Alcohol Consumption After Bariatric Surgery

The weather is warmer, BBQ season is here and social gatherings are taking place. This means that alcohol is more abundant and the opportunity to consume it is all around. Is it okay to have a drink? What should you drink? How much is safe?

Why alcohol is a concern post-surgery?

  • After the gastric bypass procedure, a large portion of the stomach and the upper gut is bypassed. The alcohol quickly moves to the small intestine and absorption rapidly occurs. Since the stomach pouch is smaller after gastric bypass surgery, the enzyme that breaks down alcohol (alcohol dehydrogenase) is not as abundant. This alters the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol and increases its effect on the body.
  • Patients who have had gastric bypass surgery are at a higher risk of becoming deficient in Iron, B12, folate and thiamin. Alcohol is also known to cause malabsorption of Vitamin B12, folic acid and thiamin.
  • In the early postoperative period, calorie and carbohydrate intake is reduced and the body’s metabolism is altered. This increases the risk of developing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) with the use of alcohol.
  • Many people who opt for bariatric surgery have struggled with food addiction throughout their lives. The surgery offers a healing tool for food addiction. However, some people experience what is called Addiction Transfer, where an addiction to a new substance such as alcohol is more easily acquired.
  • With both the gastric bypass and the lap band procedure your daily calorie intake is reduced. Ideally, you want to choose nutrient and protein dense foods to ensure adequate nutrition despite your reduced calorie intake. Alcohol falls under the category of “empty calories”. It provides calories with no real nutritional benefit. In addition, a calorie-restricted diet might cause you to “feel” the effects of alcohol more rapidly and intensely.

How to make smart choices

  • Alcohol should not be considered until you have fully advanced to solid foods and are tolerating your diet well.
  • If you decide to have a drink, make sure that you sip very slowly and pay attention to how it makes you feel.
  • Avoid beer and other carbonated beverages.
  • Be extremely cautious with liquor since it has a high alcohol concentration.
  • Stay in control during and after alcohol consumption – do not give into a temptation to snack on empty calories.
  • If you have a glass of wine, pour it into a small 4 oz juice glass to make sure you are not over indulging.
  • If you choose to have a cocktail, avoid any high sugar juice mixers.
  • Make a small glass of alcohol a compliment to your social experience and not a highlight of it. Enjoy the company, conversation and weather. Be thankful for a healthier you.
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