Health Care

Reversing Diabetes With Bariatric Surgery

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When it comes to your health, it’s empowering to know you have the option to take control. Change can be a good thing if it means a step toward your healthiest, happiest self. And if you’re living with diabetes, it may be time to consider bariatric surgery as an option for getting there.

Bariatric surgery is also sometimes referred to as weight loss surgery, but that’s not its only purpose. According to Dr. Christian Birkedal, bariatric surgeon, “the more important benefits of bariatric surgery are the improvements of general health and quality of life.”

In fact, those with the following conditions can see dramatic improvement after weight loss, to the point of no longer requiring medications:

  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Diabetes
  • Fatty liver
  • Heartburn
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea

Reversing Diabetes

Living with diabetes can be difficult, and Dr. Birkedal believes bariatric surgery can be a great solution. He explains that patients with diabetes and obesity have what’s called “insulin resistance” because upper abdominal fat blocks the action of insulin and raises blood glucose levels.

Shortly after bariatric surgery, insulin resistance resolves, and blood glucose levels return to normal. The majority of patients won’t need insulin injections within two weeks after surgery and all other diabetic medications within three months.

According to Dr. Birkedal, “For patients with obesity and poorly controlled diabetes, gastric bypass is a much more effective operation in turning off insulin resistance and putting diabetes into remission, compared to the sleeve gastrectomy or medical treatment.”

Dangers of Living With Diabetes

Diabetes is a progressive disease that can lead to severe personal health consequences. Patients with diabetes may have lower insulin production, in addition to insulin resistance, if they are obese. While non-surgical options should always be considered first, unfortunately, “diet and lifestyle modifications are less effective in controlling body weight and blood glucose in patients with BMI greater than 35,” Dr. Birkedal says.
He continues, “There is overwhelming, strong evidence that bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for diabetes in patients with obesity. The American Diabetes Association guidelines recommend a consultation with a bariatric surgeon for patients with a BMI >35 and poorly controlled diabetes.”

Common Types of Bariatric Surgery

The most common bariatric operations are gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy. Both types of procedures are performed laparoscopically or robotically through small incisions, which reduces pain and minimizes recovery time after surgery.

With gastric bypass surgery, a small pouch is created from the top portion of the stomach, which is connected directly to the small intestine. Food is swallowed and goes to the pouch, and then goes directly into the small intestine, “bypassing” the stomach. This operation not only reduces the amount of food that can be ingested, but it also has a profound impact on how the body metabolizes foods and carbohydrates.

With a sleeve gastrectomy procedure, the stomach is divided into two sections and the larger one is removed. The stomach pouch that remains is the shape and size of a small banana and is no longer capable of storing large portions of food. The effects of sleeve gastrectomy on metabolism are less obvious than in gastric bypass.

Recovery Process

According to Dr. Birkedal, “We’ve perfected doing these operations with minimally invasive techniques, which reduces post-surgery pain and the length of hospital stay.” Additionally, at AdventHealth Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery, we utilize special medications to reduce risk and enhance recovery.

During recovery time, Dr. Birkedal says it’s important for the patient to “adjust to new eating habits and focus on their well-being.”

Some people may be concerned about the risks or side effects of bariatric surgery, but Dr. Birkedal explains that these types of operations are typically associated with a very low risk of complications. According to the American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, the risk of death following this surgery averages 0.1%, which Dr. Birkedal says is “considerably less than most other operations, including gallbladder and hip replacement surgery.”

Who is a Candidate for Bariatric Surgery?

If you have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 kg/m2 (approximately 100 pounds overweight), you may be a candidate for bariatric surgery. Patients with a BMI of 35 – 39 kg/m2 and a major medical condition such as diabetes, hypertension or sleep apnea are also candidates for weight loss surgery.

At AdventHealth Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery, we’re able to treat a spectrum of patients regardless of age. “We even have a specialized adolescent bariatrics program at AdventHealth for Children,” Dr. Birkedal explains.

More Information

We’re here to help you live your healthiest life. For more information on surgical procedures performed at AdventHealth Weight Loss and Bariatric Surgery, click here.

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