This is priceless: A doctor involved in the bariatric surgery process who speaks out against it. He/she recognizes the pointlessness of advising people to cut their fat and eat more “healthy whole grains,” then blame them for their obesity . . . then come to the rescue with flawed and revenue-generating hospital procedures.
Read this enlightening view from within the system:
I am a physician in the Western US. I have read your book and am in awe: you have really opened up a can of worms here—and I couldn’t be happier!
Among my duties as a doctor is to perform pre-operative assessments on overweight patients who want to undergo bariatric surgery, a.k.a. gastric bypass, gastric sleeve, laparoscopic band procedure, etc. All of these procedures involve surgery to promote weight loss and avoid/prevent/avert the complications of obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease, although, for many people, it is vanity-based: They can buy fake nails and color their hair and wear fancy jewelry, but they can’t hide their weight. As the volume of patients and the volume of the patients (i.e. waist circumference) being evaluated for these procedures continues to rise in our community, I find myself in an ethical dilemma: How can I, in good conscience, help these patients undergo an invasive procedure to lose weight when the same and even better outcome could be achieved by eliminating wheat?
Let me give you more details.
First there is the cost. Each patient who wants to undergo a weight-loss surgery must first have an ultrasound evaluation, a chest x-ray and an upper-GI barium examination in the radiology department. Each of these exams costs money and must be performed BEFORE a patient undergoes the procedure for preoperative planning. After the procedure, each patient undergoes another radiographic evaluation swallowing a water-soluble contrast medium to assess the surgical connections for the “normal” post-operative appearance of the anatomy and to make sure there is no gap or leakage of material out of the intestine and into the abdomen. As the word continues to spread about the “health benefits of bariatric surgery,” the number of patients lining up for these procedures has dramatically risen. The radiology department makes money by performing the imaging assessments. The anesthesia department gets paid for these elective procedures. And the bariatric surgeon? Well, let’s just say the surgeon can have his/her pick of expensive convertible vehicle off the lot!
FACT: One of the only areas making money in US medicine is weight-reduction surgery.
Whose fault is it? I used to think the patients themselves were to blame for their obesity: They ate too much, had no self-control or will-power; they ate for emotional reasons or self-destructive purposes. But, after really talking to these people, most of them have no idea why they can’t lose weight. They have “tried every kind of diet under the sun and have not been able to lose weight.” While many of the patients being evaluated are truly obese, many are just “overweight” but have been encouraged by their doctors to have surgery to help them avoid the health complications of their weight. These people see surgery as the easy and only way out of their weight-induced problems.
Weight-reduction surgery is not a “free lunch.” Many have complications with leaks that result in abscesses in the abdomen, prolonged hospitalizations, and costly medical bills. Many who have gastric banding come back for evaluation because they feel that food is getting stuck in their esophagus. No surprise here! It’s likely related to the rubber inner-tube they have wrapped around the bottom of their esophagus making them feel full!
And here’s another thing: The people who undergo these procedures do lose weight—but they do not become healthy or “thin.” They become less fat, but not a healthy weight. Their stomachs are smaller, but they are still putting unhealthy food into their tiny little stomachs and they can’t get rid of the extra pounds.
After really talking to these people, I realize that they are not solely to blame for their weight-problem. They are misinformed about what they should be eating and they are putting food into their bodies because they have been sold the premise that it is good for them.
If I were to pull these patients aside and say, “Don’t do it! Don’t spend the money and risk complications (in some cases, life-threatening) of having your stomach bypassed! Just cut wheat out of your diet!”, I would be fired.
Aside from bariatric surgery evaluations, the majority of people who undergo physician assessments for abdominal pain, joint pain, and back pain are considerably overweight. I know it because the visceral and abdominal fat can actually been SEEN on imaging studies that look inside the body!
The health problems related to obesity are so great that I almost find myself tempted to tell people they would be better off smoking than eating wheat.
Actually, I really believe that if I were to individually counsel the majority of patients that come to our facility about the health benefits of eliminating wheat from their diet, and they followed my instructions, the number of patients evaluated and the number of those suffering from obscure medical problems would be cut in half, at the very least.
Like you, Dr. Davis, I have seen the dramatic results in people’s weight-loss and health-related benefits that you have, from my own personal experience, as well as colleagues and friends who have followed the Wheat Belly recommendations. I want to scream it from the rooftops!
How can I spread this information without jeopardizing my job?
Wheatless in Wyoming
Wow. Tell the population that they should cut their fat, cut their cholesterol, and eat more ‘healthy whole grains” . . . then sit back and watch them explode in weight. Come to the rescue with high-cost, imperfect medical procedures to help them shed at least a few of those pounds, make oodles of money for the system. Sound familiar?
How about the billions of dollars spent for diabetes drugs? The billions of dollars for “high cholesterol”? The billions of dollars on drugs for acid reflux, arthritis and joint pain, depression, ADHD, diuretics for leg swelling, and blood pressure drugs?
The entire system is corrupt. Health and healthy weight CANNOT come from a procedure to reduce stomach size. Gastric bypass, lap-band, and related procedure are the procedural perversions of the “calories in, calories out” nonsense, accentuating the notion that our gluttony and sloth got us here in the first place.
After all, if all we did was return to the foods and habits of 1960, women would weigh 116 pounds, men 150 pounds–no surgery required.
Wheatless in Wyoming is clearly a smart person–and one with a conscience, an inner beacon telling him/her when a basic wrong is being committed. The answer: Get OUT of the system. Someone else will take your place, to be sure, but at least you can tell you children and friends that what you do is the right thing . . . NOT something that exploits the latest blunder in nutritional advice.