The decision to get gastric sleeve surgery is a significant one that can be full of anxiety and fear as well as hope and anticipation. For many people, a gastric sleeve is a lifeline. It’s not an easy road to travel, but it can be an extremely rewarding one. Once the surgery is over, emotions shift. The surgeon’s job is done, and now the patient must do the hard work.
As you step into your post-op journey, you’re likely wondering what you can and should be doing to increase your chances of success. Many of these thoughts are related to foods and beverages or, more specifically, what is and is not off limits now. Alcohol tends to get brought up often in discussions of post-op diets, and it’s important for bariatric patients to understand how a gastric sleeve and alcohol affect each other.
What is a gastric sleeve?
Gastric sleeve surgery, also called a sleeve gastrectomy, is a procedure where 60 to 80 percent of the stomach is removed. The part of your stomach that remains is about the size and shape of a banana. This is designed to help you lose weight, since it will dramatically reduce the amount of food you are able to eat at one time.
Combining a gastric sleeve and alcohol: What to expect
It’s important for patients to understand what they can and can’t consume after having a gastric bypass. After initial healing is complete and your surgeon releases you, you should have a good idea of what your diet should consist of. This is because the way your body processes foods and beverages is different after surgery, and this includes how alcohol is processed. Here’s what you can expect when combining a gastric sleeve and alcohol.
Alcohol and nausea
Even after the initial healing period, nausea and vomiting should still be a consideration when drinking alcohol. Don’t be alarmed if drinking alcohol causes you to become nauseated. If so, stop drinking and use anti-nausea remedies to prevent vomiting. This can include ingesting ginger, lying down, getting fresh air, or taking prescribed medications. If alcohol routinely causes you to become nauseous, it may be something you want to avoid entirely.
Alcohol and vomiting
You’ll most likely vomit at some point following your gastric sleeve surgery. Sometimes, this is a result of the expected nausea, and in rare cases, vomiting can be caused by a complication with the surgery. Although you are unlikely to damage your gastric sleeve by vomiting, it can cause your stomach to become inflamed and swollen, which can exacerbate unpleasant side effects. Since drinking alcohol after gastric sleeve surgery can get you heavily intoxicated quickly, it’s not difficult to reach the point of vomiting with drinking. Take care of your gastric sleeve by avoiding vomiting whenever possible, especially from alcohol.
Precautions to take when drinking alcohol after gastric sleeve surgery
There are several precautions you should take when drinking alcohol after a gastric sleeve procedure.
Avoid drinking alcohol at all during the first year after your gastric sleeve surgery. This is when weight loss occurs the most rapidly and when you will be the most sensitive to alcohol’s intoxicating effects.
Always have someone you trust with you if you choose to drink. This person should know that you’ve had gastric sleeve surgery and understand how that affects how you consume alcohol. It’s also helpful if this person pledges to stay sober, to provide you with a ride home if needed.
Be careful not to overdo it. Plan ahead of time how many drinks you will have, and make sure you’re giving yourself enough time in between drinks.
Make sure you eat a meal before you drink. Never drink on an empty stomach.
Are gastric sleeve patients at a higher risk for alcohol use disorders?
A percentage of people develop an alcohol use disorder after gastric sleeve surgery. Some resources suggest that in many cases, obesity is caused by an addiction to food, and after bariatric surgery, the addiction is still present but is transferred to another substance, such as alcohol. However, if that were true, most if not all cases of bariatric surgery would end in addiction or substance use disorders.
The reality is that the number of gastric sleeve patients who report alcohol use disorders is small compared to the total number of bariatric surgery patients. Most of them report that they struggled with an alcohol use problem prior to surgery as well, reinforcing the theory that gastric sleeve and alcohol use disorders are unrelated.
Should you drink alcohol with a gastric sleeve?
Drinking alcohol with a gastric sleeve is a personal choice and can be safe when done in moderation and with caution. After you’ve gone through the initial healing period, there’s nothing that contraindicates moderate and responsible alcohol use after gastric sleeve surgery. Before you fill your glass though, it’s always a good idea to consult with your surgeon to discuss alcohol use in your specific case.