There’s no denying the effectiveness of gastric band surgery (stomach banding). Most patients fitted with a gastric band can expect to lose around 50% of their excess weight within the first two years. However, it is far from a quick fix ‘miracle’ solution, and this form of obesity surgery involves as much will power and lifestyle adjustment as a diet and exercise weight management regime, if not more. It also carries the potential for complications, both from the surgery and throughout the life of the band.

So is gastric band surgery the right weight loss route for you? This article takes a look at the pros and cons of the procedure and some of the factors you should consider when making your choice.

This article on gastric band surgery is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

What is a gastric band?

Gastric banding (stomach banding) is a kind of obesity surgery used to aid weight loss in obese patients who have failed to lose weight by conventional means. It consists of a physical barrier placed around your stomach, around three-quarters of the way up, which creates a small pouch. The food you eat fills this pouch much quicker than it would fill your whole stomach, so you feel fuller sooner and eat less. The food then passes through the small opening left by the gastric band and continues along the normal digestive process.

Why have it?

People who choose to have gastric band surgery have usually tried all other methods of weight loss without success. Excess weight can cause a range of physical problems, from back pain and fatigue, to acid reflux and lack of mobility; it can have serious health risks including high blood pressure and heart disease, and can also cause a range of psychological and emotional problems, such as depression and low self-esteem. Faced with these issues, and having failed to lose weight by other means, people turn to gastric band weight loss surgery as a last resort solution.

The biggest advantage of a gastric band is that it is almost guaranteed to work as you’re unable to eat excessive amounts of food any longer – the smaller stomach pouch simply does not have the capacity. Because of this, it’s a very effective form of weight loss surgery, resulting in a weight reduction of between one and two pounds a week – that’s 3st 10lbs to 7st 6lbs per year.

Do you qualify for the procedure?

To qualify for gastric band surgery, you need to be over eighteen years of age, with a BMI index of around thirty-five or more. You also need to demonstrate that you have seriously tried to lose weight by other means, such as diet and exercise. This is particularly important as you will need to make some serious changes to your lifestyle to accommodate your gastric band. If you’ve failed at diets because you were not committed it’s more likely you won’t have the discipline to make the changes you need when the band is fitted.

You also need to be free from psychological problems and in reasonable physical condition, with no major heart or lung problems.

Is it right for you?

Although it’s highly effective, gastric banding is far from a quick-fix solution. It involves a weight management programme which entails huge changes to your lifestyle to accommodate the new smaller size of your stomach. For example, you will spend the first few weeks eating only pureed food as your body adapts. Even then, you will still not be able to enjoy a three-course meal or takeaway banquet in the same way. If you’ve been used to eating large meals, particularly as part of your social life, this will be a difficult thing to come to terms with.

You will also need to commit to a regular exercise regime, as weight loss at such a fast rate can leave you with flabby, excess skin if you do not keep it well toned.

It should also be remembered that gastric banding weight loss surgery is only a physical solution. It will not overcome any psychological problems you have with food, such as comfort eating. Furthermore, while you may think your self-esteem issues or lack of self-confidence are down to your weight, they may, in fact, be due to entirely different causes. It’s worth considering counselling before surgery to ensure that gastric band surgery is the right course of action for you.

Other things to consider

Below are a few other issues to consider when making your decision:

  • Gastric banding is invasive surgery and has certain risks associated with it. However, hundreds of procedures are done every year without incident
  • Around one in ten patients will need further surgery to correct or replace their gastric band
  • Gastric banding is limited on the NHS and will cost around £7,000 to have done privately. However, you may decide that this is a small price to pay to reduce the health risks associated with obesity
  • Gastric banding should be a decision you make for yourself, and not under pressure from you partner or to please another person
  • You will need a high level of support from those around you to help you make the necessary changes to your lifestyle. However, unlike a diet, these changes may be easier to make knowing that the results are almost guaranteed

You need to balance all these factors against the benefits you will gain from the significant weight loss the gastric band surgery will give you. Everyone has different circumstances and different reasons for wanting to lose weight, so there is no right or wrong answer. It is your body, your health, and your lifestyle, and you need to make the decision that is right for you.

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