Gastric Bypass And Alcoholism: Trading Food For Alcohol

Coco Swan's picture

More and more studies are showing that those who have weight loss surgeries may end up with another addiction after their surgery. Medical experts state that between 5 and 30% of patients who undergo gastric bypass operations will switch from an addiction to food to something else. This is known as addiction transfer and the most common swaps involve alcohol, smoking, gambling, shopping, and exercise.

A study performed at Stanford University School of Medicine has proven that people who have had gastric bypass surgery get drunker and take longer to sober up, than those who have not had surgery. In fact, one standard drink of wine, which gave the non surgical group in the study a blood alcohol level of 0.05 produced a blood alcohol reading of 0.08 in the group who had had gastric bypass. The post weight loss surgery group took an average of 108 minutes to sober up after their glass of wine, compared to 72 minutes for the control group. Interestingly, although the gastric bypass group had higher blood alcohol readings they didn't feel any drunker than the others. The participants in the study had an average weight of 149 pounds and age of 37 for the 17 in control group, and a weight of 200 pounds and an age of 47 for the 19 in the post surgical group.

Medical experts say there are a couple of reasons for this phenomena. Firstly, the stomach has been made smaller, so the alcohol passes into the gut faster. Secondly, due to the surgery resulting in a smaller stomach, a digestive enzyme responsible for alcohol metabolism, known as alcohol dehydrogenase, is also reduced.

The other concern is that alcohol will relax both the body and the inhibitions. The results? Post weight loss surgery patients may feel that they can eat more than usual if they have been drinking alcohol.

That is not to say that everyone who undergoes weight loss surgery will end up becoming an alcoholic, gambler, or chain smoker. However, experts are recommending that those who suffer from food addictions or binge eating really do need counselling to understand and deal with the underlying issues causing their food addictions and issues. Once these demons are understood, the chances of switching addictions become much smaller.


Battling the bulge need not result in battling the bottle. Understanding and dealing with the underlying causes for binge eating and food addiction can go a long way to prevent swapping addictions after weight loss surgery.

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