If you have some weight to lose but you’re not ready—or don’t qualify—for bariatric surgery, an intragastric balloon might be just what you need. This is a nonsurgical, nonpermanent procedure that may help you eat less and lose weight.
Here’s how it works. First, you’ll be sedated. Then a bariatric surgeon will thread, with the help of a flexible camera called an endoscope, a catheter down your throat and into your stomach to deliver an uninflated balloon. Finally the balloon will be inflated with a saline solution and the endoscope removed.
Once inflated, the balloon takes up room in your stomach, leaving less room for food and helping you feel fuller, faster. This is an outpatient procedure that can be done in a bariatric surgeon’s office. Unlike many forms of bariatric surgery, the gastric balloon is not permanent—it will be removed in six months. The goal is to eat less and develop healthy nutritional habits that you follow after the balloon is removed.
Although the procedure itself is minor and nonpermanent, it requires a major shift in mindset and lifestyle to see continued success, especially after the balloon is removed. You’ll use the six months of the balloon in your stomach to develop a new way of eating and a new relationship with food.
Here’s what you can expect from your post-balloon diet, as well as some tips for making the most of your gastric balloon procedure.
Post-Balloon Diet: Week One
After your balloon is implanted, you’ll be on a heavily restricted liquid diet for about a week. This is to get your system used to having the balloon in your stomach.
For the first day or two, drink water only. Then you can expand to:
- Broth or thin soup
- Fruit or vegetable juice (diluted if you’re not making your own)
- Nonfat milk
- Protein or meal replacement shakes
- Full-fat dairy
- Carbonated beverages
Post-Balloon Diet: Week Two
After a week of purely liquid nutrition, you may start adding solid foods back into your diet. Start slow and small, with soft foods. Eat small bites and chew thoroughly.
Foods to eat this week can include:
- Lean meats, not fried
- Cooked vegetables
- Soft fruit
- Chunkier soups
- Eggs or egg whites
Continue avoiding fried food and rough foods, such as certain raw fruits and vegetables (apples, carrots, etc.; anything crunchy) and tough cuts of steak.
Post-Balloon Diet: Beyond Week Two
After the second week post-procedure, you can resume eating so-called normal-textured food, but with a couple of big caveats. First, you’ll get ready to follow the diet plan you’ve discussed with a registered dietician (we have RDs on staff at Advanced Laparoscopic Associates), and that may (probably will) involve a change in eating habits. Second, you’re going to eat a lot less than before the balloon was implanted.
Regarding the first point, now is the time to start cleaning up your diet, if you haven’t already. That can mean a few things.
- Avoid heavily processed foods and added sugar
- Drink zero-calorie beverages: Water, black coffee, unsweetened tea
- Eat lean meats, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates
- Get plenty of fiber
Keep in mind that your stomach’s “storage capacity” is going to be a lot smaller with a balloon taking up space. That’s the point! Expect to eat no more than 1,200 calories per day. That’s not very much, but you’ll see rapid weight loss, and you won’t feel too hungry during that time thanks to your balloon.
After Balloon Removal
Now comes the important part: six months later, when your balloon is removed. By now you should have established eating patterns and a healthy lifestyle you’ve been following since your balloon procedure.
The tricky part can be keeping up with your new, healthy lifestyle once the balloon is removed. Six months should be enough for your new healthy habits to stick, but it can be easy to backslide. Be sure to take advantage of the nutritionists and weight loss experts at Advanced Laparoscopic Associates for help with your post-balloon life.
If you have 20 to 30 pounds to lose but don’t qualify for bariatric surgery, request an appointment at Advanced Laparoscopic Associates to see if the intragastric balloon is right for you.