The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse After A Gastric Bypass

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Dangers of Alcohol Abuse after a Gastric Bypass_

While some claim it to be a miracle, more research is finding gastric bypass surgery as something to be a bit wary of. Alcohol affects the bloodstream at a much faster rate due to a decreased amount of the stomach lining due to surgery and an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase which is produced in this tissue. This enzyme is what helps break down alcohol before it reaches the bloodstream. Men—especially young men—are at a greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder after surgery.

Miracle Surgery Or Not? Dangers of Alcohol Abuse after a Gastric Bypass_Stomach LiningWhen dealing with obesity, many people turn to what most would claim as a miracle surgery: gastric bypass surgery. Who doesn’t want rapid weight loss, a lowered risk of heart disease, and even a reverse effect of diabetes? But unbeknownst to most, gastric bypass surgery has a somewhat hidden danger—a greater risk for alcohol abuse.

Researchers from the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery spoke up and said that nearly 11 percent of around 2,000 women and men who had this “miracle surgery” ended up going down the path of alcohol addiction after only the second year following their surgery. While this shouldn’t scare everyone who is considering gastric bypass surgery into avoiding it, it should create an awareness between the patient and their doctors. Together, they need to watch closely when it comes to alcohol use or abuse following the procedure.

What Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Do?

Using staples, a surgeon makes a small pouch within the stomach and then segregates the little pouch from the other part of the stomach, fastening it to a loop of the small intestine. This little pouch in the stomach will create the feeling of being full even after a little bit of food. The first section of the intestine is passed over, which also makes it challenging for the body to take in as many calories.

How Does Alcohol Affect The Stomach After Surgery?

Even though it was challenging for researchers to point out the reasons why gastric bypass led to issues with alcohol, there are some hints as to the cause. The stomach’s lining holds an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase—this causes a breakdown of alcohol. After surgery, the alcohol goes through the little stomach pouch and it doesn’t mix with as much alcohol dehydrogenase, creating an increase of it into the bloodstream. This factor is much like how women have greater sensitivities to alcohol than men, because of the smaller amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase in their stomach lining. One drink for a woman has nearly double the effect. Though, strange enough, women who’d been through a gastric bypass didn’t have as high of a risk of alcohol addiction as men. Younger men were at a much higher risk.

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Weight-Loss Surgery And The Brain Dangers of Alcohol Abuse after a Gastric Bypass_60.5%There is ever-increasing evidence that not only does weight loss surgery alter the stomach but that it can also affect the brain as well. The two most popular surgeries—gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy—go past certain parts of the stomach or remove a part of the stomach. Simplistically put, these two procedures were designed to work by helping patients not to eat as much, while creating new eating habits. In more recent studies, scientists have started to become aware of other side effects to not only the stomach, but to other systems or parts of the body, such as the metabolism or even the brain.

Scientists who research obesity and addiction became aware of the increase of alcohol abuse with those who’d had the surgery. They started looking into the brain circuits that control addiction, when associated with the two. The research started to show that 60.5 percent had never had a problem with alcohol abuse before they received the surgery.

Information To Consider

In a recent study, there were 70 percent who had undergone gastric bypass surgery, 25 percent who had laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding surgery, and 5 percent who had other, less popular weight-loss surgeries. Between these, 7 percent said they had symptoms of an alcohol use disorder (AUD) before the surgery. There wasn’t an increase of alcohol use disorders one year later, but by the second year, 10.7 percent were reported to have signs of an alcohol use disorder. Dangers of Alcohol Abuse after a Gastric Bypass_1 in 8 participants

Two years after surgery, one in eight study participants reported that they were consuming at least three drinks a day. “This is concerning, given the negative impact heavy drinking may have on vitamin and mineral status, liver function and weight loss,” said Dr. Wendy King, as reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Over half of the study participants said that they did not have a problem with an alcohol addiction prior to the surgery. Patients, prior to surgery, who consumed at least two drinks per week, were at a much higher risk of an AUD. When the patient had less social support, in addition to drinking more often, or even those who smoked or used drugs recreationally prior to surgery, he or she usually ended up developing an AUD.

Young adults and men were at a higher risk to end up with an alcohol use disorder. “The study results suggest that clinicians should be aware of the importance of monitoring for signs and symptoms of AUD and consider counseling after bariatric surgery” said Dr. Mary Horlick, also referenced by the NIH.

Things To Consider Prior To Having The Surgery

If you are suffering from obesity and are looking into having gastric bypass surgery, talk to your doctor about the risks and the benefits involved first. If you are considering having the surgery, one of the safest routes may be leaving alcohol out of your life for at least the first year. If that presents a problem, cut down to only one drink a couple times per week. Having a conscious awareness of how often and how much you drink will help keep the risk of addiction at bay.

Contact us today to learn more about the dangers of alcohol abuse!

Thinking About The Surgery?

Are you struggling with obesity and considering a gastric bypass? If so, we encourage you to reach out to our compassionate and highly trained staff at to learn more about the risk factors and negative consequences associated with an alcohol use disorder. For more information, please contact us today.


Harvard Health Publications — Alcohol Abuse Linked To Weight Loss Surgery
National Institutes of Health — Weight-loss surgery increase alcohol use disorders over time

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