Many people enjoy social drinking such as having a couple of beers at a baseball game or a glass of wine with dinner. If you’re having bariatric surgery, though, the way your body reacts to alcohol will change. So, is drinking alcohol after bariatric surgery a good idea? You may need to re-evaluate the way you drink.
Alcohol and Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery shrinks the size of your stomach. If all goes well, it leads to rapid weight loss. Both of these factors alter your metabolism and change the way alcohol affects you physically and mentally.
Most of the alcohol you drink is not absorbed in the stomach. It is absorbed in the small intestine. A small, empty stomach allows alcohol to enter the small intestine more quickly. This means that when you drink after bariatric surgery, you will feel the effects of the alcohol faster than you are used to.
It also means that it takes less alcohol to make you feel intoxicated. If you drink two glasses of wine, for instance, you may feel and act as if you’ve had seven glasses. Some people who have undergone bariatric surgery report an excessively high blood alcohol level after only one or two drinks.
A small percentage of people who have bariatric surgery develop an alcohol use disorder, or an AUD. If you’ve had a problem with alcohol in the past, there is also a risk of experiencing a relapse from the stress of surgery. Most doctors will not perform surgery on someone with an AUD who is actively drinking. They usually require you to get substance abuse treatment and abstain from alcohol for at least six months.
Drinking Alcohol After Bariatric Surgery
If you don’t have a history of AUD, there is no reason to stop drinking completely following bariatric surgery. There are, however, a few recommendations you should follow while you’re drinking.
Avoid alcohol during rapid weight loss phase
There is a time immediately after surgery when the weight comes off quickly. This period usually lasts about six months. During this time, your metabolism is changing rapidly. It is better not to drink until the weight loss slows and your body adjusts to its new post-surgery state.
When you drink, pay attention to how the alcohol affects you. Be aware that your body is more sensitive to alcohol now than it was before. Stop drinking if you start to feel tipsy.
Don’t drink and drive
After bariatric surgery, a single drink can raise your blood alcohol level over the legal limit. To avoid being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, don’t get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve had anything at all to drink.
Drinking alcohol inhibits the absorption of certain vitamins. Therefore, it is important to take all of the vitamins and supplements recommended by your doctor. Be sure to let your doctor know that you’re drinking socially.
Seek help if you need it
If you drink to the point of intoxication on a regular basis, it’s probably time to get some help. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist and ask for a referral to substance abuse treatment. You can also call your health insurance plan for a list of treatment providers.
Having bariatric surgery doesn’t mean that you have to stop drinking entirely. It does mean, however, that the way your body processes alcohol will change. You need to be aware of these changes and alter your drinking habits to accommodate them.