Can You Drink Alcohol After Bariatric Surgery?

Educating yourself about drinking alcohol after bariatric surgery can be tricky as the internet is rife with incorrect information. The sources aren’t usually maliciously spreading myths. Well-intentioned bariatric patients may share their experiences on online forums and treat them like absolute truths. However, just as all bodies are different, how you respond to alcohol after bariatric surgery can differ vastly from how others do.

Facts about alcohol after your surgery

Weight loss surgery often helps people take back their lives and live unhampered by obesity’s effects on their health and personal lives. However, alcohol is often a significant part of socializing. It’s unsurprising that many people wonder if they have to cut alcohol after bariatric surgery or if they can still join their friends for happy hours or celebrations. The following are several facts about drinking after weight loss surgery:

  • Your alcohol tolerance will change. Bariatric surgery alters your anatomy by restricting how much food and beverages you can consume at a time. Some procedures also affect how the body absorbs nutrients to diminish calories. A smaller stomach means there are fewer enzymes that break down alcohol, allowing more to enter the bloodstream. Your tolerance will also decrease as you lose weight, as body fat is a significant factor in alcohol tolerance.
  • You can’t drink the same amount of alcohol after bariatric surgery as you did before. This has a two-fold meaning. It is literally impossible to drink the same number of alcoholic beverages after weight loss surgery because your stomach can’t hold that much liquid. It’s also dangerous to try, as your reduced tolerance can have serious consequences. You may become too intoxicated too quickly and experience accidental alcohol poisoning.
  • Addiction transfer is possible. Only a small percentage of bariatric patients develop alcoholism. However, individuals with a history of alcohol problems are more likely to experience this problem. Individuals with addictive behaviors in general, such as food addiction, are also more at risk. In essence, they are trading one addiction for another. Working with a bariatric surgeon and mental health professional can help avoid this.


How to minimize the risks

These facts may seem to indicate that you can’t have alcohol after bariatric surgery. However, as with most things in life, you can eat and drink most things in moderation after your procedure. You can minimize the risk of side effects by following a few guidelines:

  • Do not drink alcohol until your surgeon says it’s okay. For some bariatric patients, this can be as little as four weeks or as long as six months. It depends on the individual’s health, healing rate, chosen procedure, etc.
  • Avoid carbonated or sugar-heavy drinks. These can cause digestive discomfort, dumping syndrome, and dangerously lower blood sugar.
  • Although most bariatric surgeons recommend not eating and drinking at the same time after surgery, alcohol is a notable exception. Drinking alcohol with food slows its absorption and diminishes its effects.
  • Be mindful of the calorie content. Alcoholic beverages are empty calories, and many mixed drinks can have hundreds of calories.
  • Never drink and drive. Even if you only had a small amount of alcohol, you’re more susceptible to its effects. You are also likely to become intoxicated on far less than you expect. Make arrangements before you go out to ensure you can get home safely.

Drinking alcohol after bariatric surgery has a few caveats, but you don’t have to forgo social drinks or toasting at celebrations. Pay attention to how your body responds and practice moderation to avoid unpleasant side effects. Contact us to learn more about life after bariatric surgery.


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