side effects of wls: an exporter of natural gas

Some of the side effects of the duodenal switch procedure for weight loss: it is necessary to take vitamins for the rest of your life, because you malabsorb them, and nutritional deficiencies are possible. You can develop intolerances to certain foods. Your body odor can change. If you are not vigilant with the amount of protein you consume, your hair can thin, and sometimes drop out. Your bowel movements will be frequent and unpleasantly loose. And if you eat some foods–particularly high-fat, high-carb foods, and sometimes dairy–you will experience noxious gas, and so will everyone around  you. Sometimes, even if you don’t eat anything but protein, you’ll experience noxious gas anyway.

Some of those things, I’ve dealt with–I take my vitamins, some days more vigilantly than others, but I am working on making it an unbreakable habit. I’ve become lactose intolerant, to my great horror. My body odor hasn’t changed, and after a scary few months where I could see my baby-fine hair becoming baby-finer, my hair thickened back up. I poop a lot, and I carry matches with me everywhere, because of that. And I have noxious gas.

It is noxious, embarrassing, unpleasant gas that lingers, which I don’t
like to talk about, and which I have tried to avoid talking about all this
time I have been writing about weight loss surgery. Because who wants
to admit that they smell terrible, that they can clear out a room, that
they live in fear that their body will choose the very worst possible times
in the world to announce itself–on a plane, in a crowded restaurant, in
a car or an elevator, in your boss’s office. When I say noxious, I am
not really so much exaggerating. At all. In fact, it is possible that
noxious doesn’t quite cover it. It is possible that as I type this, I
am sinking deep into that feeling of humiliation and shame that happens
when people in 7-11 start looking around them, wondering where the hell
that smell came from, and oh my god, what died?

I am fairly petite and have a sweet, dopey-looking face. And I can
blink with the best of them, look around confusedly and wrinkle my
nose, and no one ever expects that this terrible smell could possibly
be coming from me. There’s a comedian who tells a story about how he
and his wife were just about to valet park, when she suddenly farts
obnoxiously. She shrugs and says “I don’t care. He’s just going to
think it’s you.” And it’s true–ladies don’t make smells like the smells
that I make. Does that mean I’m not a lady?

It feels oddly good to confess this to you, no matter how embarrassed I
am. There’s so much that has been awesomely wonderfully super-great
about fitting into the world at a smaller size and not being noticed
(and sometimes, being noticed). And then there is this major drawback.
You’d be surprised at what a drawback it is. You’d be surprised at how
often it worries me, panics me, occupies my thoughts, controls my
movements, makes me feel ashamed. Sometimes, regret. You’d be surprised.

Maybe it’s not as bad as I think it is, and I am not actually a farting
machine. Except probably it is and I am. I am so aware of it all the time, and
always worried. I spend a lot of time searching other people’s faces to
see if they have noticed, if they are horrified and feeling nauseated,
if they have realized it is me. I spend a lot of time wanting to

There are ways to make it slightly less bad–watching what I eat helps.
Some foods trigger it worse than other foods. They say, charcoal
tablets, chloroform, inserts into your underpants. Not having had weight loss surgery.

Would I go back if I could? I wouldn’t. I don’t think I would. Most
days, no. But if you’re thinking about it, look at that list of
possible side effects and take it seriously. If you’ve got a friend
who has done it–know that she’s really, really sorry, okay?

9 Replies to “side effects of wls: an exporter of natural gas”

  1. aw, we love you anne! we’ll take you stinky or not :)

    I saw a nutritionist a year ago, part of going to overeater’s anonymous meetings, and I eat a TON of vegetables a day now. and you know what? there are …. days.

    I’m embarrassed to go shopping during these “peak” times, especially when my toddler exclaims in a loud voice ” who foozled? ” while walking RIGHT behind me.

    but on a brighter note, I lost 104 pounds, and have a pretty darn satisfying life in my own sappy 12 step way. I run now! Literally miles!

    it’s worth it!

  2. I think the only fair question is this: What does E say? I will make him final arbiter on whether this is as bad as you think ;)
    Seriously, not having had WLS, I haven’t had to deal with this as regularly, and perhaps not to the same degree.
    But I have to say, anyone who has ever altered his or her eating habits in an effort to live a healthier life (more fiber! raw veggies! beans! ack!!) has seen a change in this particular area. And yeah, it can be embarrassing. But in the great scheme of things….? Taking all life’s issues, big and small, into consideration….? Perspective, grasshopper.
    But I’m not trying to be dismissive, really I’m not! I know when it’s, uh, happening to you, it’s a big deal :)
    Again, what sayeth E?

  3. My friend told me a long time ago that a woman he worked with had the surgery and she had to go home at lunch every day to go #2 cuz the office was real small. :(

  4. Well, having had the same surgery, I can vouch for you – sometimes the gas is really foul. I’ve heard it can be room-clearing for the RNY folks, too. I watch what I eat, know my gas triggers, take probiotics, and generally wait until I’m alone outside to pass gas.

    My husband, however, after a bowl of black beans, can outfart me any day, any time. Just sayin’

  5. I warned all of my friends before my surgery about this most unpleasant side effect. And, well, since we’re not a very demure group of people to begin with, it’s no big deal. (I still don’t like it, though.) However, the first time I spent the night with my boyfriend I was terrified about what would happen in my sleep. And it happened, and when he told me about it, I was mortified. Until I realized that there was nothing I could do, so it became something we laughed about.

  6. I feel your pain. I didn’t have the duodenal switch, but I did have RNY just over 4-months ago. I prepared myself early on for the “gas”… everything I research and read and even my surgeon told me to expect it. It’s bad but thank God I haven’t yet found it uncontrollable. Watching what I eat definitely helps and I do know my trigger foods. The same things that cause me to dump cause gas… so I try to stay away from them. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Ahhhh WLSers unite! :)

    P.S. I’m like you, despite the not so pleasant side-effects, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.

  7. Three years ago I had part of my intestine removed, after which I too had trouble digesting dairy. I used Lactaid for about 18 months until it stopped working. How was I going to live without yogurt and more importantly lattes? Then I remembered that my Mom once told me she bought organic milk because she “couldn’t tolerate the trace antibiotics in regular milk” (cows are regularly given antibiotics to keep them healthy in crowded conditions). What do you know– it worked for me! Hope it helps you too.

  8. I had the DS 3.5+ years ago.

    Sure, I get gas. But I can control it a lot.

    I don’t eat carbs in public (except maybe 1/2 sandwich at lunch). No fruit, candy, ice cream, etc. except in my apartment.

    When I have it I squelch my cheeks the best I can.

    I sit and squelch. Lean up against a wall & squelch.

    If it’s in a grocery store or something I, too, will look around and sniff.

    I carry an atomizer in my rear pocket so I can spray my butt as the smell can linger in the pants.

    Take probiotics when necessary.

    All of these keep it down and somewhat manageable.

    And, yes, I knew about this side effect pre-

    Oh, btw, charcoal underpants are ok if they work for you (the smell can go out the sides of the panties) but not charcoal tablets. According to my surgeon’s nutritionist, they interfere with absorption. Chlorophyll, tho, is ok to take.

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