Medical Strategies for Weight Loss: Medication and Surgery

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  • 0:01 Running, Weight Loss,…
  • 0:36 Medications for Weight Loss
  • 3:49 Surgery for Weight Loss
  • 6:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Diet and exercise aren't the only options available for weight loss. Sometimes, diet and exercise may not help a person enough. This is why medications and surgery are used when necessary.

Running, Weight Loss, and Medical Care

I'm not a very fast runner. I never will be amazingly fast, either, as my genetics have unfortunately capped my speed at nowhere near the levels of a track star.

I can certainly improve my speed a great deal by eating right and exercising the correct way. There's no doubt about that.

But with age or disease I will become slower and slower and may need medication or surgery to help me keep running.

I need to keep running so I stay fit and don't put on too much weight - weight that may otherwise be controlled with the help of medication or surgery as well if I really needed it.

Medications for Weight Loss

I know that you have read many times that exercise and diet can help lower your weight, just like it can improve how fast you can run a mile.

But, like I just said, there are instances in life when diet and exercise alone may not be enough or may not be fully appropriate for some people with medical conditions that make it difficult to achieve important weight loss goals.

One option is to turn to medication to help lose weight - medication in the form of pills, tablets, capsules, elixirs, and what not.

Quite a few of these are available OTC, or over the counter, which means the medication is available without a prescription. Many of them contain herbs of all sorts that apparently can help a person lose weight or burn fat. But the use of such OTC supplements should be done under the direction and close watch of a doctor as either the ingredients themselves or contaminants in the pills have killed people before and damaged internal organs.

In fact, liver failure, the destruction, malfunction, and death of the liver, many times associated with OTC weight loss supplements that are recalled, is one particular problem to be concerned about. Your liver detoxifies your body like a local water treatment plant detoxifies waste water to keep you healthy as you drink from the tap.

That's why liver failure can result in death, since you'll be chock full of toxins without it. Or, you may need a liver transplant, with no guarantee of getting one in time and no guarantee the transplant will be successful either even if you manage to receive one. That's a pretty scary thought!

Unlike prescription medication, OTC supplements aren't nearly as well-regulated or monitored by the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, and that is why taking them poses such a risk to your health. Not to mention the fact that many OTC supplements can have dangerous interactions with medications people are taking under a doctor's orders. Furthermore, no herb is truly side-effect free if it has any effect to begin with, and thus, discussing anything you are buying OTC with your doctor is imperative for your health.

Herbs aren't always to blame here though. A notable case in point was an OTC drug ingredient called phenylpropanolamine, or PPA. This weight loss ingredient was associated with an increased risk of stroke in people who used it, and the FDA pulled all OTC products containing PPA.

Other than OTC stuff you can find at the local pharmacy or online, prescription weight loss medications are available for people who are unable to lose weight with appropriate dietary and exercise changes. These medications aren't meant to be used by people seeking to slim down before New Year's or for their birthday (or after, for that matter). They are there for people who truly need medical help losing weight.

The flip-side is that while these prescription pills may help someone lose weight, they may also produce unwanted side-effects, like high blood pressure and a high heart rate. This is why, unsurprisingly, they are prescription only and must be carefully watched over by your doctor.

Surgery for Weight Loss

The other big option category for weight loss, other than diet, exercise, and medication, is surgery. I'll discuss a few major options available.

The first option is gastric bypass surgery. In this procedure, a huge chunk of your stomach is stapled off, leaving a little pouch, about the size of your thumb, into which food can enter when you eat. Then, the small intestine is connected to this pouch in the stomach.

The bypass that's created is just like one we encounter on the roads some of the time. Detours on the roads are usually due to a construction zone that's segmented off from the main road. To get around that segment, a bypass is taken.

Gastric bypass surgery helps you absorb fewer calories, and, as a result, allows for many patients to lose two-thirds of excess weight over two years. There are downsides, however. This procedure can cause ulcers, infection, and death.

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