Written by Rachel E. Goetze, Ph.D., Medical Psychology Fellow
Alcohol use after bariatric surgery has become a hot topic, and researchers and clinicians have learned a lot in the past 10 years. We now believe that long-term abstinence from alcohol following bariatric surgery may be best for your health, safety and maintained weight loss success.
Alcohol absorption after bariatric surgery
Alcohol impacts us differently following bariatric surgery. We think this is in part because of changes to anatomy and how the body absorbs alcohol. For individuals who have not had bariatric surgery, peak blood alcohol level after having an alcoholic beverage takes about 25 minutes. However, those who have had a sleeve gastrectomy experience peak blood alcohol level in nine minutes, and those who have had the Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass reach peak levels in a little as five minutes!
Here’s what else we know:
Physical impacts of alcohol after bariatric surgery
Eliminating alcohol use after bariatric surgery may help avoid the following dietary and health complications:
Risk factors for problematic alcohol use after bariatric surgery
Who is at risk for problematic alcohol use after bariatric surgery? Everyone.
We often see difficulties with alcohol developing two to three years after bariatric surgery; a time when people have returned to solid foods and routine eating patterns. Some factors have been associated with increased risk of problematic alcohol use after bariatric surgery, such as younger age, being male and a history of tobacco and other substance use. However, approximately 1 in 5 individuals develop problematic alcohol use following bariatric surgery, and a percentage of these people has no history of past use.
These risks have led to the recommendation that individuals interested in bariatric surgery reduce and eliminate alcohol prior to surgery, and maintain lifelong abstinence. Your bariatric team may ask you questions about alcohol use and will support any changes they recommend. If you find that your alcohol use has increased following bariatric surgery, reach out to your care team.