Stomach surgery for diabetes? Not so fast!
When is a cure not a cure? When the "cure" is surgery -- and the disease is diabetes.
As you may have heard, there's been a big push to get obese diabetics onto the operating table for stomach-shrinking surgeries rather than encouraging them to change their lifestyle and eating habits. Some studies even claiming gastric bypass and similar procedures can actually cure the diabetes.
But there's a reason I haven't been sending my own patients out for surgery -- and it's not just the very real risk of serious complications such as infection and even death.
It's the fact that I don't think these surgeries truly deliver over the long-term what these studies show in the short-term -- and the latest research confirms all my fears and then some.
The study of 4,434 diabetic gastric bypass patients tracked for more than a decade finds that nearly a third of the patients weren't "cured" at all. But still, a 68 percent success rate sounds pretty impressive, right?
That's what the short-term studies show, too -- and that's why these surgeries are getting so much press.
But the longer you follow these patients, the less impressive the results -- because 35 percent of those "cured" see the disease return within five years, according to the new study. Combine them with the 32 percent who aren't cured in the first place, and that means the surgery fails 56 percent of the time.
Doesn't sound like much of a cure to me.
But this shouldn't surprise anyone since weight alone doesn't cause diabetes -- it's the bad eating habits that cause weight gain in the first place.
Remove the weight without changing those eating habits, and you might reduce the risk temporarily, as it did in this study. But it won't help in the long run -- because eventually, bad eating habits will catch up with you no matter what you weigh.
So whether you're one of the nearly 20 million Americans who already have diabetes or one of the 80 million others at risk for the disease, there are really only two choices here.
You could do nothing and live the rest of your life checking blood sugar levels, taking meds, and feeling worse than ever with each passing year. Or you can take action -- and by that, I don't mean surgery.
Lose weight the right way, through a healthy diet and exercise. You won't have the instant gratification of surgical weight loss, but by eating healthy meals and losing weight slowly you'll give your body the nutrition it needs to get healthy and learn to change your bad eating habits at the same time.
I personally have helped diabetics to not only overcome the disease but also reverse it to the point where they no longer need drugs or insulin -- and that's what I call a real cure for this disease.
If you're obese and diabetic, don't try to go it alone. A holistic physician can work with you to customize your diet and weight loss plan and shift you away from risky meds and onto their natural alternatives whenever possible.
And if you're in the Southern California area, I can help. Give my office a call and make an appointment to see me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.