If you’re considering gastric sleeve surgery, one of the biggest questions you likely have is can your stomach stretch after gastric sleeve surgery? Although it’s common for some stomach stretching to occur as your body adjusts, it should not cause you to regain a lot of weight — as long as you follow your post-op eating guidelines.
Don’t Expect Your Stomach to Stretch Immediately
Most people lose about 60 percent of their excess body weight within the first 18 months following surgery. It’s at this point that you are more inclined to regain weight, as you may start to deviate from your dietary and physical regiments.
According to one recent study, long-term weight regain happens between 13 and 30 percent of anyone who undergoes gastric sleeve surgery. The amount of weight varies significantly, ranging from 2.7 percent to 129.2 percent.
Although patients typically lose a significant amount of weight following bariatric surgery, they tend to eventually stop losing weight or even gain some of it back.
But if you follow a strict and healthy diet following surgery, your stomach may not stretch at all. And when it does, going back to a healthy diet will allow it to contract and you will be able to keep all of your old weight off. For example, if you follow up a large meal up with light eating to ensure your calorie intake is low, your stomach will contract back to its normal size.
How Can You Stretch Your Stomach After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?
Due to the way your stomach works, you can stretch it following the procedure. The walls within your stomach are made of folds of tissue that expand and contract as food travels through it. And when you gain weight, those expanded folds cause your stomach to increase in size.
Since your stomach had likely already stretched some prior to surgery, you could eat a large amount of food before your brain telling your body that you were full. But gastric sleeve results in a drastic stomach reduction that can be as high as 85 percent.
Due to the reduced size of your stomach, your brain will tell your body that you are full much quicker than before the surgery. And the fact your stomach is significantly smaller post-operation means it’s a lot easier to overeat and accidentally stretch it.
But it’s up to you to listen to this signal and stop eating. If you continue to eat more than your stomach can hold, your stomach pouch will begin to stretch and may eventually reach the size that it was before the surgery.
Additional Factors That Can Cause Your Stomach to Stretch
There are several factors that can cause your stomach to stretch after gastric sleeve surgery, and the majority of them likely played a part in your initial weight gain over the years.
Binge eating and impulse eating are among the most common factors that can lead to your stomach stretching. Following your surgery, you should always stop eating once you feel full. If you push past that limit, your stomach will start to stretch.
Depression and high amounts of stress can also cause you to eat more than you’re supposed to and cause your stomach to stretch. A lack of sleep and general inactivity are a couple of additional factors that you should avoid. Not properly planning your meals may also lead to you eating more than you should.
Exercise, including yoga and weight lifting, and meditation are great ways to stave off feelings of depression or indulging in stress-related eating. In addition, those activities will keep you active, which should help you maintain a healthy sleep cycle.
Eating Precautions to Limit Stomach Stretching
In addition to strict dieting and exercise, there are several other minor things you can do when you eat to reduce the odds of stretching your stomach to the point where it was before you had the surgery:
- Use smaller plates — a smaller plate means smaller portions.
- Take small bites when you eat so that your stomach can properly digest the food.
- Chew your food for longer so you’ll enjoy the flavor of it and better satisfy your hunger.
- Don’t drink any liquids 30 minutes prior to and after eating.
- Avoid mindlessly snacking on foods throughout the day.
Finally, it’s important that you focus on making progress, not on being perfect. Accept the fact you’re going to make mistakes, but also that it’s how you react to those mistakes that will determine whether or not you keep weight off.
Long-Term Effects of Stomach Stretching
The long-term effect of stomach stretching is that you could gain all of the weight back that you lost after the procedure. If that happens, you will again be living with all the medical risks associated with being overweight.
However, that does not mean the surgery was useless; there are ways to reset your stomach pouch in order to reduce its size again. But you’ll essentially be restarting the process of reaching your goal weight.