The Basics of Surgery
The Normal Digestive Process
Normally, as food moves along the digestive tract, digestive juices and enzymes digest and absorb calories and nutrients (see figure 1). After we chew and swallow our food, it moves down the esophagus to the stomach, where a strong acid continues the digestive process. The stomach can hold about 3 pints of food at one time. When the stomach contents move to the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine, bile and pancreatic juice speed up digestion. Most of the iron and calcium in the foods we eat is absorbed in the duodenum. The jejunum and ileum, the remaining two segments of the nearly 20 feet of small intestine, complete the absorption of almost all calories and nutrients. The food particles that cannot be digested in the small intestine are stored in the large intestine until eliminated.
How Exactly Does Weight Loss Surgery Promote Weight Loss?
Gastrointestinal surgery for obesity, also called bariatric (or weight loss) surgery, alters the digestive process. The operations can be divided into three types: restrictive, malabsorptive, and combined restrictive/malabsorptive. Restrictive operations limit food intake by creating a narrow passage from the upper part of the stomach into the larger lower part, reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold and slowing the passage of food through the stomach. Malabsorptive operations do not limit food intake, but instead exclude most of the small intestine from the digestive tract so fewer calories and nutrients are absorbed. Malabsorptive operations, also called intestinal bypasses, are no longer recommended because they result in severe nutritional deficiencies. Combined operations use stomach restriction and a partial bypass of the small intestine.<
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