Why Drinking Problems Develop After Gastric Bypass Surgery

How much weight participants lost, or whether they were binge eaters before surgery didn’t affect the risk of developing the alcohol-related symptoms, the study found.

The research didn’t cover the “sleeve” procedure, which was new when the participants were first assembled, but now accounts for more than half of all weight loss surgeries, according to the latest ASMBS data.

It’s still unclear how the sleeve affects alcohol absorption or consumption.

The study did follow patients who had a “banding” procedure. They turned out to have much fewer issues with alcohol use disorder than people who’d had bypass surgery.

Why alcohol problems develop

Nearly 200,000 people in the United States had surgery to fight obesity in 2015, according to the latest ASMBS figures.

Those numbers are growing as the nation gets heavier. More than 1 in 3 Americans are obese, and more than 1 in 20 fit the definition for “extreme obesity,” according to statistics from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The oldest procedure, the gastric bypass, remains the “gold standard,” with the longest record of success, Dr. Manish Parikh, head of bariatric surgery at New York University Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital, told Healthline.

In a bypass, a surgeon first makes a patient’s stomach the size of walnut. The stomach is then attached to the middle of the small intestine, bypassing a section that would normally absorb calories.

Most patients say they become more sensitive to alcohol afterward.

In one studyTrusted Source, researchers recruited five women who’d had a bypass three or four years earlier and found no reported problems with alcohol.

Each volunteer drank a “screwdriver” — half vodka and half orange juice — on an empty stomach while hooked up to a catheter that collected their blood. They all reached a blood alcohol level above the legal drinking limit within minutes — much faster than the norm.

Alcohol may also take longer to leave the body after a bypass.

In addition, the surgery may change mechanisms in the brain driven by genes, as well as hormones that affect consumption.

Much of this evidence comes from studies with rats, as noted in an overviewTrusted Source published this spring in the online issue of Obesity Reviews.

For example, after scientists performed bypass surgery on rats that don’t like alcohol, the rodents developed a taste for the intoxicant.

In the sleeve, now the most common procedure, the surgeon divides the stomach and staples it vertically, creating a tube or banana-shaped pouch able to hold much less food. This procedure has roughly similar outcomes to a bypass, according to a 2014 reviewTrusted Source by the Cochrane Group. However, it’s newer, so there is less information available about the long-term effects.

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