General cancer discussions

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Looking for advice - Drinking after a total gastrectomy

Posted by



I'm looking for a little advice and hope someone here may have seen some research.

Background: diagnosed with stomach cancer last June, had 3 rounds of ECX and a total gastrectomy at the start of December. Just started the next 3 rounds of ECX.

I fancied and had a couple of glasses of wine last week. Very pleasant, although it may have led to a touch of dumping. The curious thing was that it seemed to have no effect on me. This surprised me a little as I've barely drunk anything since I was diagnosed (just didn't fancy it) and nothing for the past 3 months.

Thinking about it more, it is not that surprising as I assume that alcohol normally sits in the stomach for a bit and absorbs thru the stomach lining. Given the absence of said stomach it means the rules have changed.  I have been advised by doctors that alcohol will still be absorbed  through the intestines but I don't know at what rate.

This is not a plea for help on how to get plastered, but as time goes on and I hopefully improve, I would like to be able to enjoy and occaisional glass with a meal (haha) or even just on its own. I've given up on the idea of a beer simply due to the volume.

My concern is around things like drink-drive. I have got used to the rate at which I absorb and dispose of alcohol over the past 30 years and I’d like to understand more about the new rules I have to work to;  I do not want to risk having a couple of drinks in the evening and find that the alcohol is still fully present in my blood stream the following morning.

Does anyone have any advice based on experience or has anyone seen any research? BTW, I have also asked the docs the same question but around absorption of oral medicines - am I going to be getting the right benefit from the chemo/anti-sickness drugs.




Hannah Morris
Posted by
Hi david, I was diagnosed with stomach cancer last February 2011, I finished the same course of treatment as you last October, I also had a total gastrectomy in june 2011. I started a new job recently and it is very social. I was drinking a mixture of alcohol and shots of spirits last night- being encouraged to keep up with everyone else- by the end of the night I had very little effect from the alcohol (more tired than tipsy)unlike my colleagues who drink regularly, I have not had several alcholic drinks since Christmas 2010. I also do not have any hangover. I know that I now have an iron deficiency (which I take iron pills to restore) despite my regular attempts to eat iron rich foods regularly, this is a result of the surgery and the iron that I do eat not being absorbed properly- I have been advised to take the iron pills with orange juice to help absorption, as I have no stomach acid. I have only recently realised that alcohol does not have the same effect on me so I have not had a chance to discuss this with my surgical team, and it was never mentioned to me. The chemo pills are to be taken with/after food and I think that they should then be digested along with the food- no idea if once digested they are being absorbed- although I felt the same during the post op cycles as I did in the pre-op cycles. If they were not working I would have probably felt better and recovered quicker which would have shown up in my blood tests. I will probably inform my colleagues of my medical past, I can still have a good time without alcohol- i dont take much/any pleasure from wine or spirits. Also, as the alcohol bypasses a stomach is it possible that it could have a detrimental affect on the kidneys, intestines and/or bladder?! I don't know what process, If any, fluid goes through in the stomach but obviously some alcohol content is being absorbed?! It is probably wise to lower alcohol intake - not that we have the capacity to hold much liquid anyway! :) Regards, Hannah
Posted by

Hi Hannah,

First of all, thanks for the response. It sounds like we are on the same track but you're about 6 months ahead of me. It also sounds like you are dealing with it really well, so congratulations!

I did get some fedback from my oncologist and he assured me that the drugs will be absorbed - by the small intenstine.  I'm feeling crap so I guess he's right. Actually, I'm doing OK so I shouldn't whinge, but interestingly I have noticed a delay in the effect: I am taking the capecitabine tablets and that gives me a flushed face. In the pre-surgery rounds it was about an hour after taking the tablets but this time around it is 6 or 7 hours later.

That works for the drugs, but I'm not sure the same it true for the alcohol and other things. It is interesting when you say that not only did the booze not effect you, but you also didn't get the hangover. That could be youth (note the jealousy here) but it suggests that you didn't absorb it. BTW, I've also noticed that a double-espresso seems to have a fairly immediate impact.

So I am coming to the conclusion that we're dealing with a new set of rules in terms of what effect things have on us and at what rate. Fair one, at least we're alive to worry about it, but it would be good to understand the rules - if I get a headache, do I need to take a tablet and wait 6 hours, do I need to leave 24 before driving after a glass of wine?

I'll keep asking around with my medical team.  Like you, noone mentioned this to me so I wonder if it has come up before. I feel a medical research project coming on: we need a medical student, couple of bottles of a decent white and a breathalyser :o)

I guess there is a serious side to this, but to be honest I am more intrigued and bemused than concerned. Maybe the medical profession is keeping this a secret - if it gets out then everyone will want a gastrectomy.  OK, maybe not.

Thanks again for the response.  If I learn anything I'll share here. And I really mean it about you doing well - less than a year after diagnosis and you're thru the treatment and moving on with a new job etc. I am in awe.

Take care


PS: Like the tip about the orange juice.  I stopped drinking OJ some time back as it gave me a stomach pain. Hadn't thought that one thru, had I. Hmmm..

Alan Are
Posted by


I had total gastrectomy in November 2017 

Due to neuroendocrine tumour in stomach.

Reading these posts are very helpful and encouraging. I can relate to both pills and alcohol.