How does bariatric surgery affect your stomach?

Are you wondering how long does it take for your stomach to shrink after bariatric surgery? Understanding how bariatric surgery affect your stomach is an important part of the consideration process. Often, people want to know how bariatric surgery alters the stomach, whether it will be noticeably smaller, or how soon after surgery you’ll be able to see a difference in the size of your stomach.  

There are two important points. One is to note the difference between the stomach as an internal organ and the stomach as a visible “belly”; and two is that there are many different kinds of weight-loss surgeries, each of which involves a different treatment of the stomach organ.  

Does your stomach actually shrink after surgery?

With weight-loss surgeries, the size of the stomach is reduced by one of a few different methods exemplified by these types of procedures:

  • The Gastric Sleeve – Also known as a laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, this procedure involves removing a large portion of the stomach, resulting in a much smaller pouch in the shape of a sleeve. On average, the gastric sleeve allows a patient to lose around 60–65% of their excess body weight within about a year of surgery.
  • The Gastric Bypass – This procedure is perhaps the least invasive. It creates a small pouch, through which food passes and is then redirected to the small intestine. It leaves the rest of the stomach intact. On average, postsurgical patients lose about 70–75% of excess weight within a year.
  • The Duodenal Switch A combination of both the gastric sleeve and the gastric bypass, this procedure has its benefits for the right candidate but is also a more delicate procedure. An average loss of 80–85% of excess weight results within a year. 

With gastric restrictive surgeries (which we’ll mention a little further below), each procedure essentially reduces the size of your stomach. However, not everyone is eligible for these types of bariatric surgeries.

Typically, folks with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 are candidates, so long as they have tried to lose weight but have not been successful. For patients with a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35, a metabolic syndrome or other life-threatening issue is usually a prerequisite health condition for this type of procedure.

As explained above, most bariatric surgeries involve reducing the stomach’s size and creating a smaller pouch that lets food pass more slowly, reducing your appetite and helping you feel full in less time. 

You could say that the function of the pouch is also what helps ‘shrink’ your stomach. The goal of these surgeries is twofold: to lower your food intake and significantly reduce the stomach’s production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. Having a smaller stomach means having less ghrelin. 

This set of pouch-related procedures affects your insides, not your skin; they will not instantly flatten your belly. However, don’t be discouraged if the results take a little time. 

Remember that weight-loss surgery is a tool that you can use to change your lifestyle for the better and lose weight permanently. All of this requires a serious commitment to the post-op regimen, permanently altering your eating and exercising behaviors, and leading a healthy lifestyle. 

If you believe bariatric surgery is the answer you’re looking for, consult with your doctor to establish the type of bariatric surgery best suited to you. The procedure can speed up weight loss by limiting your stomach’s capacity, but the combination of the surgery, diet, and exercise is what can keep the pounds off for good.

How long does it take for your stomach to shrink?

With any of these procedures, the stomach organ’s capacity is significantly reduced in a short time. Food must be eaten slowly, very well chewed, and consumed in small quantities if you want to avoid any discomfort such as nausea and vomiting. After all, the idea is that this procedure will help you adopt a healthier lifestyle so you can reach your weight-loss goals. 

How long your belly takes to decrease in size depends on how much weight you managed to lose before the surgery (another requirement), how much you have left to lose, the amount of skin left hanging, the elasticity of your skin, and your workout plan. It is different for everyone and instantaneous for no one.

It’s vital not to lose sight of the finish line. You will get there. Keep in mind that most weight-loss surgery patients meet their goal weight within 1–2 years post-op. In the meantime, focus on taking care of yourself because this is the most important kind of support. Develop a routine you can easily follow every day to keep up your spirits and overall health so you can see the results you seek.

When will I start to lose weight after bariatric surgery?

Since bariatric surgery results in you eating less food and absorbing fewer calories, weight loss can happen as early as the first day, with 1 lb a day being the most dramatic and 1–2 lbs per week being the average.

Typical Weight Loss Range at Various Intervals Post-op

Period Post-opWeight Loss Per WeekWeight Loss Per Month
0–3 months3.3–6.6 lbs 13.2–26.4 lbs
6–9 months1.7–3.3 lbs 6.6–13.2 lbs
9–12 months Around 1.7 lbs Around 6.6 lbs

Should you find that your weight loss post-op stalls, don’t fret! Stalls are a normal part of the process. Some patients continue to drop inches, even if they aren’t reflected when they get on the scale. Eventually, the apparent “stall” breaks, and the scale catches up to your body’s progress.

Bariatric surgery is one of many steps in a weight-loss program, not a swift solution. As with any surgery, it needs to be complemented with maintenance efforts, i.e., watching your eating behaviors. Remember, being disciplined with a balanced diet does not end with the surgery; the idea is to sustain it as a lifelong habit in order to remain healthy.

After you have the procedure done, adjust your meal plan to fit a specifically designed post-surgical diet. These new eating habits should assist you with the recovery process and help maximize results. Interesting fact: you prepare for your post-op diet with a pre-surgical diet to minimize complications and facilitate healing.

Can my stomach stretch after surgery?

Severe overeating right after surgery can cause the stomach to swell up and the sutures to burst. If your procedure involved banding, your stomach could stretch back to its original size if you’re not careful since it was only being squeezed. Restrictive surgeries involve surgical staples, and if those were to pop out of place, the stomach might stretch but not regain size.

The sutures’ undoing can cause severe damage and render the entire process useless. It can harm you and make things quite challenging for your surgeon, so it’s best to avoid straying from your diet plan. 

How to Prevent the Stretch After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

A gastric sleeve removes around 75% of your stomach, so, technically, the procedure shrinks it. However, post-surgery instructions need to be followed strictly. The key to preventing your stomach from permanently stretching is to be watchful of your habits following your surgery.

As we eat, our stomachs expand and contract to accommodate the amount of food we feed it; the expansion becomes a stretch when we overeat. The best way to prevent this is to avoid expanding it regularly. The sleeve is meant to help you feel fuller faster and want to eat less.

To manage hunger and fullness triggers, focus on the critical points of controlling your food intake: make portions smaller, limit the frequency of large meals, and opt for several small, healthy snacks instead of various complete meals in one day.

The Bottom Line: Bariatric surgery affect your stomach

The size of the stomach is immediately reduced, weight loss occurs rapidly, and belly-flattening is gradual. Adhering to your post-surgery care program prevents stomach stretching and weight gain. Trust your process and remain disciplined—desired results will come, and satisfaction will be yours!

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