Bypass Surgery and Booze May Not Mix

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery may make women more susceptible to alcohol effects

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Women who have undergone gastric bypass surgery may want to be careful with that glass of celebratory champagne.

A new study from Washington University found that alcohol may have a stronger effect on women after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery.

“These findings have important public safety and clinical implications," wrote lead study author Marta Yanina Pepino, PhD, an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues. "The blood alcohol contents (BACs) in the [bypass] group exceeded the legal driving limit for 30 minutes after alcohol ingestion. The peak BAC in the [bypass] group also met the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism criteria used to define an episode of binge drinking, which is a risk factor for developing alcohol use disorders."

Dr. Barry Sears, an expert in inflammatory nutrition and creator of the Zone diet, told dailyRx News that bariatric surgery patients may also be more likely to seek out behaviors that boost the mood-altering neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain — such as drinking, gambling or compulsive shopping — after surgery.

"Just as bariatric patients are instructed how to dramatically alter their eating habits after gastric bypass surgery, equal efforts should be expended in teaching them methods of preventing the development of other dopamine-generating addictive behaviors after surgery or replacing those potential behaviors with more positive behavioral changes, such as exercise and increased omega-3 fatty acid consumption that will increase dopamine levels, thus likely preventing other addictive behaviors from appearing," Dr. Sears said.

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery is the most common type of gastric bypass procedure used to treat obesity.

A RYGB surgery alters the anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract. Patients' stomachs are surgically made smaller and their intestines shorter to decrease food absorption.

According to Dr. Pepino and team, past research has found that alcohol use disorders may be more common in patients after RYGB procedures.

Dr. Pepino and team looked at eight women who underwent an RYGB procedure within the last five years.

These women were compared with nine women who were scheduled for an upcoming RYGB surgery.

Both groups drank two alcoholic drinks or two placebo drinks over the span of two weeks.

BACs of these women were then measured. The women were also asked to complete a survey about how they felt while and after drinking.

Several differences in the RYGB group were found compared to the other group.

BACs in the RYGB group increased faster, and those women reported more feelings of drunkenness.

Peak BAC was also almost twice as high for the RYGB group as it was for the other group.

According to Dr. Pepina, this equates to having four drinks instead of two.

BACs in the RYGB group also exceeded the legal driving limit within 30 minutes of the women drinking.

"These data underscore the need to make patients aware of the alterations in alcohol metabolism that occur after RYGB surgery, to help reduce the risk of potential serious consequences of moderate alcohol consumption," Dr. Pepina and colleagues wrote.

For most healthy women, moderate alcohol consumption is one to two drinks a day.

This study was published in August issue of the journal JAMA Surgery.

The National Institutes of Health and the Midwest Alcohol Research Center funded this research.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
August 5, 2015
Last Updated:
August 19, 2015