Alcohol Use and Smoking after Bariatric Surgery

Many of our patients ask us if they are allowed to drink alcohol after surgery. As with many of the questions we are asked regarding postsurgical care and habits, we have to say that it all depends on the procedure, how you’ve recovered and your particular health circumstances. Generally speaking, alcohol is discouraged after surgery for three very good reasons:

  • First of all, alcohol can irritate the stomach pouch, causing the patient to feel discomfort, sometimes significant.
  • Secondly, alcohol is a sugar itself, plus most alcoholic drinks have added sugar in the form of secondary ingredients. Therefore, alcoholic drinks in general are not conducive to efficient weight loss after the surgical procedure.
  • Further, beers and other carbonated alcoholic drinks also cause irritation to the gastric pouch. The bubbles can cause stretching, which can be very uncomfortable and over the long-term can cause complications including weight regain.

Ultimately, however bariatric surgery is not meant to eliminate all of life’s small enjoyments and indulgences. Most patients can tolerate some alcohol in moderation. If you do intend to consume alcohol after surgery, we suggest that you start with just a few sips and see how the beverage affects you. Once you understand how alcohol is processed by your body, you will be able to make a decision on whether it is right for you and in what quantity.

As a special note, it is important to remember that procedures that modify the small intestine, such as the gastric bypass have special considerations. Patients may become inebriated more quickly than they did before surgery as a result of increased alcohol absorption into the bloodstream through the sensitive lining of the small intestine. Just as high fat and high sugar foods can cause dumping syndrome (rapid gastric emptying) so too can alcohol cause quicker alcohol absorption and inebriation.

As for smoking, all of our patients were instructed to quit at least six weeks before their procedure for surgical safety and complications reasons. Some patients may decide to begin smoking again after surgery, but this is highly discouraged. While smoking after bariatric surgery causes few ill effects as it relates specifically to the bariatric procedure, smoking in general can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease – two of the very diseases that we are trying to eliminate with bariatric surgery.

If you’re ever in doubt about your drinking or smoking habits and how they affect your bariatric procedure, please feel free to contact us for more guidance.

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