The Cleveland Clinic

Weight Loss:
Is Weight Loss Surgery for You?

Severe obesity is a chronic condition that is very difficult to treat. For some people, surgery to promote weight loss by restricting food intake or interrupting digestive processes is an option. But keep in mind that surgery to produce weight loss is a serious undertaking. You should clearly understand the pros and cons associated with the procedures before making a decision.

How Does Weight Loss Surgery Work?

The surgery helps you lose weight by changing the way your body digests and absorbs food. Your body digests food to break down what you eat into small pieces of nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals). When the pieces are small enough, the cells of your body absorb the nutrients to give you energy to live.

Normally, as food moves along the digestive tract, appropriate digestive juices and enzymes arrive at the right place and at the right time to digest and absorb calories and nutrients. After we chew and swallow our food, it moves down the esophagus to the stomach, where a strong acid continues the digestive process. The stomach can hold about 3 pints of food at one time. When the stomach contents move to the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine, bile and pancreatic juices speed up digestion. Most of the iron and calcium in the foods we eat is absorbed in the duodenum. The jejunum and ileum, the remaining two segments of the nearly 20 feet of small intestine, complete the absorption of almost all calories and nutrients. The food particles that cannot be digested in the small intestine are stored in the large intestine (made up of the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and rectum) until eliminated.