Alcohol use can be a risk factor for weight management problems. But what happens after a person undergoes weight loss surgery such as gastric bypass? Can they drink, even in moderation? Or is the combination of gastric bypass and alcohol dangerous at all levels?
What Is a Gastric Bypass?
Before we delve too deeply into the relationship between gastric bypass and alcohol use, we should take a moment to discuss what, exactly, gastric bypass is.
As described by the UCLA Center for Obesity and Metabolic Health, gastric bypass is a surgical procedure that promotes weight loss in the following ways:
- Limiting the amount of food that a person’s stomach can hold
- Restricting the body’s ability to absorb calories and nutrients
- Altering gut hormone levels, which can suppress a person’s appetite
Gastric bypass surgery, which UCLA describes as “the gold standard” of bariatric (weight loss) surgery, consists of the following steps:
- The surgeon divides the top of the stomach from the rest of the organ, creating a small, egg-shaped pouch.
- The surgeon separates part of the small intestine and connects it to the small pouch they just created.
- The surgeon reconnects the other part of the small intestine, which ensures that acids and digestive enzymes from the large, bypassed area of the stomach will eventually interact with the food that the person eats.
According to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, the potential benefits of bariatric surgery include the following:
- As many as 80% of bariatric surgery patients who use medications to control high blood pressure can safely stop taking these medications within six months of surgery.
- About 90% of people with Type 2 diabetes are able to either reduce or end their use of medication for this disease after receiving bariatric surgery.
- Many bariatric surgery patients report significant improvements in prior breathing problems, including sleep apnea and asthma, after receiving the surgery.
- More than 80% of bariatric surgery patients report normal cholesterol levels within three months after the procedure.
To maintain these and other health benefits after gastric bypass surgery, patients must adhere to several behavioral and dietary guidelines. As we will discuss in the next section, this includes advice related to gastric bypass and alcohol.
Can You Drink Alcohol After a Gastric Bypass?
During the first few months after a patient has undergone gastric bypass, they must follow a strict diet plan. This gives their stomach time to heal from the operation and minimizes their risk for side effects. A common post-surgery diet plan will begin with liquids, then progress to strained and pureed foods, followed by softer foods and then more standard solid foods.
Most experts advise patients to avoid alcohol for at least six months after gastric bypass surgery. Some caution patients to wait at least a year, while others prefer that patients remain permanently abstinent from alcohol.
One of the reasons for the concern about gastric bypass and alcohol is that people who have had bariatric surgery are likely to become intoxicated much quicker than they would have before their procedure. This is because the changes that occur during gastric bypass affect how the person’s body metabolizes alcohol.
In addition to becoming intoxicated more rapidly, people who consume alcohol after gastric bypass surgery may also be at increased risk of developing alcohol use disorder (which is the clinical term for alcoholism). For example, if a person had habitually used food as a means of stress-relief prior to having gastric bypass surgery, they may turn to alcohol after their operation, since they will no longer be able to engage in binge-eating sessions.
Alcohol Use and Healthy Weight Management
Whether or not a person has had gastric bypass surgery, alcohol abuse can have a significant negative impact on their weight and their overall quality of life.
Moderate alcohol use does not seem to be a risk factor for weight gain, but several research efforts have linked heavy drinking with elevated levels of obesity. For example, one study of alcohol use among adults in England found that the risk of obesity was 70% higher among those who were in the highest quartile for alcohol intake than among those in the lowest quartile.
There are several reasons why alcohol use can contribute to weight management problems:
- Alcoholic drinks are high in calories but low in nutritional value.
- Alcohol use can increase appetite, which can, in turn, lead to overeating.
- Alcohol abuse can slow a person’s metabolism, which means that their body may process food less efficiently.
- When a person is under the influence of alcohol, they may be less likely to eat nutritious foods and follow a healthy diet plan.
- Regular alcohol abuse can also prevent a person from incorporating a healthy amount of exercise into their daily life.
Alcohol abuse can also be a risk factor for depression and other mental health disorders that have been associated with changes in appetite and weight.
Begin Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Massachusetts
If your struggles with weight are related to compulsive alcohol abuse, getting help for your addiction can have the added benefit of improving your weight management efforts. Lake Avenue Recovery provides alcohol rehab in Massachusetts and personalized support to adults who have become addicted to alcohol and other drugs. With the help of our skilled and compassionate professionals, you can stop abusing alcohol and start living a much healthier and more hopeful life.
To learn more about how we can help, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Contact Us page or call our center today.