Bariatrics is the branch of medicine that treats obesity. Specialists in bariatrics must be certified by the American Board of Bariatric Physicians or the American Board of Bariatric Surgeons. Bariatric surgery (gastric bypass, lap-band surgery) is just one aspect of bariatrics; other treatments include diet, prevention, and medications for people suffering from obesity.

Obesity is a health epidemic

The Surgeon General has declared obesity to be a national health problem. Life threatening and otherwise debilitating Illnesses associated with morbid obesity include diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, migraines, and hypoglycemia, among many others. Bariatric medicine is dedicated to preventing, treating, and determining the various causes of obesity.

The first thing people think of when they’re told to visit a bariatric doctor is surgery. But that’s just one of many options for treating obesity in bariatrics.

Listed are some services that are included in bariatric medicine.


A bariatric specialist will help you choose a weight loss diet that fits your personality and lifestyle. Even if you elect for bariatric surgery, you will still need to follow a healthy, low fat diet that includes dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and lean protein. A qualified bariatric specialist will help you make wise food choices for preventing obesity.


Exercise is an instrumental part of weight loss and battling obesity, whether or not you opt for gastric bypass or any other type of bariatric surgery. Any board-certified specialist in bariatrics should be able to help you devise a healthy exercise regimen, taking into account current weight, resting heart rate, and any physical impairments that may impact your ability to work out.

Medication and illness

Obesity often causes other illnesses, such as type-2 diabetes and hypertension, and a specialist in bariatrics should be able to address those, as well.

Your bariatric doctor may recommend certain medications that are approved for treating obesity. These include appetite suppressants containing amphetamine or fat blockers like orlistat (Xenical, Alli). Fat blockers help you lose weight by preventing the absorption of saturated fats into your intestines without compromising proper digestion of essential vitamins and minerals.

Bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery is usually offered as a last resort for treating obesity, when most other attempts to lose weight have failed and the patient is morbidly obese, indicating a life-threatening condition. Most people who submit to bariatric surgery achieve a healthy weight, but true success requires a change in eating habits and a commitment to physical fitness.

It’s worth mentioning that bariatric surgery is not without complications and side effects. A significant number of weight loss surgery patients require additional visits to the operating room in order to repair damage to the digestive system.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and bariatric surgery

One side effect that many bariatric surgeons neglect to warn their patients about is the need to supplement with vitamins and minerals persistently following gastric bypass. Vitamin B12 deficiency, in particular, is a health hazard that many post-op patients are unprepared to deal with when it occurs.

Most vitamins and minerals can be taken as pills that you swallow, but once you have had bariatric surgery, you can only absorb vitamin B12 if it’s inserted directly into your bloodstream. That’s because gastric bypass involves the removal of your ileum, an essential part of your digestive system for absorbing vitamin B12. Without it, you cannot receive the benefits of vitamin B12 from food or dietary pills, and you will suffer the effects of malabsorption.

The only way to avoid developing severe vitamin B12 deficiency is by receiving vitamin B12 shots, sublingual vitamin B12 drops, or one of many other available forms of over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin B12 supplements that don’t require digestion.


Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a type of anemia that occurs with malabsorption and obesity, and it is common among patients of bariatric surgery.

Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency (sometimes called pernicious anemia) can cause debilitating nerve damage, mood disorders, cognitive impairments, increased risk for heart attack and stroke, in rare cases, death.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Slow metabolism
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Painful numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Muscle soreness and weakness