Gastric Bypass surgery is a procedure in which doctors bypass the stomach and create a pouch that changes the anatomy of your digestive system. It is used primarily in people who have serious obesity problems to help them lose weight. The procedure is a serious one and requires a patient to be cautious about many things during the recovery period. One of those things is alcohol consumption.
Doctors who perform gastric bypass surgery have strict advice about drinking alcohol after surgery. Most agree that a gastric bypass patient shouldn’t have alcohol for at least six months after the surgery. Some doctors recommend that patients stay away from alcohol for at least a year. From a surgical standpoint, eliminating alcohol aids in the healing process, as introducing alcohol to the new environment can cause stomach irritation and ulcers.
In many ways, doctors say that consuming alcohol defeats the purpose of the surgery. One, Dr. Julie Ellner of Ellner Bariatric in San Diego, Calif., spells out why. Alcohol converts readily into blood sugar that can slow down a patient’s weight loss and can cause something called dumping syndrome, which is when food is emptied into the small intestine too soon and can cause vomiting or diarrhea. Alcoholic drinks also don't include much nutritional value.
Because the stomach pouch created in the surgery is much smaller than a normal stomach, patients have a tendency to become inebriated quicker than normal people. For instance, Dr. Ellner says that a gastric bypass patient can absorb alcohol four times faster than a non-gastric bypass patient. For that reason, she recommends not drinking and driving up to 24 hours after consuming an alcoholic beverage after surgery.
The use of gastric bypass surgery is typically for those who have serious obesity problems and, in some cases, people who are addicted to food. While the surgery typically helps patients with that problem, they can transfer their addiction to another vice. One study found that this addiction transfer can occur in up to 25 percent of gastric bypass patients who had previous addictions to food. Sometimes that addiction can be transferred to alcohol.
Should you decide to start drinking after surgery, doctors recommend that you first wait the appropriate recovery time. Once you resume drinking alcohol, doctors say that you should drink only on rare occasions and you should drink in small quantities so as to avoid quick inebriation, dumping syndrome and other potential problems.