Why the gastric band can’t solve your PCOS or hormone imbalance

I’ve had several women write and ask my thoughts on the gastric band (which has been brought to my attention is different to the gastric sleeve).  For those unfamiliar with the surgical procedure, it involves a silicone device that is positioned around the top portion of the stomach in order to treat obesity.  By restricting the digestive ability and flow of food through the stomach, the idea, in theory is to slow down food consumption to assist in weight loss.  Sounds full on huh?  The gastric sleeve, I’ve been made aware, is a procedure that involves removal of a large portion of the stomach which permanently reduces its size.  I’m relatively new to the later, but here are my thoughts around the concept.

I recently read that around 50% of those who have a gastric band fitted and lose weight, will regain it.  Hmmm.  It leaves me wondering how this is actually any different (besides requiring invasive and sometimes risky surgery – because all surgery comes with risk I must add) to a restrictive diet?  As we’ve come to learn, restrictive diets that involve calorie counting, limited food and sometimes starvation and don’t work long term, for most.  But why is that?  We eat or overeat for two main reasons as far as I can understand.  A force bigger than us drives us to do so (aka our hormones) or we eat to fill a void, be it boredom, emotional needs, stress and so on.  So very quickly, you’ll see, you don’t need to be a NASA scientist to understand why the gastric band can never actually treat your PCOS or hormone imbalance because in no way can it set about re-balancing your hormones.  Not ever.  And of course you can exercise and get moving like a toddler on red cordial, but if your hormones are out of kilter, exercise isn’t going to change that either.

In both my e-courses, I tackle these very issues.  In Debunking PCOS we dive deep into how to re-balance your hormones, PCOS or otherwise and my 5 easy steps to overcome hormone imbalance including weight gain.  One of those steps is learning to manage your stress – easier said than done.  Debunking Stress was a direct answer from the gaps I was left with after making Debunking PCOS and me telling you, that the main way to sort out those hormones was to better manage your stress.  All good and well (not Well & Good – haha!) in theory.  You see, every kilogram gained from stress (over 4kg) switches over the way your body (and hormones) begin to work – and they will sadly start to work against you and it’s actually a matter or retraining the brain in some instances on how to regulate hormones correctly once again.

You see stress triggers cortisol and adrenaline to be released (this is a normal body function in a time of danger – to shut down your internal systems and pump blood to your arms and legs so you can run faster than Forrest Gump (or longer) to escape danger).  This process interferes with the synthesis of the neurotransmitter, serotonin.  Bearing in mind, we are designed to stress in times of danger, just not at the rate we are currently finding ourselves banging our heads against the wall from pressure.  The modern day stress epidemic is very real and leaves us constantly trickling cortisol from our adrenals instead of it being a result of the fight or flight response.  We are, living at a time where stress is a bad habit. One that’s freaking hard to break out of, but equally something we must get a grip on.

Lack of serotonin can cause food cravings – especially refined carbohydrate, as refined carbs make tryptophan (precursor to serotonin) more available for the body to utilise.  At the same time, cortisol and adrenaline instigate the release of more insulin.  So eating sweets for example, leads to increased insulin, starting the cycle all over again.  High levels of insulin cause the body to dump magnesium into the urine. Magnesium is needed to produce serotonin.  This isn’t just a viscous cycle – it’s many micro cycles leading to one big mess!

So you see, no restrictive diets or surgeries or otherwise can actually balance your hormones if your hormones are telling you otherwise.  For some, the gastric bad may be enough to really shake things up, but relying on this or even other medications like metformin can never solve the crux of the issue.

Coming back to understanding your body deeper allows you to make informed decisions.  Only you should really, know what you innately believe to be the right solution for your own self – when we come from a place of empowerment properly understanding your body, you can easily go on to make sound decisions.





  • October 20, 2014 By Ros 10:00 am

    The gastric sleeve is a different procedure to the gastric band. The sleeve involves removing a portion of the stomach so what’s left is much smaller and it is not reversible. Technically the band is reversible (though designed not to be removed). The sleeve works not only by physically reducing energy intake and increasing satiety but decreases the desire to overeat experienced by many obese people because it removes some of the ghrelin receptor cells in the stomach. Studies have shown that the secretion and impact of ghrelin varies considerably between individuals and once a person is obese the ghrelin impact works against them to make it more difficult to lose weight
    (See: http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Jennifer-B-Hillman/2011/06/17/ghrelin-biology-and-its-role-in-weight-related-disorders)

    People become overweight for many reasons and it’s usually a combination of factors, not only hormonal but psychological, emotional and genetic. I agree the surgery is an extreme option with risks but often being very overweight has greater long term risks than the surgery. From a hormonal perspective, fat cells secrete estrogen which is why being very overweight often plays havoc with menstruation and fertility and reducing weight in these individuals usually always helps. I personally know of several people who suffered from PCOS and irregular cycles who underwent weight loss surgery and now have regular cycles again including one friend that fell pregnant following surgery. The assisted weight loss helped them be able to make healthy food choices and be more active and I am sure all these factors contributed to their improved health.

    While it isn’t an option to take lightly, it is something to consider if a person is very overweight and possibly has a history of being so, not for someone that needs to lose a few kgs. While of course lifestyle changes are still very important, I do think weight loss surgery for certain individuals is a very viable option which will greatly improve their health and fertility. It’s important to look at someone’s history and have a balanced view of what might be going on and what might help rather than say outright that this option isn’t going to work because it can and has worked for many people.

  • October 20, 2014 By stella 10:01 am

    Hi Nat, Do you think its worthwhile taking Metformin for PCOS?

    • October 20, 2014 By stella 10:03 am

      oops I just saw that you mention that in the article.
      Is it worthwhile taking in addition to probiotics, magnesium etc?

  • October 20, 2014 By Sophie 3:15 pm

    Hi Nat, I have just been diagnosed with a Fibroadenoma. I stopped taking the pill at the beginning of this year and have had lots of trouble with acne breakouts, irregular periods and just generally not feeling myself (feeling unusually stressed/worried about nothing in particular). I’m wondering if you have any advice for me on what caused my fibroadenoma and if you have any ideas on how to treat it naturally? x

    • October 21, 2014 By Cath 7:50 am

      sophie, fibroadenoma are usually caused by high levels of estrogen. I’ve heard evening primrose oil is meant to be useful for them (As well as fixing the estrogen levels).

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