One Drink Won’t Hurt, Right?

Nov 15, 2021

You’ve likely heard that drinking alcohol after bariatric surgery is not recommended.  But why?

Let’s start with the basics: alcohol offers no nutrition for the body.  Life after weight loss surgery is a continuous dedication to focusing on high-protein, nutrient-dense foods.  Alcohol is simply empty calories and can lead to unwanted weight gain.  In short, consumption of alcohol can tamper with your weight loss goals.

Second: a brief biology lesson.  The rate that alcohol is absorbed depends on several things, but mainly the amount of time that alcohol stays in the stomach.  Your stomach contains enzymes that help digest alcohol.  When you’ve had weight loss surgery, your stomach has been reduced to a much smaller pouch.  As a result, there are less enzymes present to digest the alcohol.  In addition, alcohol passes through the stomach much faster due to gravity in the bariatric surgery patient…meaning there’s less time for the alcohol to begin digestion before moving on.  In the bypass patient, alcohol quickly passes into the middle of the small intestine.  Our small intestines are where almost ALL things are absorbed: vitamins, fats, and alcohol.  Because of the accelerated entry into the small intestine, weight loss surgery patients may feel the effects of alcohol faster.  Many have reported feeling the effects after only a few sips.  Blood alcohol testing on bariatric surgery patients have shown blood alcohol contents over the legal limit after only one drink.  In short, one drink could affect your motor skills and ultimately your safety.

Finally, the risk of transfer addiction is present, which occurs when a bariatric patient who was once addicted to food now transfers their addiction to something else like exercise, shopping, or alcohol.  A transfer addiction can affect personal and family relationships, employment, and one’s own mental health.

At SC Obesity Surgery Center, our surgeons and staff do not recommend the use of alcohol after bariatric surgery and suggest devising healthier, safer ways to celebrate.  If you think you may be struggling with alcohol, schedule an appointment with your surgeon or our licensed clinical social worker at 803.936.3300 to discuss your concerns.  We’re always here for you.

Questions or concerns?
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