Weight Loss Balloons, Surgery Risks, and Managing Weight Loss Without Surgery

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Phalinn Ooi

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Phalinn Ooi


A new weight loss surgery has been approved to fight obesity.

The new procedure places a balloon into the stomach using an endoscope, after which the balloon is then filled with saline solution. The entire procedure takes fewer than thirty minutes during which patients are sedated.  The balloon is intended to be temporary as the patient follows a medically supervised nutrition exercise plan, and  is removed six months after insertion.

Obesity now affects more than one-third of the population in the U.S, resulting in obesity-related conditions that include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

Weight loss surgeries – such as a Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, adjustable Gastric Band, Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, or a Duodenal Switch – are recommended for those with a BMI of 40 or those with a BMI of 35 who have other risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

The new balloon is approved for obese adults, with a BMI between 30 and 40, who have at least one complicating condition and have been unable to lose weight through diet and exercise alone.

This prompts the question: Now that the barrier to entry for weight loss surgery is lowered, should more people that struggle with being overweight or obese go under the knife?

Weight Loss Surgery Risks

Weight loss surgeries, like any major surgeries, have risks and benefits.

ReShape’s balloon lists side effects and risks not uncommon with other weight loss surgeries: “Potential side effects for the procedure include headache, muscle pain, and nausea from the sedation and procedure; in rare cases, severe allergic reaction, heart attack, esophageal tear, infection, and breathing difficulties can occur. Once the device is placed in the stomach, patients may experience vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, gastric ulcers, and feelings of indigestion.”

In addition, these side effects comes a significant risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Because of the rerouted digestion in the body, levels of essential nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, such as iron, B12, vitamin D, and folic acid, can decrease. Since these risks exist in life after surgery, there is a crucial need for labs to monitor and manage these essential nutrients.

Understanding how biochemistry and the procedure affects nutrient levels is integral to long-term health and success. While nutrition, lifestyle, and supplements are the keys to the patient’s longevity and quality of life, it’s important to follow these levels to make sure they are optimal.

Factors that can contribute to risk for nutritional deficiencies include:

  • Vomiting
  • Decreased food intake
  • Food intolerance
  • Reduction of gastric secretions
  • Bypass of areas of absorption surface

Failure to comprehensively and consistently monitor these levels could result in debilitating if not fatal consequences, such as:

  • Anemia, due to iron/B12 deficiency
  • Bone loss, due to vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
  • Loss of function and permanent mental decline, due to vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency

How to Manage Weight Loss Without Surgery

  1. Include regular exercise. As detailed by The Mayo Clinic, exercise has a host of benefits that prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. It also improves mood, boosts energy, and promotes better sleep. If you need to workout to make the most of your time, we’ve got you covered on the How and Why.
  2. Cut processed foods. Refined, processed foods are not as nutrient dense, digest quickly in the body, and stimulate insulin. Insulin is the body’s primary regulator of fat metabolism, so this is the piece of the puzzle as to why most associate carbs with gaining weight. When insulin levels go up, we store fat. When it falls, we use fat for fuels. In general, slower blood sugar/insulin rises are healthier than the frequent blood sugar/insulin spikes that simple carbs bring on. Know your labels and what’s in your food.
  3. Consider shaking up your nutrition. America swore by low-fat in the 1980’s. Now, fat is picking up traction in major press, but what health experts once touted as gospel truth – “Eat Low Fat” – is wrong. Most fat is good (and Carbs are getting a closer look). To learn more about Low Carb vs. Low Fat, read up on this popular blog post.
  4. Monitor hormones. WellnessFX practitioner Dr. Woody has visited this topic before – Your hormones are controlling your weight. “Hormones such as Insulin and Leptin are powerful modulators of fat loss and fat gain. They also override your other hormones, such as thyroid and sex hormones. Just ask yourself – do you feel your thyroid and sex hormones are off? Are you tired all the time and/or do you lack libido? Having treated hormone issues for years, I can tell you it is most likely an indirect effect of the first few hormones I mentioned, rather than the thyroid and sex hormones directly.” Dr. Woody recommends learning more about and evaluating your performance hormones and your metabolic hormones as the place to start. From there, reviewing these hormones with a WellnessFX practitioner in a consultation will give you the customized recommendations to take control of your health and weight.
  5. Be mindful of your gut health. The presence and absence of certain bacteria in your gut are connected to obesity. In a study published in August of 2014, researchers found that disturbing the normal gut microbiomes of young mice caused them to gain weight later on. Transplanting these mice’s gut microbes into germ-free mice ended up transferring weight gain, as well. This suggests that the gut microbes were indeed the cause of the extra weight. Outside of mice, a 32-year old woman who received a FMT (Fecal Microbiota Transplant) to treat Clostridium difficile experienced rapid and unexpected weight gain. Having never been overweight prior to the transplant, she, remains obese today, three years post-transplant. The suspected culprit: Donor stool from the woman’s overweight but otherwise healthy teenage daughter. Visit this post for 7 tips that promote a healthy gut.

How WellnessFX Can Help

For those considering or managing weight loss surgery, WellnessFX offers a suite of bariatric panel lab tests to help you identify nutritional deficiencies and maximize long-term health. We created this panel because we realized post bariatric surgery patients were paying thousands per year out-of-pocket on critical lab tests. Based on the latest professional guidelines, these comprehensive metabolic panels (CMP) are intended to improve their quality of life and possibly prolong lifespan. Labs start as low as $185 – view our Bariatric package here.

The best way to know your risks and possibly avoid a weight loss procedure all together is to get a blood test. Once you know where you are on the risk scale, you’ll know what to monitor, and what lifestyle changes you should incorporate to achieve optimal health. If you re-test after approximately four months, the time it takes for blood cells to regenerate, you’ll know if your changes are working.

Browse All Blood Tests

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.