring Indigestion, Food Intolerance

A recent study suggests patients who underwent a common weight loss surgery struggled with indigestion and food intolerance two years after the intervention. For the research, scientists analyzed data on nearly 250 obese patients who had a laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in 2012.

The bypass reduces the size of one’s stomach to a small pouch and helps thus the patient lose many pounds in a relatively short amount of time. After two years, patients with the said gastric bypass lost on average nearly one-third of their body weight.

However, when researchers compare the cohort to a control group of obese patients who hadn’t had the surgery, they noticed bypass patients had a higher risk of food intolerance and indigestion.

Lead author Dr. Thomas Boerlage noted that past research had found the bypass can make gastrointestinal symptoms worse. Yet the past studies monitored bypass patients only one year after surgery.

The latest analysis is based on four-year-old data on patients with severe obesity. The mean age of these patients was 46. Nearly half struggled with high blood pressure and about 30 percent lived with diabetes.

Study authors gave patients in both groups a questionnaire with questions about 16 types of gastrointestinal symptoms. The survey revealed the bypass group displayed 2.2 symptoms while the non-operative group displayed 1.8 on average.

Patients who underwent surgery experienced flatulence, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, and belching more often than their peers in the control group. On the other hand, the control group reported more hunger pains.

Moreover, about 71 percent of bypass patients said they had multiple food intolerances after surgery. By contrast, only 17 percent of patients in the control group had a similar problem.

About half of surgery patients were intolerant to at least four types of food. About 14 percent noted the food intolerance affects their quality of life. The most widely reported food intolerances included fried foods, pastries, cakes, and carbonated drinks. Some patients said they couldn’t eat ice cream and spicy dishes anymore.

Researchers didn’t find an association between the severity of food intolerance and the number of lost pounds. Authors, however, acknowledged their research has some limitations. For instance, the number of participants was relatively small. In addition, the team had no access to data on previous gastrointestinal problems to see whether surgery caused them.

In 2012, Roux-en-Y was the most popular type of weight loss surgery available. In the meantime, sleeve gastrectomy, which downsizes the human gut to the size of a banana, has become more common. Dr. Andrei Keidar of the Rabin Medical Center in Israel thinks the new procedure is less likely to generate gastrointestinal troubles. Keidar wasn’t involved in the research.

Doctors often advise gastric bypass patients to stay away from certain foods after the procedure. Unfortunately, many of these patients failed to follow advice and developed food intolerances. Past studies show that patients’ top intolerances are to red meats, fried foods, and soft drinks.

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