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March 17, 2006

Alcohol and Gastric Bypass

Alcohol A recent study reported in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that the gastric bypass procedure significantly affects alcohol absorption and its inebriating influence. According to the study protocol, a group of gastric bypass patients, three years post-surgery, and their non-surgical controls consumed an alcoholic drink containing 20% v/v alcohol (95% ethanol), and blood alcohol levels were examined over a period of time. The data showed that blood alcohol levels of the gastric bypass patients were far higher and required much less time to peak than those of the non-surgical controls.

The more rapid absorption of alcohol and heightened blood alcohol levels would cause the bariatric patient to have a more pronounced feeling of inebriation during and shortly after drinking.

Alcohol2_1 Why would alcohol absorption be higher for someone who has had gastric bypass? With the gastric bypass procedure, 95% of the stomach and the upper gut (duodenum and a portion of the jejunum) are bypassed. Alcohol passes directly from the stomach pouch, usually without restriction, into the second portion of the gut, known as the jejunum. This portion of the gut has a large surface area and readily and rapidly absorbs the alcohol.

In addition to anatomical changes in the tract that influence alcohol absorption, the gastric bypass patient may also be more sensitive to the intoxicating effects of alcohol because of the reduced calorie intake that occurs after surgery. A number of studies have found that alcohol absorption is far higher if fasting or when consumed on an empty stomach than if provided with a meal or drank soon thereafter.

Drinking alcohol in the early postoperative period may have other adverse effects on health. Frequent vomiting, low calorie intake, not taking multivitamins and malabsorption may cause a number of vitamin and mineral deficits, including thiamin.

Addiction transfer is yet another precaution to be considered with regard to alcohol. The prevalence of food addiction and associated eating abnormalities, i.e. binge eating, carbohydrate cravings, are high among individuals with morbid obesity. With bariatric surgery, the addictive tendencies for food and aberrant eating behavior are considerably improved. However, individuals with addictions often transfer their addiction to yet another substance, such as alcohol. According to the findings of one study, addiction transfer may occur in up to 25% of bariatric patients.

Drinking alcohol after surgery may also reduce maximal weight loss success. Alcohol has no nutrient benefits and contains high numbers of calories that may cause weight gain or prevent weight loss. One 12-ounce can of beer, for instance, contains 150 calories; 3.5 ounces of wine contains 70 calories; 1.5 ounces of gin, rum, vodka or whiskey contains between 97 and 124 calories; and 1.5 ounces of liquor contains 160 calories.

The bariatric patient should absolutely NOT drink alcohol during the rapid weight loss period and definitely not if consuming no or low carbohydrates, not taking vitamin and mineral supplements, vomiting frequently, or not able to keep their food down. However, with time, there is no reason an individual should not be able to enjoy an occasional drink, provided they are aware that it only takes a small amount of alcohol to produce an inebriating effect. With such knowledge, appropriate precautions should be taken, such as waiting a sufficient length of time after drinking to drive or perform other skilled tasks.


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I can personally attest to the very fast & strong effect of alcohol inebriation post-GPS (4 years). However, my experience also includes a very rapid sobering-up period, i.e. I get buzzed fast and sober up equally quickly. I pass urine in large amounts very soon after consumption. Can you verify this in others' experiences?


yes I can drink 3 large heavily alchahol laiden drinks get smashed drunk for about and hour take a pee and i'm sober again


Same here... it is funny.. we can save a lot of "drinking money" that way I guess... One glass of wine, and I am buzzzed...


Why didn't anyone say that this was a possiblty, I thought I was the only one going though this I can't eat without vomiting so I take a drink to calm myself and I do get drunk for a short time and that I'am back to normal and start again, I think of food but most things I can't keep down, and I have put on some weight because of the alcohol I am now scared that I can't stop.


True, True, True! I feel buzzed after 3-4 sips of wine. I am 4 yrs post op and the best thing I've done for myself is get into counseling to address addiction transfer...it is no joke! Don't let something positive in your life become a mistake. Take stock of the changes in your personality, get into counseling and nip it in the bud! You won't regret it!

Kimmy W

I have an insatiable craving for beer, 3 years after having g. p. surgery. I love it, and I still don't gain weight. I wonder though, is this rapid absorption going to fry my liver faster than people with normal alcohol absorption. Any thoughts?

sonia c

i have terrible problem with alcohol since having a gastric bypass three years ago i only drink once a week but get so drunk on such a small amount of alcohol i have also gained about 6 kgs which is not good it feels like another addiction trying very hard to work through this its very distructive


How long did you guys wait before drinking alcohol. I was out with friends the other night for the 1st time since surgery (only been 6 weeks) and I wanted to drink a beer so bad I could barely stand it. I didn't even really want the whole thing, just a little but I didn't. I sat and drank my water. I have never thrown up from food or anything (yet) and have never skipped a vitamin or supplement. What do you guys think?


Hi Lacey,

In my opinion, 6 weeks is way to early, I waited more than 3 months, and started to test my body... Also, always remember that alcohol is a high calorie beverage, you don't want to ruin your honeymoon with it!


Hello everyone,

I am a gastric bypass patient 6 years post-op. I am currently doing research in my thesis class for my Bachelor's in Behavioral Science on the topic of addiction transfer in gastric bypass patients, specifically, alcohol use. If you would like to participate in the survey, copy and paste the link below to your browser.
Thanks and good luck to you all!


I had gastric bypass over 10 years ago, with not much information as there is today. I have noticed gradually that the transfer of one addiction to the other , alcohol, is the issue. It ebbs and flows, but like anything else in your life, if you do not deal with the root of any addiction it will be replaced. So, today you say I deal, hopefully with support, but the pursuit of health is always there.




I took some liquid Tylenol not too long after my surgery for a headache. I promptly got buzzed. Come to find out alot of liquid adult medicines are alcohol based. I get the same effect with Nyquil. I can drink get really drunk really quickly and then promptly get sober. Scary.


I had gastric surgery over four years ago. I was unaware of the spiking of alcohol absorption until I fell prey to a .11 reading after drinking three beers in a two hour period. I am seeking information about these studies and clinical proof.

Any help would be appreciated.


My husband is going through the same thing he had 3 beers in 3 hours and got stopped and blew a .12 so we are looking for any informatin we can. If anyone has any that would also be wonderful.


I had gastric by-pass 4 years ago, and am now addicited to alcohol! I had an addictive personality before, but this is scary! I've traded one addiction for another, I only started drinking six months ago!


My stomach burns so I stopped, now and then I can have some wine. I am 4 year op, what about weight gain, and what do you. I tried scrolertherapy, but it did not help (that when they go back into your stomach and blast the veins around it)

Cathy Silvia

I am so glad I found this Blog! I have had a problem with alcohol for the past year. It has been affecting my family and relationships. Everyone seems to think I drink too much, and they are right. When I drink, it affects me more than someone who hasn't had GBS, but I am sober a short time later. I fear I have traded one addiction for another, and plan on getting help in this situation. My problem is that my husband thinks I am a drunk and we have had problems in our relationship due to this. I don't want to lose him, but this is an effect from the surgey. I don't consider myself an alcoholic, but he does. We are truly struggling.


I am a GB patient 3yrs po. I have found myself wanting to drink more since i have had this surgery, but it also has to deal with that I am single again soon after my surgery. I think my wanting a drink is the stress, I went from a married over weight woman to a very good lookin young woman that is single. The coping of this has gotten better to where I have winged myself away from alcohol. Since my surgery I have found when I do end up drinkin too much I cannot get sick no matter how much I try. Does anyone have that issue? It also does not take much either to get drunk to where I do want to go worship in the bathroom (3 drinks one after another). I know when I do decide to go for a drink it burns now-a-days. This cannot be good nor can it be good for our livers. This is why I ended up here... I'm tryin to find out more..


I had GBS a little over a year ago, lost 105#, (about 35% of my body weight). over the last 6 months of drinking alcohol(wine)with just 2-3 glasses I lost control of my drinking, to the point having blackouts. I'm so concern I started with the AA program


I also had laparscopic gastric bypass 3 years ago, and about a year ago, I started drinking wine and like the way it made me feel. Now I drink a bottle of wine almost every night, and don't remember much the next morning. I never drank anything prior to this. I could never have sympathy for alcoholics thinking, "how could they be so weak?". And now, I think I've become an alcoholic. I think this is addiction transfer. Before I lost all this weight, I would have binges with food, and now it has been replaced with wine. I don't know what to do. I truly hate this. The weight loss has been such a positive thing in my life, and now I am ruining it...



I just have to think that I changed my life for the good when I had this surgery. I look great now and would do it again if I could. I was starting to have the alcohol problem, but I realized what it was becoming and stoped. I also quit smoking too. I realized that if I was going to go this far with life changing surgery I needed to go all out with everything else. Life is too short to let myself dwell in something like alcohol & smoking. I got a second chance at a much better life for myself and my two daughters and I don't want to mess it up with anything. Now, don't get me wrong I do indulge once in awhile socially, but I make myself stop. I love my newly single lease on life. you just got to try to be strong and fight the urges. if you have a urge call some one and talk to them about anything.. it will help pass that urge. Thats what I do. anyone needs to talk.. [email protected]


I had surgery April 2006, lost approx 50% of my body weight (133lbs) and feel like I lost myself in the process also. I have gone through a divorce since then (which is a positive move for me) but have also turned to alcohol. I drink wine probably 5 nights a week now and have the same problem as Patrick - having blackouts - many nights I don't remember even going to bed. This is scary to me also. I am trying to tone it down, but it is a conscious decision I have to work on each day. Prior to surgery, alcohol was NEVER an issue for me. I drank maybe once a month. I would like to know what our alcohol level is even after just one drink?


I had GBS July 9 2007 and lost 75 lbs .


I think alot of the appeal to drinking now is that I never suffer ill effects from drinking, no matter how much I take in I never get a hangover. Maybe if I did I wouldn't drink. Anyone else having this effect? I didn't drink before the surgery and if I did have a couple of sips I would get a bad hangover.

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