#30 Bariatric Surgery and Alcohol Buzz: What You Need to Know

bariatric surgery success podcast beyond bariatric surgery podcast

  Host: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Dr. Susan Mitchell

Should you drink alcohol after weight loss surgery? If so, how much can you drink and how fast will you become intoxicated. Let’s talk about it in just a minute. Thanks so much for all the love you showed me after my first new episode that posted last week. And a shout out to Katiein2021. I hope you’re listening. Thank you for your 5 star review on Apple podcasts. I’m glad to hear you find the podcasts so helpful. It’s my passion and my goal. I’m happy to know you’re a long time listener and thank you, I’m glad to be back too.

Let’s get on with this discussion on alcohol.

Should you drink alcohol after weight loss surgery? If so, how much can you drink?

The Quick Answer

It depends on how far along you are since your surgery. The general guideline is that you should not drink alcoholic beverages until at least 6 months (up to 1 year) after surgery. And it’s important to consult your healthcare provider about drinking alcohol after your surgery just to be sure. We’re all different, surgeries vary and you are unique so have this conversation. 

So why is it that you can’t have alcohol until after 6 months post-surgery? During the early months after surgery, you are rapidly losing weight and you‘ll be most sensitive to toxic effects of alcohol. Those effects include hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Alcohol can low blood sugar. Typically you’re already following a low carb diet and drinking alcohol reduces the supply of glucose to your brain causing a loss of coordination and balance, slurred speech, poor vision, and confusion. These are all conditions that mimic and look like those associated with intoxication. You can see how the result from a drink or two could be both hypoglycemia and intoxication.  

Low blood sugar can cause dizziness or even loss of consciousness. On top of low blood sugar, alcohol inhibits the absorption of B vitamins such as B12 and thiamine. Even without alcohol, you may already be struggling with getting in these vitamins due to surgery. Deficiency of these B vitamins may make you weaker and have less energy.

Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories...which is the opposite of nutrient dense. Basically it’s calories and no nutritional benefit to the body so you have to think about and make the decision in terms of how important it is to you.

Let’s dig deeper. One of the big changes after surgery: Alcohol Sensitivity

If you’ve had alcohol already, did you notice that you got more tipsy from just a few sips? Were you thinking to yourself...hey, what’s going on here…I've only had a few sips and feeling a buzz. That’s because alcohol absorbs way faster after weight loss surgery especially if you had gastric bypass or a gastric sleeve. Couple that with the suggested rule of not drinking and eating at the same time and BOOM you become extremely sensitive to alcohol. In fact, research has found that the blood alcohol content in people who’ve had weight loss surgery is about 50% higher than people who have not had surgery and it requires a lot less time for this blood alcohol level to peak. That means that that it could take you only part of a drink or one drink to become intoxicated enough to not be able to legally drive. Did you miss that? Listen closely…this is really important. It could take you only part of a drink or one drink to become intoxicated enough to not be able to legally drive. 

I don’t want to wrap up without mentioning Alcohol and Addiction Transfer

Did you know that food addiction prior to surgery could transfer to addiction in other substances such as alcohol? IF you want to know more about alcohol and addiction transfer, listen to my podcast #27 with psychologist Dr. Connie Stapleton (link below). She answers some tough questions about alcohol and addiction transfer and gives you a lot to think about.

Remember…drinking alcohol after surgery, even in very small amounts, can cause intoxication much more quickly than you ever thought possible and likely cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

Having surgery alters your lifestyle but it doesn’t take away the enjoyment of life. Someone is always throwing a party, event  or celebration with various food and drinks. So what do you need to know to navigate the bariatric lifestyle for your next event? 

Here’s how you can drink smartly if you make the decision to include alcohol:

  1. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Enjoy your drink after finishing your meal.
  2. Drink slowly. Since alcohol absorbs very fast, make sure you take sips throughout a long period of time.
  3. Know when to stop and opt for non-alcoholic beverages instead.
  4. Be sure and take your bariatric vitamin and mineral supplements
  5. Have a designated driver since your balance and brain function can be affected by very small amounts of alcohol

Want to work on your mindful eating as you think about including alcohol? Grab the 6 tips to Eat Mindfully freebie. Link below.

Resources:

Podcast #27 Dr. Connie Stapleton: https://www.breakingdownnutrition.com/blog/27-alcohol-issues-after-bariatric-surgery

FREEBIE 6 Tips to Eat Mindfullyhttps://bit.ly/3mMS3wM

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