Drinking Alcohol After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

If you are wondering about alcohol consumption after bariatric surgery, you’re not alone.

There are comments associated with bariatric surgery and alcohol consumption such as, “you can’t drink alcohol after bariatric surgery," or “bariatric surgery will make you an alcoholic."

Many people question the accuracy behind these comments. This article aims to provide answers to your questions.

Here we discuss the effects of alcohol after bariatric surgery. We’ll also look at the bariatric diet and what to expect before and after surgery. 

A list of alcohol guidelines for after gastric sleeve surgery are also provided in this article. 

Bariatric Surgery and Alcohol

Effects of Alcohol After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

drinking alcohol after gastric sleeve

Bariatric surgery affects the way the body metabolizes and absorbs different nutrients, including alcohol.

Bariatric surgery changes the anatomy of your intestinal tract, which can alter your metabolism, including blood sugar and nutrient absorption. 

What does this mean for alcohol consumption? It means that bariatric surgery can severely increase the body's sensitivity to alcohol, making you more likely to feel the effects only after a few sips.

Gastric Alcohol Dehydrogenase

Gastric Alcohol Dehydrogenase (GAD) is an enzyme found in stomach and liver cells. This enzyme handles the breakdown and metabolism of alcohol contributing to the rate of which alcohol is eliminated from the blood. 

Strangely enough, women have less of this enzyme than men, resulting in a lower alcohol tolerance. 

Gastric sleeve surgery is less likely to have an effect on this enzyme than after gastric bypass surgery. When the stomach is altered to form a smaller pouch or tube, alcohol will come in contact with less alcohol dehydrogenase, resulting in more entering the bloodstream.

Either way, drinking alcohol after bariatric surgery should be done with restraint. 

Reduced Alcohol Tolerance

In a study, 84% of 318 bariatric patients claimed that they were more sensitive to alcohol after surgery. Not only is there less alcohol dehydrogenase to break down the alcohol, the small stomach pouch causes rapid emptying of liquids, increasing the absorption of alcohol.

There's also the idea that consuming food while drinking alcohol can help to slow the absorption. However, the recommendations after bariatric surgery are to not drink fluids while eating. That being said, drinking alcohol after bariatric surgery is typically happening on an empty stomach, making things even worse. 

It is also hard to make adjustments to drinking habits that you may have had before surgery. Bariatric patients have a lower tolerance to alcohol and therefore, cannot consume the same amount pre-operatively in post-op lifestyle. This is likely why there are so many reports of alcohol abuse after bariatric surgery.

Other Possible Effects

Another concern with alcohol after bariatric surgery is nausea and vomiting. Nausea is a common complication that can occur after gastric sleeve surgery and alcohol can exacerbate it. 

Consistent vomiting after surgery can cause inflammation, swelling in the stomach, and nutritional deficiencies over time. This will no doubt slow down recovery time. 

Each surgery center has different policies, however, most recommend avoiding alcohol until 6 months after surgery. Most will even suggest avoiding alcohol all together. 

There have been many concerns about bariatric surgery causing alcoholism. Some say individuals trade in an addiction to food for an alcohol addiction. There’s not enough research to say whether bariatric surgery leads to alcohol abuse, but there have been reported cases of alcoholism after weight loss surgery. 

Those who have had problems in the past are the most likely to be affected after surgery. 


Can You Drink Alcohol After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

drinking alcohol after gastric sleeve surgery

Do so at your own risk. You will need to consult your doctor first and wait between 6 months to a year after surgery. 

If your doctor gives the okay, start off slow, with very small amounts and never on an empty stomach.

You should take frequent breaks between drinks in order to monitor your reaction. This will help you discover new toleration limits. 

 

Bariatric Diet and Lifestyle Change

Alcohol consumption is not the only change after bariatric surgery. You will need to change your diet and lifestyle as well. Light exercise such as walking or yoga will help with recovery and maintain weight loss after surgery. Consult with your provider about increasing exercise after bariatric surgery. 

High protein foods for gastric sleeve patients are also an important focus before and after surgery. This will help you to build and maintain muscle mass, support metabolism, and satiety. 

Your dietitian should provide you with a gastric sleeve food list to follow. It’s important to stick to the foods on the list. This will reduce possible complications before and after surgery. 

Bariatric Surgery: Before

bariatric protein

You will need to change your diet before and after bariatric surgery. 

The doctor will tell you what to eat before gastric sleeve surgery. Typically, you will be placed on a strict diet for two weeks before surgery. 

The main diet goal is to shrink the size of your liver. This is common because Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFD) is seen in one-third of individuals who are severely obese. An enlarged liver increases difficulty and risk of complications during surgery.    

During this 2 week period, your provider may offer you bariatric meal replacement/protein shakes or you can purchase them. You may also have water, broth, decaffeinated and sugar-free beverages.  

Bariatric Surgery: After

bariatric diet

Eating after gastric bypass or gastric sleeve surgery will happen in stages. The first two weeks will typically consist of a full liquid diet. 

By week 3, depending on your tolerance, you will move on from liquids. The doctor or dietitian will provide a list of what to eat 3 weeks after gastric sleeve

This list will consist of pureed foods, such as mashed fruits and vegetables. If you don’t want to buy baby food or something similar, invest in a blender or food processor and make your own puree.

By 4 months you should be able to eat solid food without any problem. You will still need to eat small portions. Bariatric portion plates will come in handy to help you with portion control and moderation.

By this point, alcohol should not even be a factor. Your diet should consist of high-protein foods, vegetables and whole grains. You should avoid high sugar, refined carbohydrates and carbonated beverages. 

Most alcohol options contain sugar, high calories and have no nutritional value. It will not aid in your recovery. 

Caffeine is not a good idea for a while, either. Why no caffeine after gastric bypass or gastric sleeve? Acid reflux after gastric bypass is a common complication and caffeine could worsen it. 

If you do not meet your desired weight goal, it is recommended to consult with your healthcare team on what bariatric resources may be available to you.

You will also need post-bariatric vitamins. Your doctor will provide you with specific recommendations based on blood work and other medical conditions. It’s important to take vitamins and mineral supplements as prescribed. 


Bariatric Alcohol Guidelines

bariatric alcohol guidelines

You may be able to drink alcohol after gastric sleeve surgery, but should you? Most alcoholic beverages contain high sugar and high calories with no nutritional value. 

Many cocktails can be mixed with carbonated beverages. We know that carbonated beverages are not recommended after bariatric surgery considering they cause gas and bloating.

The following guidelines should help you with alcohol consumption after bariatric surgery:

  • Consult your doctor first. They will likely advise you to wait 6 months or longer.
  • Carbonated drinks and sugary mixes should be avoided.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach.
  • Note the calorie and sugar content of the alcoholic beverage.
  • Take breaks between drinks and monitor your reaction.
  • Go slow and learn your new limits. 

A drink or two should be okay, but keep in mind that your tolerance will be considerably lower.


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**This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition.