Considering Gastric Bypass Surgery? What Are Some Alternatives?

If you're unhappy with your weight and attempts to reduce it through diet and exercise have been fruitless, you may have begun to look into alternatives such as gastric bypass surgery or a banding procedure. However, there is a new type of weight loss surgery available that may provide quicker results and more health benefits than the current array of gastrointestinal procedures. Read on to learn more about duodenal switch surgery and what makes it different from gastric bypass and other surgical weight loss procedures.

What is duodenal switch surgery?

This surgery is similar to gastric bypass surgery in that it involves the reduction of your stomach capacity and the bypassing of a portion of your small intestine. However, this operation is a bit more complex than traditional gastric bypass.

In gastric bypass surgery, the surgeon will remove a portion of your stomach (usually the upper part), making the remaining stomach much smaller and less capable of handling large volumes of food. The surgeon will also "disconnect" the small intestine from the stomach, creating a new opening much lower in the small intestine and attaching it to the reduced-size stomach. This procedure bypasses most of the small intestine (which is responsible for absorbing nutrients and energy from the food you eat), which can reduce the amount of fat and calories your body absorbs from food.

In duodenal switch surgery, the stomach size is reduced, and the small intestine is disconnected. However, then a portion of the intestine is used to create a "digestive loop," which allows food to pass from your stomach to the lower portion of your small intestine. Another portion of the small intestine is used to create a biliopancreatic loop, which brings bile from the liver back to the small intestine for use in processing food and waste. 

What are the advantages of this type of surgery over other gastric reduction operations?

The primary disadvantage of many gastric bypass operations is the simplicity of the new stomach-intestine structure. Although the smaller stomach helps with food intake, and the much shorter small intestine allows for fewer calories to be absorbed, this also prevents your body from absorbing most of the nutrients from the food you eat. You'll be required to take a regimen of multivitamins to ensure that you don't become malnourished.

However, because the duodenal switch surgery creates several bypass loops rather than eliminating this portion of the intestine altogether, it allows for greater nutritional absorption while still minimizing the intake of calories and fat.

One of the greatest benefits of duodenal switch surgery is its ability to treat (and in some cases even cure) diabetes and blood sugar issues. By reducing the amount of food you're able to ingest at any given time, while bypassing a significant portion of your small intestine, the surgeon is able to significantly limit blood sugar spikes caused by rapid intake of high-sugar or high-carbohydrate foods.

In some cases, surgeons have recommended this surgery for individuals who did not need to lose weight but were instead suffering from uncontrollable diabetes or high blood sugar.

Are you a good candidate for duodenal switch surgery?

If you're morbidly obese (with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher), or have a BMI of between 35 and 40 but suffer from sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions that are complicated by weight, you may be a good candidate for this type of procedure.

However, just as with a gastric bypass procedure, you'll need to be fully aware of the risks and permanency of this operation. It's not a quick fix for obesity -- it's a significant lifestyle change that will likely make some of your favorite foods off-limits (as their fat or sugar content will quickly make you ill). You'll also have to commit to regular checkups from your physician to ensure that your procedure has healed appropriately and that you're getting enough of the right nutrients to remain healthy. For more information, check out a website like