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How Does Bariatric Surgery Work?

Bariatric surgery is a type of surgery that helps severely overweight people permanently lose weight. There are several types of bariatric surgery, but all of these surgeries help reduce your appetite by making your stomach smaller.

Some people who are only moderately overweight may think that bariatric surgery is a treatment option. But bariatric surgery is only a treatment for people who are morbidly obese.

Benefits of Bariatric Surgery

Reduce Weight-Related Medical Problems

Studies show that bariatric procedures can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of obesity-related conditions like:

  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol

Lower Your Chances of Heart Disease, Stroke, & Cancer

Bariatric procedures can also lower your chances of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Among patients who had bariatric surgery:

  • Heart related health problems dropped by 56 percent
  • Diabetes-related health problems went down by 92 percent
  • Cancer deaths decreased by 60 percent
  • Mortality (rates of death from obesity) went down by 40 percent*

*Adams, NEJM, 2007

*1998 NIH Clinical Guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults

What Is Obesity?

BMI Index

Obesity is a condition where you have too much body fat for your height. Doctors measure obesity by calculating body mass index or BMI. BMI estimates the amount of fat you are carrying in relation to your height.

However, obesity is not the same as being overweight (when your weight is more than a healthy level for your height). Doctors use BMI to determine if patients are candidates for bariatric surgery.

Morbid Obesity

Clinically severe obesity, or morbid obesity, causes serious health consequences and challenges. If your BMI is greater than or equal to 40, you are considered morbidly obese. If your BMI is greater than or equal to 35 and you have a weight-related medical condition (Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea), you also have clinically severe obesity

Can Bariatric Surgery Treat Morbid Obesity?

Bariatric surgery can treat morbidly obese patients, but not overweight patients.

How Does Obesity Affect Your Health?

Obesity can greatly affect both your quality of life and health.

Quality of Life

Many people who are obese say they have the following experiences:

  • Tired of feeling unhealthy; concerned for their health
  • Want to be able to play with children/grandchildren
  • Unable to fit into seats on airplanes, in movie theaters, on amusement park rides
  • Can’t participate in activities they used to enjoy
  • Difficulty with daily activities and hygiene
  • Social stigma and discrimination
  • Multiple medications for weight-related medical problems

Health Problems

Extra body weight from obesity can cause the following health problems:

  • More medical problems
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure/cholesterol
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Arthritis
  • Obstructive sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancer
  • Increased complications of pregnancy, menstrual irregularity, stress incontinence, and depression
  • Increased chance of death (mortality)

Lifestyle Changes After Bariatric Surgery

An important part of having successful bariatric surgery is making sure you make healthy, positive lifestyle changes after your surgery. To lose the most weight and not regain any weight after your surgery, you will need to eat a healthy diet and exercise.

Gastric Bypass Recovery Diet 

After your bariatric surgery, you will be on the following diet:

Stage 1: Clear liquids - one day
Stage 2: Full liquids/pureed foods – two weeks
Stage 3: Soft foods, no uncooked vegetable or fruits – until week six
Stage 4: Regular foods – after week six
Lifelong: Vitamin and mineral supplements


The National Weight Control Registry recommends 60 minutes of exercise seven times a week for long term weight loss success; however, speak to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine.

Other Lifestyle Changes 

  • Use alcohol sparingly: After having bariatric surgery, your blood alcohol levels will increase three times compared to pre-surgery levels, even after drinking the same amount of alcohol. This is partly because your stomach is smaller after surgery.
  • Drink more water and eat more protein.
    • Drink water; approximately 64 ounces per day
    • Do not drink water within 30 minutes after meals.
    • Eat/drink at least 60 grams of protein per day.
  • Limit caffeine: Caffeine can dehydrate you and works against your efforts to stay hydrated.
  • Avoid pregnancy during the first one to two years (during period of rapid weight loss). 

Why Choose University of Utah Health?

Why should you choose University of Utah Health for your bariatric surgery? We are nationally ranked as one of the best health systems in the country. As a patient of University of Utah Health, you also have access to specialists and experts in all areas of medicine.

We are committed to quality and excellent outcomes for our patients, as well as long-term follow-up after your bariatric surgery.

We also offer these programs to our patients:

  • We treat our patients with a comprehensive team of highly trained experts in bariatric surgery, nutrition, and exercise physiology.
  • We offer complete pre and post-surgical diagnostic testing, including endoscopy, lab work, and x-rays, if needed.
  • We create individualized exercise programs customized to your ability.
  • We offer lifelong access to the invaluable monthly bariatric support group with other pre and post-surgical patients.

If you are concerned about your quality of life and health, you may qualify for bariatric surgery. Learn more about if you may qualify for bariatric surgery

Meet Our Patients

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Do I Qualify for Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery isn't for people who are mildly overweight. Instead, it's for severely obese people who are 100 pounds or more overweight and their health is at risk.

Learn If You Qualify

What Weight Loss Surgery Is Best For Me?

There are several types of bariatric surgery. Choosing the best surgery for you will depend on your weight loss goals and preferences.

Learn About Surgery Options

Start the Process

If you're thinking about weight loss surgery, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. We help make the process as easy as possible.

Start the Bariatric Surgery Process

Self-Pay Options

If your insurance doesn't cover bariatric surgery, you can pay for it using our self-pay option.

Learn About Our Self-Pay Options

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