Can You Drink After Weight Loss Surgery?
If you’ve had bariatric surgery or are considering it, congratulations! You’re on your way to a slimmer you and a healthier life. You probably know that you’ll need to make a few changes to your eating habits post-surgery for optimal health and weight loss. Do these changes include foregoing alcohol? Or can your new lifestyle include a few drinks?
To begin with, you’ll need to avoid alcohol for the first six months after weight loss surgery (and some doctors recommend that you abstain from alcohol forever after surgery). If you decide you’d like to have a drink now and then, talk to your doctor first–and then recognize that drinking is a whole new ball game once you’ve had bariatric surgery. Your tolerance for alcohol will be quite different. Even though you used to have a glass of wine at happy hour with no tipsiness before your weight loss surgery, that same amount of wine will make your blood alcohol level much higher and rise much faster post-surgery. You’ll need to be extra mindful about any drinking, as you may feel sober when you’re not.
Why Does Alcohol Tolerance Change After Bariatric Surgery?
A smaller stomach is the most obvious result of bariatric surgery. A less well known but just as important benefit is the way in which weight loss surgery changes your metabolism. Many of the hormones that regulate your metabolism are generated in the stomach and intestine. The surgical changes to those organs help to alter fat storage metabolism, lower blood sugar, and increase your metabolic rate.
Your smaller stomach and increased metabolism contribute to weight loss, but decrease your tolerance for alcohol. Your new stomach doesn’t break down substances as well, so more alcohol is absorbed more quickly into the bloodstream. And part of the change in your metabolism is an increase in insulin sensitivity, which is the body’s ability to use insulin effectively to regulate blood sugar levels. The good news is that you may be able to better control your blood sugar after surgery. The not so good news is that your liver may have a more difficult time metabolizing alcohol, so you’ll have a higher level of alcohol in your system and it will stay in your system for a longer period of time.
Other Effects of Drinking After Weight Loss Surgery
Since your liver can’t metabolize alcohol and maintain blood sugar levels at the same time, it begins its work by detoxifying your body of alcohol. Since sugars aren’t addressed right away, you may experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Alcohol can also contribute to “dumping syndrome,” an uncomfortable assortment of symptoms that can cause nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, and others. Dumping syndrome can occur for a number of reasons, including a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels, which can be caused by sugar and alcohol.
Your risk for ulcers, which increases after weight loss surgery, is also exacerbated by alcohol.
Lastly, if you chose bariatric surgery as a weight loss strategy, you may also want to look at the calories you’ll consume when you have an alcoholic drink . Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, almost as many as a gram of fat. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health System, “Drinking 4 bottles of wine a month adds up to a yearly consumption of around 27,000kcal, which is equivalent to eating 48 Big Macs per year. Drinking 5 pints of lager (beer) each week adds up to 44,200kcal over a year, equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts.”
Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption after Bariatric Surgery
After learning about the effects of alcohol post-weight loss surgery, you may wonder if you can have that glass of wine at your niece’s wedding. Yes, you can (as long as it’s been six months since your surgery), but you would be wise to follow these guidelines:
- Remember that your tolerance for alcohol is lower than it was previously.
- Use a designated driver. Remember, you may feel sober when your blood alcohol is over the legal driving limit.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
- Avoid sweet cocktails or sugary mixers like soft drinks or tonic water.
At Malladi Bariatrics, we believe bariatric surgery can help you live your best life. That’s why we provide you with up-to-date information about weight loss surgery and offer a holistic, consultative and collaborative approach to weight loss. Begin your journey to a healthier, slimmer you today. Contact Dr. Malladi, and learn why we’re an award-winning, sought-after weight loss team.