DEAR MAYO CLINIC: After undergoing gastric bypass surgery last year, having a glass of wine affects me much more than it used to. Is this typical?
ANSWER: Yes. In fact, the effects of alcohol are nearly doubled in people who have had gastric bypass surgery, compared with those who haven’t had the procedure.
Gastric bypass — one of the most common types of bariatric surgery in the U.S. — helps you reduce your food intake by creating a small gastric pouch. Before the surgery, food enters your stomach and passes into the small intestine. After surgery, most of the stomach and the first part of your small intestine (duodenum) are bypassed, and a digestive route directs food into the middle section of your small intestine (jejunum). This helps you lose weight by limiting the amount of calories you can consume and absorb.
But, this direct route to your small intestine also allows your body to absorb alcohol more readily — and much faster. Your gastric pouch is unable to break down alcohol as effectively as your old stomach would have. In addition, your body weight is likely much lower than it was before your surgery, meaning you get a higher dose of alcohol per pound.
Several studies compared blood alcohol concentrations in women who’d undergone gastric bypass with those who hadn’t had the surgery. The studies showed that, for women who’d had the operation, blood alcohol concentrations peaked sooner and at approximately double the level of those who hadn’t had the operation. Women who’d had the procedure also felt much more inebriated for longer.
To answer your question, increased sensitivity to alcohol is real. For you, having two drinks is the equivalent of having four drinks, at which point you’re likely well above the legal limit. It’s an important limitation to keep in mind for your safety and the safety of others. (adapted from Mayo Clinic Health Letter) — Meera Shah, M.B., Ch.B., Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
READERS: Plenty of yogis, as well as doctors and therapists, long have believed that practicing yoga — which involves holding various positions, such as standing on one leg, squatting, or bending forward, back and to the side — can help people become more steady on their feet.
A recent review of studies examining the effects of yoga on balance and mobility lends credibility to the idea. Australian researchers combed through various databases to identify rigorously designed trials to determine if yoga-based exercise — excluding forms that use only meditation and breathing exercises — improves balance and physical mobility in people over 60.
The reviewers narrowed the search to six trials involving about 300 people. Included were people with a range of conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, knee osteoarthritis and previous stroke.
The results showed a small, but significant improvement in balance in those engaging in hourlong yoga sessions once or twice a week. Three of the studies, involving 225 participants, showed an even bigger improvement for physical mobility.
Mayo Clinic doctors note that various forms of exercise — including specific balance training exercises, strength training and other movement programs, such as tai chi or dance — can help improve balance and physical mobility. Perhaps the most important factor is to find a form that you enjoy and will do on a regular basis. In addition, find activities that can progressively challenge your abilities, so that you become more and more stable. — Adapted from Mayo Clinic Health Letter
(Mayo Clinic Q & A is an educational resource and doesn’t replace regular medical care. E-mail a question to MayoClinicQ&A@mayo.edu. For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.org.)
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Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.