Of the discoveries made in the field of bariatric medicine including that gastric bypass places Type 2 Diabetes in total remission immediately after surgery in more than half who undergo the procedure, the study grabbed by headlines is that of a small increase in post-operative alcohol abuse.
However, bariatric surgery doesn't cause alcoholism as the dramatic headlines lead you to presume, this surgery just happens to be performed on a population that carries a lot of emotional baggage. For many, morbid obesity is the outward symptom of something deeper; when paired with the fact that alcohol is absorbed at nearly full proof as there is little or no stomach digestion, you've got an ominous combination of circumstances.
Of course there's a link between gastric bypass surgery and an increase in alcoholism; its having weighed three-hundred pounds and discovering that after losing all that weight, you've missed out on so many years of life. The morbidly obese are often socially isolated. Many of those who medically qualify for a bariatric procedure stayed home on prom night, did not date or have many friends, they didn't live for weekend frat parties or ski trips. They stayed home alone while others the same age were testing boundaries and gathering emotional maturity. Once the weight comes off many pick up where their social development stopped and the result is a lot of suddenly slim grown-ups going through a delayed adolescence. The problem is that the physical element of the surgery makes the patient more sensitive to alcohol and it can be dangerous.
However, telling those having weight loss surgery that they can never drink alcohol works as well as it does with teens. Pontificating about alcohol abstinence is not going to handle the situation - therapy and support to provide the needed emotional surgery for difficult life changes may be a better approach given that the bariatric population also carries higher rates of depression and suicide.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz was one of the first surgeons in the US to develop the specialty of cosmetic or plastic surgery back in the 1950's when the need arose following two world wars. However, he was soon inspired to move from treating outer scars to inner scars after seeing many patients' continuing to have feelings of unhappiness, unworthiness and personal insecurities that were not cured from plastic surgery. Even though they believed they would feel happy when Dr. Maltz gave them the perfect new faces they desired, it didnt always turn out to be so. He pioneered the self help movement after concluding that if ones self-image is unhealthy or faulty - all of their efforts will end in failure.
These observations give clarity and correlate to the bariatric experience, as losing one hundred and fifty pounds only makes a person slimmer. It does not fix a bad marriage, or unravel childhood sexual abuse. To the contrary, it brings the real issues to the forefront - which is why it's time to weave the strong support and therapy nets to help those who undergo this increasingly popular surgery that is moving across the world through even younger populations.
Susan Maria Leach is the author of Before & After - Living & Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery (HarperCollins Publishing 2012, 07, 04 iTunes & BarnesandNoble.com), both a memoir and a cookbook - an intimate account of Leach's own transformation as well as a guide for those who have undergone or are considering the procedure. As Susan Maria has learned in the many years since her own 2001 RNY procedure, weight loss surgery is not an event with a finish line or a goal weight - it is the beginning of a new way of life.
Susan Maria founded BariatricEating.com in 2004 and has developed Believe and Inspire Protein Drinks and Journey Bariatric Vitamins, brands that have helped many thousands cope with pre-op requirements. She has served as an officer for the Corporate Council of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.