A few days ago, a friend asked me if we could get together for a glass of wine, and I explained to her that I’m on a liquid diet, to which she responded, “Well, wine is a liquid.” As someone who’s had gastric bypass surgery herself, she knew that I had to follow the doctor’s orders. But what she didn’t know – because she had her surgery several years ago – is that gastric bypass patients are at an increased risk of becoming alcoholics.
Last summer, the Journal of the Medical Association published a study with 2,500 participants at 10 hospitals across the country that showed a significant spike in drinking problems in year two after the surgery.
If you think about it, this makes sense as those of us with recurring weight problems most likely have one – or two, or three, or four – addictive behaviors already working against them. And we tend to replace one addiction with another. I grew up with an alcoholic mother, whose whole family was heavy drinkers, and gambler father. Both smoked. Then there were some other addictions I’d rather not mention.
I myself have an addictive personality and need to be extra careful about drinking for all of the reasons mentioned above. I’m one of those people who would forgo food for wine while on a diet. The medical center that will be performing my surgery asks that bariatric patients stop drinking six months before and after surgery. Your liver should be in its best health for the surgery (there also is a correlation between liver disease and obesity). I haven’t been completely abstemious, but I’ve been mindful.
Committed as I am to having a good outcome, I do wonder if I’ll be able to become a teetotaler. If it wasn’t clear from the previous paragraph, I love wine. One of the problems with drinking post-surgery is that alcohol is absorbed differently and more quickly into the bloodstream after bypass. Groucho Marx might have joked that the bad news is that you could become a drunk, but the good news is that you’ll be a cheap drunk.
Addiction science is fairly new and complex as the pleasure center of the brain is involved. I once wrote an article about this very topic. If I become addicted to anything after the surgery, I hope it’s exercise (which I did after my second divorce, but that’s another story).
I’ve done some more research and this subject and found an article suggesting that while some people who never had a problem with alcohol become alcoholics, the opposite effect may happen in those who tended to tip a glass too many before the surgery, that post-surgery, they become more moderate. I so hope that is the case for me. Because a year from now, I want to be able to have my wine and drink it too.