Why is Alcohol Problematic?
Alcohol, whether it is beer, wine, liquor or mixed drinks, contains a lot of calories and minimal nutrition. The poor nutrient content and high calories found in alcohol can sabotage your weight loss goals and may cause weight regain. In addition, your body absorbs and metabolizes alcohol differently after WLS. Many people find they get “drunk” faster and with much less alcohol than before surgery. Alcohol is absorbed more quickly, is “stronger” and takes longer for blood alcohol levels to return to normal after WLS. These variations in how alcohol affects WLS patients are more prominent in those who have had the gastric bypass, but similarly affect people who have had the sleeve gastrectomy.
The use of alcohol after WLS can be dangerous for many reasons. When you become intoxicated quickly, it can impair your judgement and your ability to safely drive or operate heavy machinery. In some WLS patients, it may lead to alcohol dependence, organ damage and weight regain.
Alcohol Dependence After WLS
Since alcohol is absorbed and metabolized differently after WLS, patients are more vulnerable to becoming addicted (especially in those that already have an addiction, even if that addiction is to food). After WLS, people cannot get the same “high“ from food, so they switch to alcohol because it works faster and is stronger. Alcohol addiction can replace the food addiction or other addictions, which is called Cross Addiction or Addiction Transfer.
Alcohol is an Irritant and a Saboteur
Alcohol irritates the lining of the stomach and can damage other organs, even your brain. In addition, drinking alcohol can affect your ability to lose or maintain your weight as you are consuming lots of empty calories and the lack of inhibition increase your chances of making unhealthy food choices.
What Can You Do?
If you can stop drinking — do it! If you cannot stop drinking — GET HELP!! Call our office at 732-414-2707 or speak to your primary care physician to get information on your treatment options. Alcoholism can ruin your life – not just your weight loss.
Shadle, Benjamin, MD, Should WLS Post-ops Drink Alcohol After Surgery?, July 15, 2016, ObesityHelp.com, accessed 9/8/16.
Stapleton, Connie, Drinking Alcohol After Weight Loss Surgery, September 30, 2015, ObesityHelp.com, accessed 9/8/16
Wilson, Cathy, Crossing the Line to Cross Addiction, December 15, 2014, ObesityHelp.com, accessed 9/8/16
Dietitian’s Corner is a monthly column for post-op and pre-op patients of bariatric surgery in NJ written by Prime Surgicare’s Lori Skurbe. Lori has been a dietitian for over 20 years with an extensive background in weight management, bariatric nutrition and diabetes education.