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Treatment for Alcohol Abuse After Weight Loss Surgery

Drinking alcohol is a popular pastime for many individuals in America. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 85.6 percent of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime and more than half of Americans drink alcohol every month.[1] 

While drinking alcohol in moderation is okay, many people have health conditions that make alcohol consumption dangerous. For example, it is highly recommended for individuals who underwent weight loss surgery to avoid alcohol because bariatric surgery causes the body to become more sensitive to its effects. Some people even develop alcohol use disorder (AUD) after having weight loss surgery.

If you or a loved one began abusing alcohol after undergoing weight loss surgery, you could be causing detrimental harm to your body, and you may want to consider seeking alcoholism treatment.

What is Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a term used to refer to various forms of weight loss surgery. This includes gastric bypass surgery, sleeve gastrectomy, gastric band, and duodenal switch.[2] 

These types of surgery are only provided to people who haven’t found success in other forms of weight loss, like exercise and dieting. Additionally, in order to receive weight loss surgery your obesity must pose a greater risk to your health than the surgery itself.

Bariatric surgeries involve modifying your digestive system and sometimes your small intestine to regulate the number of calories you consume and absorb. These surgeries can reduce the hunger signals that your digestive system sends to your brain if you are overeating. 

Oftentimes, bariatric surgery is used to treat and prevent diseases related to obesity, such as diabetes and fatty liver disease. However, it is important to remember that weight loss surgery is not a cure for obesity. Your doctor will help you prepare for the surgery beforehand and provide you with information on lifestyle changes you need to make to maintain a healthy weight. 

Does Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery Increase Your Risk of Alcoholism?

Weight loss surgery is often a life-saving procedure for people suffering from obesity-related health conditions. However, there are risks that you should take into consideration if you are having bariatric surgery done. One of these risks is an increased sensitivity to alcohol. 

The National Library of Medicine reports that after receiving a gastric bypass surgery, each alcoholic beverage can have double its typical effects and last up to 50% longer.[3] Even further, 20% of people who have had a gastric bypass developed an alcohol use disorder, which is about three times more than the general population.[4]

But why does weight loss surgery increase your risk of developing alcoholism?

One explanation includes the way that bariatric surgery alters the hormones in your body. Hormones like ghrelin, leptin, and dopamine are responsible for feelings of hunger, reward from eating, and they can influence a person’s alcohol consumption. So, because these surgeries can increase certain hormones related to reward, you might be more inclined to consume excessive amounts of alcohol

Additionally, alcohol causes more potent effects after you have had weight loss surgery. According to a Stanford study, people who had gastric bypass surgery took 108 minutes to reach a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0%, while it only took 72 minutes for the control group.[5] When alcohol causes stronger effects, you become more likely to continue abusing it. 

How is Alcoholism Treated After Weight Loss Surgery?

When you are suffering from alcoholism after receiving weight loss surgery, professional treatment should combine traditional addiction recovery techniques like behavioral therapy and group counseling with personalized nutritional counseling and assistance from a dietician. 

Treatment for alcohol abuse after weight loss surgery involves the following:

  • Medical detox that allows you to safely overcome withdrawal symptoms
  • Medical supervision and 24/7 monitoring to ensure safety and comfort 
  • Evidence-based behavioral therapies to improve coping skills, lessen negative patterns of behavior related to alcohol abuse and issues with food 
  • Group counseling to provide you with peer support, healthy communication skills, and decreased feelings of isolation 
  • Nutritional counseling with a dietician to improve your relationship with food, your body, and gut health
  • Relapse prevention planning that provides you with the tools you need to maintain long-term sobriety and overall health
  • Medical treatment for any underlying conditions related to obesity or alcohol abuse 

The nutritional counseling offered during alcohol rehab will help you learn how to maintain a healthy weight after your bariatric surgery. Your dietician will teach you the basics about nutrition, how food relates to your overall health, the importance of vitamins and minerals, as well as how to have a healthy relationship with your body and food. 

Overall, the goal of alcoholism treatment after bariatric surgery is to help you achieve sobriety while learning how to maintain your health and prevent obesity from recurring. Alcoholism treatment centers like Mandala Healing Center have experienced and empathetic dieticians working in their nutritional program to provide you with the best care possible. 

Get Connected to a Nutrition-Focused Alcohol Rehab Program Today

If you or a loved one have had weight loss surgery and suffer from alcohol abuse, receiving professional care is of the utmost importance. Alcohol abuse can greatly impact your health, especially after receiving bariatric surgery. Rehab programs that offer nutritional counseling can provide you with comprehensive care that combines services for alcoholism and weight loss surgery recovery. 

At Mandala Healing Center, our dietician evaluates each new patient at the point of his or her particular phase of recovery. Nutritional re-evaluations are then held at Mandala on an ongoing basis. These private sessions are designed to be collaborative and empowering with an emphasis on instilling healthful, lifelong eating habits. Additionally, patients may participate in special group sessions and fun, hands-on cooking classes where they are taught the valuable life skill of learning to prepare their own healthy foods. Our excellent nutritional program makes Mandala Healing Center the perfect place to recover from alcoholism after bariatric weight loss surgery.

To learn more about our programs or find help for yourself or a loved one, please contact us today.