Bariatric surgery is designed to support weight loss by reducing stomach size. Learn how you can prevent post-operative stomach sleeve stretching.
Bariatric surgery is designed to help people lose weight. The three main types performed in Australia include: sleeve gastrectomy (gastric sleeve), Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (gastric bypass) and gastric banding.
One of the ways in which these procedures work is by reducing the filling capacity of the stomach – with some bariatric procedures reducing stomach size by up to 90%. This means that a patient’s remaining stomach capacity is filled with less food, signalling for them to stop eating sooner and ultimately limiting their calorie intake to gradually help them reduce their weight.
However, it is important for patients to be aware that a stomach sleeve can stretch after surgery. In this article we’ll explain how the stomach can stretch and the implications for a patient and we’ll explore some ways to prevent postoperative stomach stretching.
Can you stretch your stomach sleeve after bariatric surgery?
Yes, you can stretch your stomach sleeve after bariatric surgery if you continue to overeat on a regular basis.
Post-operatively, patients are given a strict dietary plan to follow to help them avoid complications, lose weight and maintain their weight loss. However, patients who repeatedly go through cycles of overeating put themselves at risk of permanently stretching their stomach sleeves and regaining weight.
What does stretching your stomach do?
The stomach is designed for some normal stretching. Its walls are made of tissue, called ‘gastric rugae’, that stretches – kind of like an accordion – in response to food entering it. This expansion of the stomach lets the body know that it is full and to stop eating.
However, regular overeating may gradually cause the stomach to permanently increase in size and capacity. This can also alter the normal signalling process that tells the body to stop eating. The stomach will begin to only signal the feeling of fullness when it’s severely stretched. This means that a person will not feel full when their stomach is actually full, causing them to consume greater amounts and gradually leading to weight gain.
Following a bariatric procedure where the stomach size has been surgically reduced it is really important to avoid overeating. Adhering to a bariatric team’s diet and healthy lifestyle program will help maintain long-term weight loss effectively.
How to prevent stomach sleeve stretching after bariatric surgery
The most important steps a post-operative patient can take to prevent stomach sleeve stretching is to carefully follow their bariatric team’s dietary and lifestyle plan. This plan is designed specifically for patients to maintain healthy, long-term weight loss and minimise their risk of complications.
However, below are some general tips that can help prevent stomach sleeve stretching:
Although it takes more than one big meal to stretch your stomach sleeve, every big meal you eat creates or reinforces a habit cycle. Avoid overeating by keeping on top of your portion sizes. It is important to also prepare yourself in advance of situations where you might feel tempted to overindulge, such as Christmas lunch/dinner.
Limit fluids intake when eating
Space out your fluid intake for a couple of hours before or after meals. This gives you a chance to enjoy the correct amount of food without overfilling your stomach sleeve. Also, while fizzy drinks don’t stretch your stomach as such, the carbonation can increase the pressure – particularly in a sleeved stomach – resulting in discomfort and possible reflux. For this reason they are not recommended.
Have small snacks between meals if necessary
If you’re experiencing extreme hunger between meals try having a small portioned healthy snack like some nuts. It is better to have small snacks than not eating altogether, this might cause you to gorge or binge on your next meal.
You don’t have to remove all unhealthy foods from your diet entirely to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Enjoying food is important, so indulging yourself occasionally doesn’t mean you are doing a bad job. The key is to try and moderate the amount and frequency that you allow yourself a treat so that you can actually enjoy what you are eating, rather than binging mindlessly.
Get professional support with your eating behaviours
If you are considering, or have already had bariatric surgery, it is essential that you seek guidance from a dietary service specialising in bariatric surgery nutrition. The dietary team from Newcastle Obesity Surgery Centre work closely with the surgeons who perform these bariatric operations. Our expert dietitians understand each procedure and how to apply the correct nutritional approach to not only maintain good health but also maximise your health and weight loss goals.
Contact Newcastle Obesity Surgery Centre today on 02 4058 3936 or book an appointment with our online form.