This is one of those weight loss methods whose name fairly accurately represents its function: the stomach balloon works to take up room in your stomach so there is less room for food and you feel full faster. There are two methods to creating this effect—a surgical and a nonsurgical option.
In the surgical option, an actual balloon made out of durable elastic (high-quality silicone) is inserted into the stomach. The doctor will insert a camera through the back of your throat and go into your stomach, similar to what he would do if he were checking for stomach ulcers or other conditions like cancer. At the end of the camera is a mechanism to deploy the balloon into your stomach and then ll it with approximately 400–700 milliliters of saline solution or air. The balloon has a self-sealing valve and oats freely inside the stomach, simply taking up space. Once filled, the balloon is too large to pass into the bowel. Common side effects are varying degrees of nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Occasional gastritis (stomach lining irritation) is reported.
The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to perform. No overnight hospital stay is required. In fact, you can usually go home three hours after the balloon is inserted and inflated. Some doctors prefer a patient stay overnight in the hospital. However, unlike bariatric surgeries, such as lap band, after which certain high-fat foods must be avoided, you can eat all types of foods after gastric ballooning—just in smaller portions. The balloon can be left in place no longer than about six months because erosion by stomach acid can occur. Once removed, the stomach— and many times the patient’s appetite—returns to normal.
Weight loss with this method can be up to 35 percent of your excess body weight in six months. By contrast, people tend to lose 50–65 percent with gastric bypass surgery. This surgical balloon version is not currently approved in the U.S., but it is in parts of Europe, Canada,
Australia, Mexico, and South America. It costs about $4,500 U.S. dollars—a fraction of the cost of gastric bypass. But there are some concerns (of course). Besides not being approved in the U.S., the balloon’s safety and effectiveness is also not well known. The balloon technique also doesn’t significantly reduce ghrelin (the stomach hunger hormone), which gastric bypass surgery suppresses pre y well. There is associated risk of rupture, breakdown from stomach acid, and slippage into the intestines, where it can cause life-threatening obstructions. Long-lasting weight loss may not be enough to make this investment worthwhile. It may have a role, however, for the right patients—such as high-risk obese patients who need to lose weight in order make the actual gastric bypass surgery procedure safer.
The non-surgical method consists of taking a daily formula that, once swallowed, reaches the stomach and absorbs water, thus taking up space and reducing the amount of food it needs to feel full. It gives a gastric bypass effect by leaving only 20 percent of the stomach space for food. It technically lasts for about 10–16 hours a day but may need a boost once or twice throughout the day in some folks. Makers claim you can lose 10–15 pounds a month because you eat less, and the cost is about $500 for a four-month supply if you buy during special promotional seasons. One company that makes this type of formula in the U.S. is Roca Labs. This version claims to be made of “all natural ingredients,” so no FDA approval is required. One common side effect is dehydration, as the formula absorbs a large portion of water from the body. So, if you are not constantly drinking fluids to keep up, you might see this happen.
I have never recommended either of these methods for weight loss because there isn’t enough data evaluating their effectiveness in the short or long term. The last thing you need is another temporary “solution.” A lot of us eat for reasons that have nothing to do with being physically hungry or full, and there will be no effect if you continuously nibble on bad foods thorough out the day.