Drinking soda and other carbonated drinks after bariatric surgery can impede weight loss progress and cause discomfort and damage to the stomach and digestive system. This article will explore the negative effects of soft drinks after weight loss surgery and provide alternative options to quench your thirst.
Definition of a carbonated beverage: A beverage infused with carbon dioxide (CO2) that results in a fizzy sensation and unique taste. These beverages are typically combined with sweeteners, flavorings, colors, and acids. Popular carbonated drinks worldwide include soda, carbonated water, and certain alcoholic beverages.
Why can’t bariatric patients have carbonation?
Patients who have undergone procedures like gastric sleeve (VSG) or gastric bypass should avoid carbonated beverages as they can harm their bodies. The carbon dioxide causes a buildup of pressurized gas within the stomach pouch, which contributes to painful side effects such as;
- Excess gas
- Acid reflux or GERD
- Stomach stretching
- Suppresses nutrient absorption
- Applies pressure to the incision(s)
In addition, most soft drinks have high sugar levels and contain empty calories, which can sabotage weight-loss efforts. Although soda provides a temporary burst of energy due to its high sugar content, it doesn’t provide a feeling of fullness. As a result, patients may continue to experience hunger and intense cravings for sugary foods even after drinking soda.
A study conducted by the Obesity Research and Clinical Practice journal linked drinking carbonated water to weight gain. In the study, 20 males were given a variety of carbonated beverages which increased their ghrelin levels significantly, causing them to feel hungier.
Some soda brands also have caffeine which can cause dehydration, water loss, and excess urination. Hydration is very important during the healing process and can also eliminate waste products more efficiently from the body.
How long after surgery can patients have carbonated drinks?
Patients should avoid any carbonated beverages in the first 6 to 12 weeks after bariatric surgery, although a longer period is more beneficial toward recovery. However, quitting soda long-term ensures that the body is not deprived of any nutrients and gives them the best chance for weight loss success. This is especially important as the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and duodenal switch already affect nutrient absorption.
Soda and other carbonated drinks can also decrease weight loss after bariatric surgery. The University of Wisconsin found that soda consumption heavily impacted how much weight patients lost. Over 80% of patients who quit drinking soda after surgery achieved their weight loss goals while almost 50% of those who continued their drinking habits had unsatisfactory results.
Alternatives to Soda
- Water – The best alternative is water because it keeps patients the most hydrated during their recovery. Adding a slice of lemon to make lemon water is also an acceptable substitute.
- Sports Drinks– There are sugar-free sports drinks such as Powerade Zero, Vitamin Water Zero Sugar, Crystal Light, and Gatorade Zero.
- Decaffeinated Tea or Coffee- Patients should choose decaffeinated beverages to prevent stomach irritation. There are several flavorful options for sugar-free teas, including chamomile, green tea, peppermint, chai, earl grey, and others.
- Low-fat or Skim Milk – Some patients may not handle lactose in milk after weight loss surgery. As a precaution, take small sips to prevent any abdominal pain or diarrhea.
Other Beverages to Avoid
Overall, it is advised to refrain from drinking carbonated and caffeinated beverages due to their diuretic and acidic impact on the new digestive system.
Alcoholic drinks, such as champagne, ciders, beer, and cocktails, must also be avoided as they can cause acid reflux and dehydration. Alcohol, like carbonated drinks, has no nutritional value and contains empty calories. Even if alcohol was consumed before surgery, the new body might not be able to tolerate it as before.
The Stanford University School of Medicine examined the effects of alcohol after bariatric surgery by studying the reactions of 19 post-operative gastric bypass patients after drinking alcohol. The patients were found to have a higher peak and slower decline in their blood alcohol concentration. Furthermore, they experienced a decrease in lower esophageal sphincter tone and an increase in gastric emptying, leading to an increase in food intake.
To successfully lose weight after bariatric surgery, patients must be willing to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Making lifestyle changes, such as eliminating carbonated drinks or alcohol, can be challenging. However, these changes have lasting benefits.
If you have any questions about your diet after bariatric surgery, contact our registered dietitian, who can provide personalized guidance and support, or review the post-op diet guideline for more information.