Health & Fitness Column

Doctor assisted bulimia is a weight loss option

By John Taylor | Jan 15, 2013
John Taylor

For those who are tired of being overweight, have trouble sticking to a lifestyle conducive to weight loss, or do not want to go through an anatomy-changing weight loss surgery, the medical community has developed a new option to help you shed those unwanted pounds ... aspiration therapy.
This new weight loss option requires a patient to have a “less-evasive” outpatient procedure in which a bariatric surgeon will create a small incision in their abdomen, cut a small hole in their stomach, place a tube in their stomach, and then run the other end of that tube into the hole in their abdomen.
This tube in the patient’s abdomen, otherwise known in the medical community as the port, is anchored down with a plastic covering so that it does not shift during normal daily activities.
Wait, it gets better.
After the procedure, a patient must then visit a bariatric treatment center where a trained medical professional will connect a suction device to the port, and literally sucks all of the stomach’s contents out of the body.
There is also a water bag attached to this suction device, and when the device can no longer suck undigested food out of the stomach, the water bag is squeezed so that the water can enter the patient’s stomach to loosen up the remaining contents. Once the water is gone, the suction begins again until the stomach is completely empty.  
A patient can then revisit the bariatric center as often as they want to repeat the procedure, but surgeons do not recommend patients empty their own stomach contents using the suction device. During the suction procedure, the medical staff monitors the patient’s electrolyte and neurological levels to ensure there are no harmful side effects that occur as the stomach is emptied.
Let me just say that this is the proverbial “putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.” If a person seeks out the help of a bariatric center because they are having difficulty losing weight, do you really think that going to see a doctor to to empty your stomach contents is going to lead to long-term weight loss?
“I think that (aspiration therapy) should be a last resort just like any weight loss related procedure. Only those who can’t exercise due to a physical disability should be eligible or consider it,” said Michael Shulman, a long-term weight controller and bodybuilder who lost 150 pounds since 2007 through exercise and diet changes. “Personally, that procedure sounds horrifying and from a health stand point, it sounds like doctor-approved form of bulimia.”
It almost seems like there are bariatric surgeons who act like mad scientists in a dark, underground lab somewhere who think of these new weight loss procedures.
When I was a teenager, I only heard of stomach stapling. Then gastric bypass came along, followed by lap-band, gastric sleeve, biliopancreatic diversion, gastric banding, and now we have aspiration therapy.
Proponents of this new weight loss procedure say it has it’s unique benefits. Because the stomach contents are emptied through a tube instead of through the mouth, there is no acidic damage to the throat, esophagus, or teeth.
Really? This is their argument for having the surgery? I’ve heard bulimics say they have a disease, and often need eating disorder treatment to develop healthier eating habits, and establish better coping mechanisms for dealing with life’s stresses.
Doesn’t this procedure sound like doctors are endorsing bulimia, and telling them, “if you are going to empty your stomach contents, come to our center to have this surgery where we put a tube in you, and then come back so we can help you lose your lunch.”
I understand bulimia is a real problem for many Americans, but should there really be a surgery available to people that offers the “benefits” of bulimia without the bad breath?