stomach stretch after weight loss surgery
Weight Regain
Can Your Stomach Stretch After Weight Loss Surgery?

One of the most common questions we get in the field of bariatrics is asking, "can your stomach stretch after weight loss surgery?" Patients want to understand what they can expect regarding stomach size long-term after a gastric bypass or a gastric sleeve. 

Almost all adults have the same stomach size, despite height and weight. Your stomach before bariatric surgery is about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide, holding about a quart of food when expanded. After bariatric surgery, the pouch is about the size of an egg, holding ~1 ounce of food at a given time. 

Stomach Stretch After Weight Loss Surgery

There are many rumors within the bariatric community that you can stretch your stomach after bariatric surgery. Regardless of whether or not you have had weight loss surgery, your stomach is designed to accommodate a certain amount of stretching, which is a normal part of the digestive process. 

So naturally, you will experience your stomach stretch after weight loss surgery. Although this stretching will not chronically deform your new pouch or sleeve by changing shape or size in a way that we can't work with the patient to restore. 

After eating a standard meal, your stomach will expand for a short time before digesting the food. Long term, with the gastric bypass or gastric sleeve, the same process is happening. Yet the trouble comes when you begin to train your stomach to accommodate more food. 

Think of someone who participates in a hot dog eating contest—they can eat 80 or so hot dogs in one sitting. They don't have a different stomach size than me, though; they have just trained their stomach to stretch and not complain the same way an average individual's stomach would. 

Long term, it is possible for your stomach to stretch after weight loss surgery and to train it not to complain when you eat more than the recommended 4 to 6 ounces of food per meal. Your stomach is just doing the job you ask it to do, accommodating more food. Yet it will not become chronically deformed. 

We remove about 70% of the original stomach for a gastric sleeve patient. Similarly, for gastric bypass patients, their new pouch will be about 20 to 30 milliliters in size compared to the original stomach, which was about 1 quart in size. 

So no, your stomach can't stretch back to the size it once was before weight loss surgery. Instead, it is more about what the stomach learns to accommodate without complaining. 

It is possible to retrain the capacity at which your stomach stretches after weight loss surgery. This process will involve eating smaller portion sizes and picking good satiety-level foods. The best way to avoid weight regain after bariatric surgery is to eat lots of protein and veggies while avoiding carbs such as bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes.

If you are worried about whether the stomach stretch after weight loss surgery will cause weight regain, or you are concerned you are overeating, we recommend you come into the office to talk with a surgeon. Follow-up is a critical part of long-term success in a bariatric journey. Seeking advice from your bariatric care team once the problem arises will save you from potential problems. 

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Miguel del Mazo, MD
Dr. Miguel del Mazo is an experienced bariatric surgeon in northeast Georgia at Longstreet Clinic. He sees bariatric patients for consultations at offices in Gainesville, Braselton, and Suwanee. Dr. Miguel del Mazo and his staff provide a variety of medical and surgical weight loss options for patients seeking a long-term solution for obesity.
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