Is it okay to drink when I eat with a Gastric Band or Lapband?

Q: I’m confused about whether it is okay to drink when I eat. Some forums say it’s okay now, but my surgeon and dietitian say no.

Answer:

This is a really hot-button topic that fuels debate between band-owners, dietitians and surgeons.

I’ll sift through some observations that my clients and I have made over more than 15 years.

When you are aware of what to look out for and experiment with the timing of drinks, you will probably see that the answer lies in your own experiences.

But before you read on, I’d like you to grab a pen to honestly answer five questions with a yes-no-sometimes answer.

  1. When eating a special meal away from home, have you ever been surprised at how much more you can eat when you have wine or a drink with the meal?
  2. When you have soup, do you find that you can spoon your way through a large bowl (or two) without much trouble? Yet, if you filled that same bowl with stir-fry, you might struggle to finish it.
  3. Have you ever had a drink of any kind with your food and suddenly gone … oo oh no … ‘something’s coming back up or something is stuck’.
  4. Have you ever tried to clear a blockage with a drink only to find it (or other mucous) flushes back up?
  5. Before your gastric banding surgery, were you in the habit of having something to eat whenever you had a cup of tea or coffee?

Okay, now let’s see what my clients’ experiences might reveal for each of those questions. Think about what your own experience tells you.

1. Having a drink with dinner is a well-known tool that bandsters use when dining out.

Why? Aside from the pleasure of a glass of wine with dinner, it seems that a glass or two to drink with the meal allows you to enjoy a more ‘normal’ sized serve or even a couple of small courses.

Maybe you’re just relaxed and are taking more time and being a lot more cautious about how you approach the food. Perhaps the food is being flushed through with each small chew and sip. Isn’t this a hint that somehow the ‘I’ve had enough’ satisfaction button isn’t being triggered?

2. Remember back to when your band was first installed. You probably had to stay on liquid for a week or two and then gradually move though blended, mushy puree to solid foods. Did you recall getting a little hungry towards the end of the liquid or puree phases?

If you do, then you realise that creating a runny, slurry of food in your mouth is essentially taking you back to those early days of blended meals.

So if you are a super-chewer who grinds their food to a pulp before swallowing, then drinking and eating at the same time might mean that you end up eating far more than you need to. Your mouth is acting like a food processor or blender. And you already know what happens when you add liquid to puree in the blender? It turns to soup and you and I know that soup travels past the band without much resistance.

These basic observations suggest that taking liquid with food is not a smart idea if you want to feel satisfied after eating a smaller serve. But it’s not that straight forward. Drinking with food is a bad habit for a few other reasons:

3. If you’re someone who still struggles to take small bites and chew your food thoroughly and you drink at the same time, then you may be a mouth flusher!

You will flush chunks of poorly chewed food down towards your band where they will bounce and possibly get caught. That’s one of the ‘oh no’ moments where it feels like something is coming back up the throat or you feel uncomfortable in the chest area.

Take notice of whether you are being lazy with chewing and/or using liquid to flush food out from your mouth. If this is you, then drinking whilst eating is a bad move.

4. There are some people with a gastric band who can sense when foods and drinks are passing through their band. But as you have possibly already discovered, not all food gets past the band as quickly or as easily as soup and custard.

You may remember a few occasions when it felt like foods were stuck above or in the band and you needed to burp or regurgitate to clear the blockage.

And when the burp didn’t work, you tried a drink to clear the blockage. Sometimes a fizzy drink works.

Other times it backfires and causes fluid and sticky gastric secretions to gurgle back into your mouth. Like a blocked kitchen sink – nothing is going down.

5. If you were in the habit of having biscuits to eat whenever you had tea or coffee before banding, you’ll have no reason or incentive to break that habit after banding.

Eating with your cuppa is one bad habit that will really stall your success and results.

Why? Eat a couple of plain milk arrowroot biscuits twice a day, five days a week for 50 weeks, and your rate of weight loss will slow down by about 5 kg (11 lb) each year. If they were small cream biscuits, then that would be an extra 10 kg you will not lose!

What’s my challenge to you?

If you are complaining of hunger even though your band is adjusted properly, then I challenge you to stop drinking when you are eating. Make the break and continue to eat solid foods that you need to chew. You will have to slow your eating pace down and you will probably find that the food fills you better and lasts longer so you are not as hungry.

My bet is that you will notice a big difference providing you eat proper solid foods and your band is adjusted correctly, but I’d like to find out what your experiences are? I’d love to know what you have noticed when you do or don’t drink with food.

With the guidance and approval of your surgeon and dietitian, be your own experiment. Play around with the timing of drinks and food to see how much of a difference it makes to your speed of eating, your satisfaction, hunger and the overall amount you eat.

Sometimes a drink immediately before food can be useful to 'lubricate and alert' the food pipe (oesophageous) and stomach that something's coming, so it may not be so critical to wait a full 10 minutes before eating after a drink. This is something to discuss with your dietitian and doctor. A little drink just before food may make eating more comfortable if you are always 'catching' on the first few bites, but exactly how or why this works is anyone's guess at the moment.

But in the end, if whatever you are doing now works for you, do not change a thing because there is no need to change something that already works.

What have you found when you drink and eat at the same time? I am interested to hear about your experiences. Email me with your thoughts.

!

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Lap banding question 2