Bariatric Surgery and Diabetes – What You Need to Know

There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Let’s start with their similarities: both are chronic diseases that affect the way your body regulates blood sugar or glucose. Glucose fuels and runs your body, and insulin produced by the pancreas is the “key” that unlocks the power of glucose and lets it enter your cells. Both types lead to chronically high blood sugar levels which increase the risk of diabetes and related complications.

How They Differ:

People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin at all. Their immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is not clear why the immune system does this – possibly due to genetics or environmental factors.

People with type 2 diabetes still produce insulin, but their bodies are unable to use it effectively. It is also unclear why some people become insulin resistant and others don’t, but excess weight and inactivity are contributing lifestyle factors.

Type 2 is much more common that type 1. There are over 30 million people in the United States with diabetes, and 90-95% of them have type 2 diabetes. There is also no cure for type 1 diabetes, but it can be managed with insulin therapy. Type 2 can be controlled with diet and exercise changes, but many people need medications to help their body use insulin more effectively.

How They are Treated?

Once a patient develops type-2 diabetes, they can be cured! It is a chronic disease. Most treatment plans for type-2 diabetes begin with a concerted effort to change lifestyle habits, like increasing exercise, dieting and losing weight. However, 90+% of these diets fail and ultimately, patients return to their primary care physician or specialist with minimal or no improvement.

Many are then prescribed medications or insulin to control diabetes, in the form of pills or self-administered injections. None of these options actually address the root cause of diabetes and patients will receive the benefits only as long as they take the medicine.

How Bariatric Surgery & Gastric Bypass Works?

Bariatric surgery is the most effective long-term weight loss mechanism for patients suffering from obesity. Excess weight and obesity are leading causes of type 2 diabetes. It is therefore reasonable to see that the weight loss associated with bariatric surgery will eventually lead to an improvement or remission of diabetes.

Gastric Bypass offers the greatest potential for long-term remission or cure of type 2 diabetes. Recent research has revealed that the mechanism by which the small intestine is bypassed actually resets gut bacteria, allowing for better processing of glucose. Amazingly, this often happens before any significant amount of weight is actually lost. Many patients will see their diabetes go into remission within days or weeks of surgery. We often recommend gastric bypass for those patients who have had difficulty controlling their diabetes in the past.

Why It’s Important to Control Diabetes?

Diabetes is called the silent killer for a reason. Many of its worst effects don’t manifest for months or even years, and when they do, they can be severe and irreversible. Diabetes can cause:

  • Excessive hunger and thirst
  • Vision problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Poor wound healing
  • Circulation problems
  • In extreme cases, amputation of limbs
  • And much more…

So, as you can see, handling diabetes effectively and over the long-term can be life-saving. Contact us for a consultation with Dr. Chang to learn more about how diabetes may be improved with bariatric surgery.

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