‘Living with an inflated balloon in your stomach’

By Metro Reporter


Imagine living with an inflated balloon in your stomach to regulate how much you eat. Or having your stomach stapled because you are unable to control your eating habits. Desperate to cut weight and have slender bodies, this is what some Kenyans have resorted to.

This week Dr Shchukin presented a paper on bariatric surgeries in the treatment of obesity and the new developments in Kenya. His presentation was made during the third annual Non-Communicable Diseases symposium hosted by Nairobi Hospital.

Themed, “25 by 25 – Is Kenya ready?,’ the conference hoped to audit Kenya’s progress towards reducing deaths from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDS) by 25 per cent by 2025 in line with the World Health Assembly resolution.

NCDS are those disorders that are non-infectious and cannot pass on to other people from an infected person such as hypertension, cancer, heart diseases and obesity.

Lifestyle problems

For the fashion conscious women, bariatric surgery helps one lose weight within a lesser period than it would have taken for the diets and varied weight-loss methods. In the paper, Dr Shchukin delved into the lifestyle problem of obesity and why some Kenyans have opted for medical and surgical solutions for instant weight loss.

 In an interview with a local daily ahead of the symposium, Dr Shchukin discussed the three types of bariatric surgery and its uptake as a weight loss option.

He lists three common procedures: gastric balloon, gastric banding and gastric bypass as part of the conventional ways both men and women are adopting to lose weight through the intervention of a doctor.

Known as the intra-gastric balloon because it sits inside the stomach and restricts the amount of food one eats, Dr Shchukin cites this as one of the easily done weight  loss procedures that is fitted through one’s mouth into the stomach in a process known as endoscopy.

“We fit a balloon inside your stomach and you feel less hungry because the balloon occupies some space yet you still achieve the same satisfaction as you would have experienced by eating a larger meal,” he said.

That you live with this balloon day-in-day-out is a procedure that Dr Shchukin says should be accompanied by the desire and commitment to change the individual’s lifestyle towards losing weight.

“The balloon is introduced into the stomach through the mouth without going through surgery and it stays in place for six to eight months, as a way to ‘train’ you not to eat too much food,” Dr Shchukin added.

Dr Shchukin adds that as the balloon goes down, it is inflated using a device that pumps air into the balloon and a camera looks inside to ensure it fits in place.

To ensure the balloon does not spontaneously deflate, a coloured dye is placed inside the balloon so that in case of leakage, one can identify it through a change in colour of their urine, Dr Shchukin says.

To remove the balloon after the said duration, it is punctured using a device inserted through the mouth while another device retrieves the deflated balloon, he said.

A disclaimer that insurance companies do not cover this medical weight loss procedures does not discourage women from digging deep into their pockets for either Sh300,000 for the gastric balloon, Sh550,00 for the gastric band or Sh600,000 for the gastric sleeve.

In yet another option of the weight loss surgery, Dr Shchukin says an adjustable band is placed in the upper part of the stomach to create a small pouch to hold food thus one gets to eat less. Known as the gastric band, one is put to sleep as the placement is being done and the surgeon makes small cuts on the stomach to create pathways for a camera to enable him see inside the belly, a procedure known as laparoscopy. “The pouch limits the amounts of food you can eat and makes you fill fuller even after eating small amounts of food,” said Dr Shchukin.

The third procedure is known as gastric bypass where the food one eats does not follow the complete cycle of digestion and instead, as the name suggests, bypasses parts of your stomach and the small intestines that break down the food.

Dr Shchukin has so far performed 40 balloon procedures, 10 bands and 50 sleeves, mostly on women.

Dr Joseph Githaiga, also a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi School of Medicine, said these procedures are a convenient and effective way to manage weight loss for persons who have morbid obesity.

He has also performed bariatric surgery on patients who desire to lose weight fast but warns it should be accompanied by self-discipline to ensure the kilos do not return.


“Losing weight is one task. Maintaining is another that requires discipline and commitment,” he noted.

Once considered a problem only in high income countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that obesity and overweight are on the rise in low-and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.

WHO defines obesity and overweight as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health especially because they predispose you to a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.