I’ve been surprised in the last few weeks how many of my post-op patients have contacted me with concerns about their immune system. I shouldn’t really be surprised because this is the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone needs to do what they can to stay healthy.
I’ve realized we need to share the good news with all our patients and with the community: bariatric surgery is a HUGE benefit for immune function!
This is not to say that gastric sleeve or gastric bypass is like an immunity “superpower.” The reason bariatric surgery is so great, is that the Obesity Disease is so bad for the immune system. Researchers found problems with immune function in obesity sufferers long before COVID-19. Those with obesity have increased rates of mortality and complications with common infections. They have higher death rates from several types of cancer, caused by decreased immune surveillance. And, (highly pertinent to the current pandemic) those with the Obesity Disease do not respond as effectively to vaccinations.
Blood testing seems to show that the obesity disease disrupts immunity by over-activating the inflammatory system. Commonly elevated inflammatory markers include CRP, leptin, Interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha. Macrophage effectiveness and NK cell (anti-cancer cell) activity are diminished. The inflammatory system is so overstimulated, all the time, that it can’t respond correctly when an actual cancer cell or infection comes along. Patients can actually feel the inflammatory effect on a daily basis, with increased pain and fatigue.
Bariatric Surgery was shown years ago to correct immune function back to a healthy baseline. Once patients get past the early surgical stress phase that lasts about 2 weeks, the operations act on a hormonal level to cool off the overstimulated inflammatory system. Correction of abnormal lab tests after bariatric surgery has been confirmed in multiple studies. Weight loss also leads to reduced overall inflammation. It’s been shown many times over the years that cancer risk falls toward normal after bariatric surgery, and the rate of serious infections drops significantly as well.
So if you’ve already had bariatric surgery, that’s awesome! You’ve taken a big practical step to protect yourself from the worst effects of COVID-19, which seems to have a more serious impact and a greater risk to life when it infects those with the Obesity Disease and with associated medical conditions.
If you haven’t had bariatric surgery and you think it might be a good choice for you, we’re here and we can get the ball rolling! Call us at (210) 651-0303.