One of the biggest concerns of bariatric patients is whether they can drink alcohol after bariatric surgery or not. This is such an important matter that some patients postpone their surgery just because they’re not ready to quit drinking.

If you’re looking for the most honest, yet harsh, answer, yes, you have to stop drinking alcohol as it does not have any place in a healthy lifestyle. A lot of things change in your body when you undergo weight loss surgery. So, it makes complete sense when you’re told you cannot have the same eating and drinking habits as before.

This prohibition is necessary for your health because drinking alcohol will cause you serious problems. Let’s dig deeper into this topic to understand what these dangers are and if there is any way you are allowed to consume alcohol without damaging your body.

Side Effects of Alcohol after Bariatric Surgery

alcohol after bariatric surgery

1- Changes in Metabolism

One of the changes that occur in your body after gastric bypass surgery is the faster pace of elevating blood alcohol levels. Also, eating less by itself results in faster alcohol absorption in patients’ bloodstreams. So, you have just a single drink and become drunk in a blink of an eye.

According to the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, a study in 2002 proved that due to the higher sensitivity of gastric bypass patients to ethanol, they experience a more rapid absorption of ethanol.

2- Slowing Weight Loss

Why do you want to have weight loss surgery? Isn’t it because you have to lose your excess weight rapidly? Then, if I tell you something will slow it down, will you want to have it?

Well, that’s what alcohol does to your body. The excess calorie content in alcohol has a direct impact on your weight loss procedure as it does not only slows down your weight loss process but also might cause weight gain.

3- Risk of Addiction

In many cases, postoperative patients eat a lot of food because they’re addicted to it. How do most people eliminate their addiction? By replacing it with a new one. In bariatric patients’ cases, they give up eating too much but are in danger of food addiction, or other types of addictive behaviors.

4- Risk of Nausea and Vomiting

One of the risks of gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy is vomiting. On the other hand, when you’re drunk, there’s a high chance of vomiting. As we said before, metabolism changes after weight loss operations lower the time it gets for a person to get drunk and to the vomiting point.

By drinking after the operation, you’re doubling the possibility of vomiting, which can cause inflammation in your stomach and make you suffer a lot.

Nausea is another complication of weight loss procedures that brings about a noticeable inconvenience. Drinking is one of the actions that can increase the chance of nausea.

5- Low Blood Sugar

Due to the rapid weight loss after the operation, the glycogen level in your body is less than before. The reduction in complex carbohydrates use adds up to this lack of blood sugar. Moreover, alcohol consumption decreases glycogen.

So, some patients end up having hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar. Damage to the brain or nerves or in some cases, losing consciousness occurs to people with hypoglycemia.

If you experience some of its symptoms, including loss of balance and poor sight, you should contact your doctor immediately. Meanwhile, you can take some glucose tablets. Also, try eating nutrients that have complex carbohydrates and preferably, protein.

Alcohol After Gastric Sleeve

As you might already know, during gastric sleeve surgery 75% of the patient’s stomach is removed. This removed part is responsible for producing hunger hormone and also, affects acid production in the stomach.

Sleeve patients aren’t in the clear just because there is no bowel bypass. There are alcohol-absorbing consequences to the sleeve gastrectomy as well. As a result, the enzyme that is responsible for digesting alcohol in your stomach does not exist anymore.

This is the reason why gastric sleeve patients are at higher risk of intoxication as their small bowel receives undigested, full-strength alcohol.

Alcohol After Gastric Bypass

Before gastric bypass surgery, patients have a larger stomach which allows food, alcohol, and digestive enzymes to mix. As a result, alcohol is absorbed in the small bowl more slowly. But after gastric bypass surgery, everything is different.

In other words, alcohol is poured directly into the small bowel without digestion. What happens next is the immediate absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream of bariatric patients.

I Still Want to Drink Alcohol, What Should I Do?

  • First of all, avoid alcohol for at least a year after surgery.
  • If that’s a very long time for you, make sure not to use alcohol during the rapid postoperative weight-loss period, which lasts about 6 months after surgery.
  • Before drinking alcohol, consult with your bariatric surgeon and dietitian. If you’re permitted to drink again, do NOT try carbonated beverages and sugary drinks.
  • After consultation with your doctor, first, try alcohol at home. Try small amounts in the beginning. You don’t want to shock your body at all.
  • Do not indulge in alcohol consumption. Beware of your frequency of alcohol consumption.
  • Remember that after a bariatric procedure, even small amounts of alcohol can cause intoxication and low blood sugar.
  • You will have different emotions after surgery till your body gets used to its new conditions. If you find yourself drinking whenever you’re dealing with negative feelings, consult with your doctor because probably you need psychiatric treatment.
  • If you want to drink, at least try to choose low-calorie drinks like Never drink and drive, even after consuming only minimal alcohol: red or white wine, no-sugar bloody mary, light beer, and hot toddy (herbal tea with whiskey).
  • Avoid high-calorie drinks like sugary cocktails and margaritas.
  • If you’re going out, try not to leave home with an empty stomach. Eat a high-protein snack. This way, you’ll avoid alcohol abuse.
  • Avoid driving, even if you had a small glass of wine.
  • Try drinking with food because it reduces the pace of alcohol absorption. 
  • When you try alcohol for the first time after your surgery, do it at home, to see how much is safe to drink until intoxication occurs and how long it lasts.
  • Do not miss your vitamins; alcohol makes the absorption of some vitamins difficult.

Alcohol Abuse or Alcohol Use Disorder

AUD or Alcohol Use Disorder developed mostly in patients who have this disorder before surgery, which is why some bariatric surgeons do not admit to performing an operation on them.

According to studies, this condition mainly appears in the first two years of patients’ post-operative life. Also, AUD is mostly seen in patients who undergo gastric bypass. But if you can get used to controlling your alcohol use or eliminating it from your life in the first two years, you’re one big step ahead.

Ways that Help You Reduce Your Alcohol Consumption

1- Ask for Your Doctor’s Help

Never lie to your surgeon, psychiatrist, and dietitian during your follow-up sessions. There is nothing to be ashamed of. There are hundreds of people that experience the exact same circumstances you are feeling. So, if you’re secretly still drinking and can’t quit, tell them. They will certainly help you.

2- Meditate on Your Goal

Constantly remind yourself of your ultimate goal when you agreed on a surgery. You came all this way to have a healthy lifestyle, better body image, and improved quality of life. Just close your eyes and think about your ideal body image. Imagine yourself doing all the activities you were not capable of doing before. If quitting alcohol is all it takes, why not? It’s worth it, isn’t it?

3- You Need the Help of Your Beloved Ones

If you’ve read our article on the psychological and physical effects of bariatric surgery on patients, you know one of the ways you can reduce the risks is through the companionship of your family and friends. You need to first, educate yourself and then, inform them of all the changes your body will go through.

Let them know how your body needs to replace a new addiction with food addiction. Whenever you feel like you cannot tolerate not drinking, spend time with them. Let the emotions and the enjoyable time you spend with them distract your mind.