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Side Effects of Gastric Sleeve Surgery

by Biljana Denic

Gastric sleeve changed my life seven years ago when I had the procedure. I lost 160 pounds and felt on top of the world. I dropped weight so fast and was the healthiest I had ever been. It was a fantastic feeling knowing that I finally had control of my life for the first time in years. 

There are so many positives that come from weight loss surgery. However, it is essential to educate yourself on both the advantages and disadvantages of gastric sleeve surgery.

When Did I Start Having Side Effects?

Even though weight loss surgery brings so much positivity, there are some side effects that you must be aware of to make your decision if surgery is right for you.

For the first few years, I did not have any side effects after gastric sleeve. It was not until around four years post-op when I started to struggle with acid reflux. I will lead by saying that gastric sleeve saved my life. Even with the side effects, I am still thrilled that I went through with the procedure. It was difficult at times, but I am still very thankful for my tool.

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is when stomach acid flows upward from your stomach into your esophagus. It is often accompanied by sharp abdominal pain and a bitter taste in your throat and mouth. If you have acid reflux before undergoing gastric sleeve, then it will likely worsen after surgery. This is because of the restrictive stomach size making acid reflux shoot up into the esophagus.

My acid reflux was worse when I made poor eating choices. It would get so bad that I would vomit and would be in so much pain. Even though it was worse with unhealthy foods, it was still present with some healthy foods. I was constantly anxious because I felt that everything I ate would cause me significant pain. It was worse at night, and I would sometimes have a difficult time sleeping. It got so bad that I finally had to have revision surgery. Since converting to gastric bypass, I have not experienced any acid reflux!

Low Blood Sugar

Another side effect of gastric sleeve surgery is that I experienced was low blood sugar. Two main reasons cause low blood sugar after bariatric surgery: Not eating for an extended time and dumping syndrome. I usually experienced late dumping syndrome, which occurred 1-3 hours after eating.

Whenever I consumed too much sugar, I struggled with low blood sugar a few hours later.  Again, it went back to my unhealthy choices. I should not have been eating as much sugar as I was. When I made healthy choices and put protein first, I never experienced late dumping syndrome.

It is an uncomfortable feeling when you have low blood sugar. I would feel like I was going to pass out, and my heart would pound so hard. This is why it is so essential to control your sugar levels after bariatric surgery.

Malnutrition After Gastric Sleeve

Malnutrition is the last side effect that I experienced with gastric sleeve. With bariatric surgery, you cannot take in as much food, and therefore you are not getting the appropriate amount of nutrition. I could not eat a lot at a time, and to be honest, I was often making poor choices. Eating small portions of unhealthy food caused me to get deficient in some vitamins.

I got so low in vitamin d that I had to start taking a prescription. It is so vital that you make healthy choices after bariatric surgery. Malnutrition is something to take very seriously as it can cause significant issues. Luckily, I did not experience anything substantial, but it could have been really dangerous if I kept up with my poor choices.

List of Common Side Effects After Gastric Sleeve

Source: princetonhcs.org

Besides the main side effects I experienced after gastric sleeve surgery, other unwanted repercussions range from mild discomfort to those requiring another surgery. The sleeve gastrectomy is a relatively safe bariatric procedure that has become widely popular and accepted. One of the most significant advantages is that its expected weight loss is comparable to gastric bypass surgery. Its relative risks are fewer than the RNY bypass because it’s less complex and requires shorter operating room time.

Mild to Moderate Side Effects

Immediately after surgery, minor side effects such as pain from gas, bruising, bleeding, inflammation, and swelling are widespread. Side effects and symptoms can be alleviated by medication therapy, movement, and rest. These effects can dissipate within a day to several days following surgery.

  • Acid reflux
  • Gas
  • Bruising
  • Bleeding
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Obstruction of stomach

Severe Side Effects

Source: baribuilder.com

A few patients can suffer more severe complications, including internal bleeding, leaking, gastritis (inflammation in the lining of the stomach), more than usual abdominal pain, and bloating in the abdominal area.

  • Internal bleeding
  • Infection
  • Gastric leakage
  • Gastritis
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Blood clots

As with all surgeries, a small number of patients may develop an infection, pneumonia, nausea, and vomiting. A doctor should check all severe side effects without delay. Blood clots, which can be fatal, occur in less than 1% of gastric sleeve patients (Estimated 30–50% of the knee and hip surgery patients develop blood clots).

How to Avoid Side Effects?

Gastric sleeve surgery is a beautiful tool, but it is essential to remember side effects after surgery. You must remember that everyone is different. Just because these things happened to me does not mean they will happen to you. Take the time to research, though, and that way, you will not be surprised if any of them occur to you. Finding a support group is one of the most useful tools to help overcome these side effects. I have made many life-long friends through different online support groups who helped me through stalls, plateaus, and many post-operative problems.

Remember to speak with your bariatric surgeon and primary care physician (PCP) before trying any remedies or medications. Your doctor will always be your advocate to help you overcome side effects after gastric sleeve surgery.

For more information about undergoing gastric sleeve or revision surgery in Mexico, go to mexicobariatriccenter.com.

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