Drinking Alcohol after Bariatric Surgery

April 20, 2011

Annually, about 150,000 Americans undergo some form of weight loss surgery procedure. Some weight loss surgeries reduce the stomach to roughly the size of a ping-pong ball and as such, patients need to be careful to monitor not only their food intake, but alcohol consumption as well. The concern is not only a heightened sensitivity to alcohol, post-surgery, but possible addiction transfer i.e. substituting compulsive eating, for another addiction like alcohol or drugs. While addiction transfer rates vary, it may affect up to 25% of bariatric surgery patients according to one study.

Bariatric patients report feeling the effects of alcohol much faster and therefore are socially relaxed that much sooner. Weight, food intake, production of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, and liver function contribute to the processing of alcohol and each of these processes are altered after weight loss surgery. However, not only does alcohol aid in social relaxation, but allows gastric emptying to occur more easily, making it possible for some patients to eat more food. The danger arises when the patient reverts back to bad eating habits, gets sucked into a cycle of drinking alcohol to enable them to consume more food, and eventually become dependent on alcohol.

Patients need to be aware of the potential for addiction transfer and should keep their alcohol consumption to a minimum. Weight loss surgery patients will be able to enjoy an occasional drink, with the knowledge that a smaller concentration of alcohol will create more significant impairment.  Patients should wait ample time before driving and before performing other skilled tasks.

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Advanced Surgical Associates is one of the first exclusively surgical groups practicing in Union County New Jersey. And that is just the first of many firsts for ASA. For over 40 years, we have pioneered breakthrough surgical patient care in North Jersey in both general and weight loss surgery. ASA also offers gastric bypass, gastric sleeve and gastric banding to those suffering from obesity in New Jersey.
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