Gallbladder and other risks after weight loss surgery
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says that 31% of adults during the 2017-18 period were listed as obese. This percentage is not decreasing, it’s only going up, and the health risks related to obesity are shocking.
The amount of people choosing to have different forms of weight loss surgery is also increasing.
Weight loss surgery has many positive effects by reducing the risks of weight-related issues, however it also poses some major risks and complications.
Issues further discussed include the risk of gallstones, constipation, diarrhoea and hair loss after weight loss surgery.
Gallbladder side effects after weight loss surgery
Obesity increases the chances of people developing gallstones in the gallbladder, and following weight loss surgery, the chance is even higher. The formation of gallstones is known as cholelithiasis.
The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ responsible for releasing a fluid known as bile through the bile duct and into your small intestine. This bile is created in the liver and is responsible for helping to break down fats inside food.
Why do gallstones appear?
Gallstones occur when digestive fluids become hardened forming deposits inside your gallbladder. Gallstones are caused by too much cholesterol or bilirubin, and not enough bile acids or lecithin (substances that allow oil and water to mix).
Gallstones caused by cholesterol are the most prevalent type in western countries, however gallstones caused by bilirubin are also not uncommon.
Obesity alters the balance between cholesterol versus lecithin in your body, ultimately causing cholesterol-rich bile and increasing the chances for gallstone formation in your gallbladder. Not only this but being overweight makes it harder for your gallbladder to empty, which also causes the trapped cholesterol-rich bile to potentially form gallstones.
How weight loss surgery increases chances of gallstones
Obesity causes gallstones and so does losing weight too quickly. People who have undergone weight loss surgery such as bariatric surgery are prime for gallstone formation, as they have experienced fast tracked weight loss over the first three to six months.
After having weight loss surgery, you should be checked and it is also common for patients to receive treatment to reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by the liver, reducing the chances of gallstone formation.
For this reason, patients should be absolutely sure they will proceed and know the risks of weight loss surgery, as opposed to losing weight by diet and increased activity.
How are gallstones harmful?
The issue with gallstones is that they obstruct bile from leaving your gallbladder, which causes bile to build up to abnormal amounts; resulting in inflammation, called acute cholecystitis.
- Cholangitis – Bile duct infection
- Pancreas inflammation
- Gallbladder cancer
- Jaundice – Yellowish tint to the skin and eyes
- Sepsis – Blood infection
Symptoms of gallstones
Symptoms can involve the following:
- Pain in the upper stomach or mid-right back
- Nausea and vomiting
- Appetite loss
- Abdominal bloating
- Clay-coloured stool
Treatment of gallstones
Gallstones are usually removed through surgery, either open or laparoscopic.
If a patient chooses to avoid surgery due to choice or a medical reason, gallstones can be sometimes dissolved using bile ingested acids for a few months. This method has a high success rate for small stones, however for larger stones it has a much lower success rate.
Gallstones are not the only issue as patients have also suffered hair loss, constipation and diarrhoea following weight loss surgery.
Hair loss after bariatric surgery?
Yes, patients can experience hair loss following the weight loss surgery. Hair growth has a two-stage cycle; the growth phase followed by the telogen phase (resting phase). During the telogen phase, you experience hair loss which can occur for about three months.
So how does bariatric surgery cause hair loss?
Because weight loss surgery can restrict your intake of nutrients and causes bodily stress.
This can cause telogen effluvium; a hair loss associated with bariatric surgery’s rapid weight loss phase. Alongside this, due to the stress of surgery, more hairs can be sent into the resting phase.
To stop hair loss after bariatric surgery, it is recommended to take supplements containing biotin and zinc as they thicken and strengthen hair. Increasing protein consumption will decrease the risk, however, be sure not to add too much extra protein, as it will affect the weight loss.
Constipation and diarrhoea after bariatric surgery?
Constipation is seen in some patients following bariatric surgery, most notably laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. It can also rarely occur after duodenal switch surgery.
Constipation can occur due to the insufficient intake of water and can be corrected by paying attention to your water intake and increasing healthy fiber. There are many nutrients that increase constipation, while others help reduce constipation; it’s best to consult your doctor.
Diarrhoea, caused by dumping syndrome after bariatric surgery is the condition of having loose or runny stools and is most notably seen after undergoing sleeve gastrectomy with duodenal switch; it can also be seen after the Roux-en-Y gastric banding.
After a duodenal switch, a patient may see around two-three bowel movements per day.
Early dumping syndrome following bariatric surgery is caused by the small intestine being dumped with a mass of food after the intestines have been restricted. Whereas later dumping syndrome is usually caused by decreases in blood sugar levels.
It’s best to consult your doctor for advice if you suffer from diarrhoea.
Dr Stephen Watson has specialised in weight loss since 1999 and has performed thousands of weight loss surgeries. Dr Watson and his team are experienced and will be able to answer your weight loss surgery concerns and issues.
If you experience gallstone symptoms, diarrhoea or hair loss post bariatric surgery, then please contact Dr Watson by clicking here. However, if your concerns require a medical emergency, please do not wait and visit the emergency department at a hospital immediately.