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Understanding the Dangers of Bariatric Surgery and Alcohol

Wine glass being filled with white wine

If you decide to undergo bariatric surgery, you will need to make several lifestyle adjustments, including changes in your consumption of alcohol. The doctors and nutritional counselor coordinating with the Tijuana Bariatric Center can help patients understand and prepare for the interaction of bariatric surgery and alcohol. The team in Tijuana, Mexico, considers education on this topic an important part of ensuring patients' continued health and long-term success after surgery.

Alcohol and Bariatric Surgery: The Basics

Alcohol is an unusual substance. Unlike most foods, which are first broken down in the stomach and then absorbed through the small intestine, alcohol is digested and absorbed directly through the stomach. As a consequence, it enters the bloodstream much faster and its effects are felt more quickly.

The effects of bariatric surgery leave patients highly sensitive to alcohol – a fact that can make it especially dangerous for patients with a history of alcohol abuse.

After bariatric surgery, a number of factors leave patients particularly sensitive to alcohol. First and foremost is stomach size. Ordinarily, the stomach itself produces an enzyme that breaks down alcohol, which diminishes its effects somewhat. But because so many bariatric surgeries make the stomach smaller, it cannot produce the same amount of that enzyme. As a result, alcohol retains much of its potency once it hits the bloodstream.

Certain restrictions on the bariatric diet compound this effect. Normally, eating food before and during drinking slows alcohol absorption. After surgery, however, the limited space in your stomach means that you cannot drink and eat at the same time. Consequently, bariatric patients absorb the alcohol into their systems much faster.

Finally, a patient’s metabolism often increases after surgery, especially when combined with a regular exercise routine. As a result, alcohol is processed more quickly. Combined, the effects of bariatric surgery leave patients highly sensitive to alcohol – a fact that can make it especially dangerous for patients with a history of alcohol abuse.

Potential Complications

Patients need to be aware of more than just an increased sensitivity to alcohol. Long-term use of the substance can even threaten your health. In most cases, it is best to avoid alcohol completely after bariatric surgery – especially during the period of rapid weight loss.

Excessive alcohol consumption has long been demonstrated to cause weight gain. But even if this gain could be avoided, it still undermines weight loss. Alcohol, like all fluids, takes up space in the stomach that can otherwise be reserved for protein and nutrients. By drinking a liquid that is not only unnecessary but even detrimental to your health, you can severely undermine potential weight loss.

This can have a cascade of other effects, as well. Two of the most common problems that result from drinking are dehydration and protein deficiency. Alcohol severely interferes with the body’s ability to retain water. While this effect can be somewhat counteracted with regular hydration while drinking, a bariatric patient does not have the stomach capacity to do so. Consequently, they are at much greater risk of dehydration from alcohol.

Protein deficiency is a less direct result of regular alcohol consumption, but it is no less dangerous than dehydration. While alcohol itself does nothing to undermine protein intake, it does take up valuable space in the stomach. Proteins are essential for bodily function, and if the body does not have any external sources, it will start to break down internal reserves, including muscles. 

Find Support Today

Coping with heightened alcohol sensitivity on top of surgical recovery is more than any patient should have to handle on their own. If you are considering bariatric surgery, reach out today to the Tijuana Bariatric Center to evaluate your options. 

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