Bariatric Surgery & Alcohol Don’t Mix


So what’s the big deal about having  a cocktail after WLS?    WLS has been shown to drastically lower alcohol tolerance – to the point that some post-surgery patients have a blood alcohol content above the legal driving limit after just one drink.  Alcohol is absorbed more rapidly into the blood and small intestines due to the reduction of hydrochloric acid in addition to the alteration of shape & size of the stomach.  Bariatric patients will be more sensitive to the affects due to their low caloric intake, metabolic changes and hypoglycemia is more likely to occur.

As far as cooking with alcohol, people believe once heat is added all the alcohol burns off and only the flavor is left.  This is a myth.  The US Dept of Agriculture shares that if alcohol is added to boiling water and quickly removed from a flame, 85% of the alcohol is retained in that dish.  Simmering a meal with alcohol can take as long as 2 hours or more to burn off.

The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery recommends high-risk groups (those with any history of psychiatric illness, substance abuse or addiction) who have had gastric bypass should completely eliminate alcohol consumption due to impaired alcohol metabolism and risk of alcohol abuse post-operatively.

Remember you’ve had a surgery that puts you at risk for malnutrition.  Alcohol inhibits the absorption of thiamin which is a vitamin that can already be deficient in many bariatric patients due to malabsorption. B1 depletes quickly with chronic vomiting or increased alcohol intake because B1 is essential for glucose metabolism.  Regular alcohol consumption is strongly correlated with thiamine deficiency.  Symptoms of thiamine deficiency may include headaches, brain fog, nausea, muscle aches and pains.  It can progress to worse symptoms such as depression, amnesia, unstable gait, motor weakness, peripheral edema, hallucinations and even congestive heart failure.  If anyone is experiencing these symptoms, please check that your multivitamin includes at least 1.2 mg of thiamine.  Share your symptoms with your doctor immediately.  Early diagnosis is extremely important.

If you still choose to consume alcohol after WLS, wait until after the first year during the most rapid weight loss period.  Find a designated driver. It is apparent that alcohol affects people very quickly after their procedure. Be cautious and keep your low sugar drinks to a minimum as you learn how alcohol will affect you and to prevent dumping syndrome. If you are drinking to cope with emotions and feel it may be an issue, seek professional support to address the underlying issues.  The Chrysalis Center offers a Bariatric Recovery Group if you are struggling with alcohol addiction or dependency.

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