By Tatjana van der KrabbenI’ve been holding off on writing this blog for a few years. I’m biased. I’m biased because I’ve watched a close friend – as well as others – being reduced to shadows of their former selves after gastric bypass surgery. So, at this point, having watched them going through hell, knowing there is NO way back, because it’s irreversible, there frankly are not enough successful cases in the world to make me change my mind.
Lately I’ve noticed quite a few lipedema patients are being referred for gastric surgery. Also having serious, objective points of consideration on the subject, I feel I need to come forward. So please excuse my lack of nuance this time around.
1. Referral is usually because of suspected obesityLipedema is not obesity. It’s not caused by overeating. The whole motivation behind the referral stems from a false mindset. When bringing up their concerns and questions regarding weight loss specific to lipedema limbs doctors a. turn out to be oblivious about lipedema, b. don’t respond to patients who indicate they eat little as it is. Eerily, when presented with this additional information, the recommendation usually still stands. I’ve never heard of a doctor taking it back.
As for results: reduced leg size is reported, but it doesn’t take the lipedema away. That’s because calorie restriction doesn’t fix lipedema.
2. Gastric bypass surgery equals malnutritionWith the stomach reduced to an unnaturally small size and the small intestine being shortened, you will be unable to digest enough food to sustain yourself. I’m talking nutrients here, not fuel to prevent you from burning fat. You will need to supplement. That’s a given. Especially B12, calcium and iron are a problem.
3. But you already needed to supplement?You have lipedema. B12 quite possibly already was a problem. And some. Even when supplementing it can be challenging to keep symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiency at bay. Gastric bypass surgery will add to that challenge.
4. Do you need it?Lipedema can coincide with eating disorders and/or obesity. Fair enough. But the whole procedure is created around the assumption you are overeating and unable to restrict yourself to the point you can bring your weight down. But many of us actually eat very little if not too little as it is. Suffer from undiagnosed thyroid problems. As already indicated, lipedema is not caused by overeating. If you don’t overeat, what is the point?
5. Surgery damages the lymphatic systemEvery surgery impacts the lymphatic system. Gastric bypass surgery is rather invasive. In lipedema management damage to the lymphatic system is not exactly welcomed. There’s no research on this issue. Most likely the surgeon involved doesn’t know about lipedema. Then who will advise you properly on this particular aspect?
6. Gastric surgery doesn’t fix everythingGastric surgery ensures reduced portions food-wise. It doesn’t cure inflammation. Only the type of food you eat can help in that department. It doesn’t prevent you from making poor diet choices; you could still eat pudding all day long. It doesn’t fix an urge to soothe yourself with food; whatever underlying issue has triggered that need, won’t go away.
7. Is it ethical?Is gastric bypass surgery ethical? I wonder. Presumed healthy tissue from the small intestine is removed. Now I’m this nature freak, true, but isn’t it odd to remove parts of a healthy organ? Also, the stomach is being reduced to such a ridiculous small size, you can’t digest enough food to provide yourself with enough nutrients. Especially with the reduced intestine, which you need to absorb vitamins and minerals. You essentially get rewired for malnutrition. And it’s irreversible. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around this package deal.
I’m not getting into risk of complications and the mortality rate. Like I said: I’m biased. Every surgery has its risks and statistics vary per conducted study and clinic.There are other options. If you are willing to consider bariatric surgery, it doesn’t have to be a gastric bypass. Gastric banding is far less invasive, less connected to vitamin and mineral deficiency and reversible if need be.