Bariatric Surgery and Alcohol: Are you willing to reduce alcohol consumption?

Just like with smoking, bariatric surgery and alcohol don’t mix. This shouldn’t be a problem for you if you are on a weight-loss program, which is likely the case if you’ve reached the consideration stage for surgery. Both losing weight and restricting alcohol are requisites to undergo the procedure.

Although you are required to quit alcohol before undergoing weight-loss surgery, it may be safe to consume it after surgery, after the recovery period, gradually, and with your doctor’s supervision and okay.

One thing to seriously consider before you decide to incorporate alcohol into your post-weight-loss surgery habits is that alcohol equals liquid calories. Weight-loss surgery is a transformational event and one that requires your continued mindfulness and cooperation. So as not to forfeit your weight-loss efforts, be very cautious with your alcohol consumption, and listen closely to the advice of your medical team.

Can you drink alcohol after weight loss surgery?

Yes, but in very limited quantity and slowly. Make sure the reintroduction of alcohol to your diet does not compromise the healthy lifestyle you commit to when you started your weight-loss journey and, hopefully, have already achieved through hard work and dedication.

Recovery after bariatric surgery is long and fragile, and it comes with a strict set of instructions. Therefore, you should wait at least 1 year before introducing alcohol to your system anew, and do so only with your doctor’s consent. They will likely instruct you to avoid any mixed and carbonated alcoholic beverages.

It is best to be super careful with alcohol consumption following weight-loss surgery since it presents even more risks to your health than if you consume it pre-op. Most of all, drinking alcohol after bariatric surgery can sabotage your recovery process. The long-term success of your operation depends on your commitment to following your doctor’s indications.

Bear in mind that once you begin drinking, even sporadically, it can easily turn into a habit. See how you react to alcohol consumption first, then slowly try out small amounts. Your history with alcohol may or may not be helpful, as behaviors may remain, but your metabolism is entirely different post-op.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the term used to describe alcoholism or alcohol dependence. Several studies analyzed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have concluded that the “…prevalence of AUD increases in patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery but not gastric banding. The risk of AUD was found to not be significantly increased in the first 2 years postoperatively but increasing after this period.”

Turning to alcohol because you can no longer turn to food is dangerous because it can become habit-forming and lead to addiction. The same study cited above saw approximately a 1% instance of AUD in bariatric patients at the one-year post-op mark, which increased to a little over 2% at the three-year post-op mark. 

Reasons Why You Should Moderate Your Alcohol Consumption After Surgery

If you are considering bariatric surgery, you most likely understand that these procedures alter your metabolism. These alterations include faster alcohol absorption and lessened food consumption, which combines into elevated blood alcohol levels. 

For instance, following surgery, one drink can have an effect equal to three drinks. This means that one shot, one glass of wine, or one beer each equals three of these drinks, respectively. It stands to reason that it also takes longer for alcohol to leave your system after bariatric surgery.

Too much alcohol drains the blood of glycogen, lowering blood sugar. If you are on a low-carb diet and losing weight rapidly, your blood sugar levels are already reduced. So, adding alcohol  puts you at risk for developing hypoglycemia—a life-threatening condition.

On top of the risks to your health, there is the risk to your weight-loss plan. Alcohol is a known contributor to weight gain, as it is rich in calories rather than nutrients, which completely defeats the purpose of the operation. You do not want to go through surgery and recovery only to gain the weight back.

Bariatric Surgery and Alcohol: Guidelines for Drinking

Because you will feel the effects of alcohol faster after bariatric surgery, you should avoid driving whenever you have a drink, as small amounts of alcohol can cause intoxication. To slow down its absorption, only have alcohol with food. Enjoying a drink with food will also lessen the impact of reduced glycogen.

Reputable weight loss clinics assign a psychologist to every patient when the road to surgery begins. It is worth consulting them if you feel like you are experiencing the urge to drink beyond the limits indicated by your doctor. Also, don’t forget that you can reach out to your support network as well.

The first six months after surgery sees the most rapid weight loss, during which alcohol consumption may trigger toxic reactions, which damage the liver. As we hinted earlier, it is essential to avoid drinking during this period. Alcohol will also prevent your body from absorbing vitamins.

For some patients, the rapid weight-loss period may extend to a year, during which it is advisable to learn your new tolerance through dosage. The first small amounts should be spaced out and never consumed on an empty stomach. A good option for your first post-op drink is a dry wine.

In Conclusion

Beyond how it transforms your life, weight-loss surgery alters your stomach and the rate at which your body processes food and beverages. Essentially, you will be more sensitive to alcohol and have less room in your stomach for food that can absorb it.

The way your system metabolizes alcohol will never be the same, so your approach to drinking needs to adapt. Drinking after weight-loss surgery may not result in a serious setback, but it can present complications.

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