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How does gastric bypass affect the metabolism of alcohol?

Understanding gastric bypass
Gastric bypass surgery can help some people with major weight issues improve their health and reverse the effect of obesity-related ailments and diseases like heart problems and type II diabetes. The surgery is a major procedure, however, and is often recommended only in extreme cases after other methods of weight control have been exhausted. Gastric bypass drastically changes the way the body metabolizes food, and consuming alcohol after the surgery should be done with extreme caution.

How does gastric bypass affect alcohol consumption?
A 2007 study performed by researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine's Department of Surgery found that people who consumed alcohol following gastric bypass surgery tended to get drunker and stay drunk longer than people who had not had the procedure.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, looked at a group of 36 people, 17 of whom were gastric bypass patients and 19 of whom represented the control group. Each subject was given the same amount of alcohol - 5 ounces of red wine - and monitored for the alcohol's effects with a breath test. Researchers found that the glass of wine elevated post-operative subjects blood alcohol content to .08 percent while the control group increased to .05 percent. It took members of the control group about 72 minutes, on average, to reach a base BAC level of 0, where it took some 108 minutes for post-operative subjects to get to the same level.

One of the more interesting aspects of the study found that despite the elevated BAC levels in post gastric bypass surgery participants, both groups reported the same levels of perceived intoxication, suggesting that while the post operative subjects were more intoxicated than the control group, they didn't notice that they were.

Exercise caution
It's unclear exactly how alcohol affects a person who has had gastric bypass surgery, but many doctors suggest avoiding alcoholic beverages as much as possible. If you do drink after having the surgery, do so extremely carefully, especially if you are in a position where you may need to drive. If the findings of the Stanford study were applied to a real life situation, a person who has had the surgery could get a DUI without feeling drunk at all.

After surgery, drink less and wait longer before driving. Understanding how alcohol affects you and how your altered metabolism affects your level of intoxication, is important to drinking safely. Consult your doctor and stop drinking if you experience any illness or discomfort.