MedWatch Today: Mental Health Effects with Bariatric Surgery

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Bariatric surgery is a life changing procedure that not only affect someone’s physical appearance, but their mental health as well. Local mother Kristen Oliveira shares with us how she had to change her behaviors with food in order to live a healthier life.

Kristen used to dread seeing her doctors. She struggled with Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity since she was a teenager.

“It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve realized that I’ve been using food as a coping mechanism to deal with past traumas, and things that I’ve gone through in my life,” said Kristen. “Primariliy, I would say sweets was like my addiction; sweets, Pepsi, like, I would get up in the morning, go to the store, get a 40 ounces Pepsi that was my coffee, ice cream, cookies, I mean sweets, my body, I just craved it.”

It was a year and half ago when Kristen, a 34-year old mother of two, finally had enough.

She continued, “I was tired all the time and like, I had no energy, I was lethargic like, I remember being like I want to get up and do this, but I don’t have it in me. I’m just physically drained.”

Her mother, aunts and husband all had bariatric surgery at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital with Dr. Keith Boone. She knew Dr. Boone was the one who could help jump start a change her life.

He stated, “Our number one reason to do the operation is for the diabetes and for the medical problems. And that’s why you’ll hear the term ‘metabolic surgery’ more than ‘weight loss surgery’. In a way, we look at the weight loss as a nice side effect of the surgery that we’re doing for her diabetes.”

Dr. Boone describes the type of bariatric procedure Kristen had in February 2021.

“Kristen had the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, which is a little pouch about the size of your thumb, and it’s hooked up to the intestine, and that’s called the Roux limb. It meets the bypass stomach a little bit down stream at the ‘Y’, so that’s the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass,” added the surgeons.

Dr. Boone said the benefits from gastric bypass surgery can be immediate.

He commented, “Eighty-five percent of our patients that have diabetes leave the hospital immediately off their diabetes medicine, so that tells you that it’s more the anatomy of the surgery and the changes with the surgery, and the changes of the gut hormone with the surgery.”

But the long term changes really comes from the patient’s willingness, to adjust to a new life style, including changes to their diet and exercise routines.

“I kinda had it in my head like, oh I’ll lose weight and everything, my happiness will automatically be there, and I’ll be happy 24/7. And that’s not the case. There’s a lot of work that has to be done on the other side after surgery, and if you’re willing to put your heart and soul into it, it’s 100-percent rewarding and beneficial,” Kristen stated.

Kristen dealt with depression and anxiety even before her surgery, and said the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help.

She added, “It was hard at first, you know, still wanting those foods. But each day has literally been easier, and just able to like, break free of that feeling of addiction, like I need these foods.”

Dr. Boone said, “Carbs lead to more carbs, and if you think about it, if you eat the simple sugars or some of the simple carbohydrates, your blood sugar goes up a little bit, and an hour or two later it goes back down. Your body says thanks, give me more, so it feels like an addiction… In general, we like our patients to eat two to three meals a day, roughly a cup at a sitting, where half of that’s a protein and half of that’s a vegetable.”

Kristen used social media to help her mentally get through the issues she’s had with food. She’s lost 50 pounds and finds support from others who have had bariatric surgery. And she enjoys inspiring others with her story.

“It’s just getting the word out there that, listen, this is gonna be hard, but there’s so much reward on the other side, you don’t have to live like this anymore. You can live a life of activities with your kids, not feeling like you’re watching life pass you by,” ended Kristen.

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