Why Drinking Alcohol May Be Bad For You After Bariatric Surgery

Many of us enjoy an occasional (or not so occasional) alcoholic drink. For some, it is a normal part of their social routine, while for others it may be a way to decompress and relax. Yet others may appreciate the flavor qualities of the alcoholic beverage of their choice. However, for those that have undergone bariatric surgery, drinking alcoholic beverages has many considerations.

First and foremost, alcohol is actually very caloric. Alcohol itself contains a number of calories and the common ingredients mixed into alcoholic drinks to add flavor are often loaded with sugar. The result is that even one drink can add several hundred calories to a patient’s daily intake.

Diuretic Properties of Alcohol

Alcohol is also a diuretic, in that it promotes the flushing of water from the body. A key component of weight loss and aftercare is consuming enough water. Patients who do not consume adequate quantities of water and who drink too often can risk dehydration. While we don’t often see dehydration due solely to alcohol consumption, it certainly doesn’t help and can spur artificial feelings of hunger in many patients.

Stomach Pouch Irritation

Alcohol can irritate the stomach pouch, especially when consumed with very little food or in high quantities or concentrations. Patients may have mild or significant gastric discomfort if they are sensitive to alcohol.

Alcohol Absorption

Further, especially for gastric bypass patients, alcohol can be downright dangerous, as patients may not realize that they can become inebriated with fewer drinks. This is as a result of the alcohol traveling to the small intestine more quickly than it did prior to surgery. Since the small intestine absorbs alcohol more quickly than the stomach, blood alcohol levels can rise quickly. Some gastric bypass patients report being ‘over the limit’ with as little as one drink.

Addiction Substitution

Finally, an often-overlooked problem is known as addiction substitution. Behind many cases of obesity lies a deep-seated psychological component. This may be mild or severe with any number of causes. Food often fills a void in our lives. When food is no longer a crutch to count on, some patients may turn to alcohol as a replacement. Alcoholism, while not common, is something to be aware of after surgery, especially if there is a history of substance abuse in the patient or their family.

There can be a place for alcohol in the post-surgical diet, should the patient choose to drink. However, patients should always consume alcohol in moderation and only once they understand how their bodies react to it. For more guidance on alcoholic drinks and how they affect us after bariatric surgery, we suggest you contact our office or bring up the topic at our next support group.

Our Surgical Weight Loss Program and Bariatric Surgery Center's mission is to deliver safe and effective surgical solutions with a compassionate touch. Our bariatric program is operated by NYU Langone Long Island Surgical Associates, P.C., a network of leading physicians and surgeons that provide comprehensive care for patients.

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