Sunday, September 30, 2007

Alcohol after Gastric Bypass

A glass of wine or two. A beer. A little mixed drink. Would that be OK after a gastric bypass? Well, early after the surgery, while the stomach is healing, you really want to avoid the irritant effect of alcohol. You want your pouch to heal well. So, the answer, as far as we know, is "no". But, what about drinking, let's say 6 months, a year, or more after the surgery? A very interesting study confirmed the previous opinion, that is, alcohol levels go higher after gastric bypass than people who had no such surgery. In a study published in the September issue of the journal "Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases" (SOARD), researchers from Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford, California, concluded that the gastric bypass patients had a greater peak alcohol level and a longer time for the alcohol level to come back down to zero than the individuals who did not have gastric bypass. A particularly interesting finding was that the gastric bypass patients did not feel that alcohol influenced them any more than the no-surgery group. Could that explain why there are reports of post-gastric bypass patients who were cited for driving under the influence (DUI) after a small social alcoholic drink? Maybe. But also remember that there are other complications related to alcohol intake. Liver disease from alcohol is well-known. To develop alcoholic liver disease on top of the known obesity-related liver disease can be particularly dangerous. Alcohol is not good for peptic ulcers, either. Alcohol calories are empty calories, which is not what gastric bypass patients want to ingest. Also alcohol drinking has been linked to vitamin B1 deficiency. Severe vitamin B1 deficiency can lead to serious nerve damage, that is, Wernicke’s encephalopathy. So far, we do not have a perfectly scientific answer to the question: Is it OK to drink, in moderation, if you are not driving, several months or years after gastric bypass? We just do not have the final answer, and prefer to err on the cautious side. Better be safe than sorry.

Klockhoff H, Naslund I, Jones AW. Faster absorption of ethanol and higher peak concentration in women after gastric bypass surgery.Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2002 Dec;54(6):587-91.

Hagedorn JC, Encarnacion B, Brat GA, Morton JM. Does gastric bypass alter alcohol metabolism? SOARD. 2007 Sept;3(5):543-8. (Note: This is the study quoted above)