Dr. Oz: New Study Shows That Gastric Bypass Surgery Causes Alcoholism

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Dr. Oz: Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Cause Alcoholism?

Gastric bypass surgery may be a popular weight loss strategy, but new research in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that it can lead to alcoholism. A woman named Susan says it’s the reason she became an alcoholic and she talked to Dr. Oz about it on the show.

It turns out gastric bypass surgery can double the patient’s risk of developing alcohol problems because the surgery changes the way alcohol is metabolized, increasing the rate at which it’s absorbed, making it more addictive.

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Dr. Oz: New Study Shows That Gastric Bypass Surgery Causes Alcoholism

Dr. Oz talked about the troubling new information regarding gastric bypass surgery increasing a patient’s risk for alcoholism. (Ramona Kaulitzki / Shutterstock.com)

Susan said that before the surgery, she didn’t drink much alcohol. For the first year, she didn’t drink, either. But when she did start drinking, she said “it was like wildfire”. She said she would drink a huge bottle of wine or a fifth of vodka a day. She lost her marriage and was estranged from everybody.

In rehab, she met three other people who had gastric bypass surgery. Susan said she had never heard she should avoid alcohol. No doctor ever warned her about it and she never read about it as an issue associated with gastric bypass surgery.

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Dr. Oz: Gastric Bypass Surgery Changes the Way Alcohol is Metabolized

Dr. Oz talked to some experts about this issue. Dr. Marina Kurian, a bariatric surgeon, said that this story isn’t unusual and she’s seen this in her practice as well. Dr. Reef Karim, a psychiatrist and addiction expert, said that the reason why this happens is because the way the alcohol is absorbed and metabolized is completely different. The stomach is the regulator of how quickly the alcohol is processed into the bloodstream. By changing it in the surgery, this means the alcohol immediately effects you.

For a normal person, it takes about 30 minutes from where it hits your stomach and enters your bloodstream to affect you. After gastric bypass surgery, where they shave most of the stomach off for weight loss, there’s a much smaller organ to process the alcohol. This means as soon as the alcohol hits the stomach, the alcohol affects the user.

Dr. Oz: Food Addiction & Alcohol Addiction

Dr. Karim said that people who get gastric bypass surgery are often overweight with a metabolic weight. Dr. Karim says no one thinks about the brain. Gastric bypass fixes the stomach, not the brain. If someone has a food addiction, then gastric bypass can allow them to switch the food addiction to alcohol addiction.

Dr. Kurian said that she makes sure to tell people before gastric bypass surgery that there is altered alcohol metabolism afterwards. She said she always tells people that if they want to drink, they should try at home with half a glass and see how it affects them.

Dr. Karim said that people should look at whether they’re a lightweight and what their emotional relationship to alcohol is prior to gastric bypass surgery or drinking after gastric bypass surgery, because these factors are important in assessing whether they’r at risk for alcoholism. If you were a lightweight prior to the surgery, you’ll only be more of one after the surgery. Dr. Oz said that he thought gastric bypass surgery was a great solution to morbid obesity, but addictive emotional issues should be addressed first.

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