IBS pain is worst!
We – IBS sufferers – try to avoid anything causing pain to us.
The relationship between IBS and Alcohol is little understood.
As an IBS sufferer and gastroenterology doctor, I frequently receive questions from my patients like:
- Can alcohol cause IBS flare up?
- Is there is a low FODMAP alcohol?
- What is the best alcohol for IBS?
- is my IBS is caused by alcohol?
- What alcohols to avoid with IBS?
In this article, I’ll do my best to answer all your questions and to provide you with evidence-based data that will help you.
This is an in-depth researched article. I spent time writing it aiming to answer all the questions in your mind.
How alcohol and IBS interact (Interesting facts you may don’t know):
1. How alcohol affects your IBS:
Alcohol is a trigger for IBS, especially if you drink it in large amounts.
Alcohol will make your that moves faster thus increasing your IBS symptoms:
- Diarrhea, which is usually associated with Yellow stools.
- gas distention
- Abdominal colics and pain.
- alcohol can affect the good bacteria in your gut. disruption of these bacteria can cause IBS symptoms.
2. Your IBS isn’t only affected by the type of alcohol you drink:
the type of the alcoholic beverage you drink is not the only factor that affects your IBS symptoms.
Many other factors can cause a bad experience with drinking alcohol like:
- The amount or frequency of your drinking.
- Different people have different sensitivities to the same type of alcohol.
- whether you take foods or drinks with alcohol.
- your mood.
Good to know that we are all different in our response or sensitivity to alcohol.
So, alcohol and IBS relationship is complicated and differs from one to another.
You may drink 3 to 4 beverages per they and you don’t have symptoms
On the other hand, others may have a bad experience with their IBS just from having 1 drink.
This is due to the different sensitivities to alcohol across different persons.
3. Alcohol not only affects your IBS But Your Entire digestive system:
Alcohol is a chemical toxin not only affect it’s your IBS but also affects:
- Food and vitamin absorption from the small and the large intestine.
- Alcohol can irritate your pancreas causing chronic inflammation leading to abdominal pain and indigestion
- Alcohol can cause a serious damage to your liver what’s called Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD).
- Alcohol increase your intestinal permeability to toxins, which moves from your gut to your blood affecting many organs.
- If you consume alcohol in large amounts for many years you are at risk of cancers, especially in your mouth and esophagus.
4. Light drinking may not cause you problems with IBS:
In 2013, American journal of gastroenterology scientists found that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is associated with more IBS symptoms.
Also, light to moderate drinking usually not associated with increased IBS symptoms.
Avoiding binge drinking and sticking to light alcohol drinking is the best strategy to avoid flare-ups.
How much should you drink?
- For women up to 1 drink per day
- For men up to 1 to 2 drinks per day
I will explain to you later exactly how to calculate the amount of alcohol you drink for different types of beverages.
Light alcohol found to be beneficial in killing some harmful bacteria invading your gut like:
- Helicobacter Pylori which causes gastritis and peptic ulcers.
- Vibrio Cholera organisms which cause life-threatening diarrhea.
- organisms which cause food poisoning like Salmonella!
these benefits and others are only with light drinking, the reverse occurs when you binge-drink alcohols.
Listen to this interesting video from SciShow YouTube channel about these benefits of alcohol!
Disclaimer: I believe alcohol is harmful to your health, and I only show these data to help you see the whole aspects of the topic.
5. Some studies suggest that alcohol is the cause of IBS.
If you are an alcohol drinker before you were diagnosed with IBS, your alcohol drinking may have played a role.
Alcohol is a strong chemical irritant that affects all parts of your digestive system.
In 2015, a large Chinese study included over 57000 people with alcohol abuse found that alcohol abuse increases the risk of developing IBS.
Although there is no definite mechanism by which alcohol causes IBS but the clear relationship is always present.
So, we can say yes, IBS may be caused by alcohol in people who over-consume it for long periods.
6. Alcohol Can Cause IBS Flare Up. But Not Immediately.
Alcohol is a well-known IBS trigger and the flare up is largely determined by the type and the amount of alcohol you consume.
It is not necessary for alcohol to cause IBS flare-up on the same day. you may experience IBS symptoms on the next day of drinking alcohol.
This late effects may not make you sure about what triggered your symptoms. If you are not sure that your IBS is flared up by alcohol you should keep track of what you drink and what you eat.
You can use a diary to document your IBS flare-ups. I found that tracking flare-ups
So to know if alcohol causes your IBS flare up, you have to record the pattern of your alcohol intake before every attack of IBS. Not only the few hours before the attack but also, track drinking at the day before IBS attack.
7. Binge drinking of alcohol is the worst scenario for your IBS.
Binge drinking of alcohol will increase your symptoms. With any type of alcohol, even with low FODMAP alcohols.
Binge drinking carries the high risk of worsening your IBS. This is especially causing diarrhea-predominant IBS and more frequent in females than males.
Light drinking of alcohol has little or no effects on your IBS.
No drinking at all is the best option.
Handy Tips For better Alcohol drinking experience with your IBS
1. Stick only to alcohols that are low FODMAP:
FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrates that are known to trigger your IBS. There are some types of alcohols that are low in FODMAP, so it doesn’t hurt your IBS They include
- Distilled alcohols: including gin, vodka, scotch, and whiskey.
- Wine: including red, white, sweet, sparking.
Those two types are generally well tolerated by most people. Also, some alcohols are made from High FODMAP material but their end products are not high in FODMAPs because of distillation.
A good example of this is the beer which is usually tolerated by IBS patients.
2. Alcohols to avoid with IBS. It may hurt your IBS.
These alcohols are either high in FODMAPs or in gluten They are frequently associated with worse IBS symptoms
fructose is originally found in some fruits like apples watermelon mango cherry and pear. About one-third of IBS patients suffer from fructose intolerance fructose is one of the FODMAP that is poorly tolerated and may lead to bloating and IBS attack Fructose found in
- fruit-based beverages (i.e. ciders), Cocktails and mixers
- sweet wines
- high fructose corn syrup
Alcohols containing artificial sweeteners
The letter “P” and FODMAP refers to a group of sugars called Polyols. Artificial sweeteners like mannitol, xylitol, and sorbitol all Polyols which may trigger your IBS as they are originally a FODMAP.
avoid the “Diet” alcohols that contain artificial sweeteners. always check the ingredients of your beverages for these 3 substances: Mannitol, Xylitol, and Sorbitol.
Carbonated alcoholic beverages:
The gas produced by the carbonated beverages may worsen your IBS. If you frequently suffer from bloating and gas, it is better for you to avoid any carbonated beverages like:
- Fizzy mixers,
- Ciders and
- Sparkling wine (tear).
3. The 6 best alcohols for IBS patients:
The best well-tolerated alcohol types are:
- Red wine
- White wine
4. Never drink alcohol if you have these conditions:
Alcohols may endanger your health in If you have one of these conditions:
- If you are taking any medications that interact with alcohol
- if you are a pregnant female.
- If you work with machinery or drive a lot
- If you are under 21 years old.
5. Limit your drinking to a maximum of  drinks per day for men and  drink for women:
One drink or drink-equivalent is about 14 grams of pure alcohol per day.
It is contained in:
- 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol)
- 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
- 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol).
*1 fluid ounce (Fl. OZ.)= about 30 CC of fluid.
This interesting video below will explain to you how to exactly calculate it.
6. Drink water with alcohol.
Try to drink water with alcohol as it has some benefits:
- Water will decrease the effect of alcohol on your gut (dilute the alcohol making it less injurious).
- Also, it will provide you with a sense of fullness that’s limiting the volume of alcohol you drink
- Will protect you from dehydration as alcohol is a diuretic that removes the water from your body through increasing urine volume.
You can drink a medium to a large glass of water after each drink of alcohol. small amounts of water may be useless.
Drinking more water with alcohol will decrease the alcohol concentration in your stomach.
Try to remember to bring the water before you start drinking either at home or outside. This will help you create the habit of drinking water with your alcohol Is this may reduce your IBS attacks that caused by alcohol.
7. Eat before or during alcohol drinking.
It is very harmful to drink alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol is very irritant when it comes in contact with your empty stomach.
A certain amount of alcohol could trigger your IBS, but if taken with food (or directly after it) will not affect you. So try to drink alcohol only after you eat.
8. Drink alcohol slowly.
“Having one drink after each dinner for a week is better than having 7 drinks in a single night”.
This binge drinking is potentially dangerous not only to your IBS but your overall health. Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short time will be toxic for your gut, your blood, and your mental health.
Since alcohol is rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream, Alcohol will build up in your blood faster than you can metabolize it.
So, the more slowly you will drink alcohol, the lesser it will affect this your IBS.
9. Try not to drink daily.
Your IBS is affected by the frequency of alcohol drinking Even with small amounts of alcohol; the daily drinking of alcohol carries more hazard to your IBS.
It will make your gut in a state of constant irritation and also, the alcohol will accumulate in your body in larger concentrations.
If you drink 7 days a week. try to discontinue 2 days per week. By the time, increase the days of discontinuation from alcohol week after week until you reach the tolerable amount that doesn’t affect your IBS (i.e withdraw alcohol gradually).
10. IBS, alcohol
and Probiotics? The unexpected relationship.
We all know that probiotics help to decrease IBS symptoms.
Also, alcohol makes your gut more permeable to toxins in your colon, which in-turn enters your bloodstream and hurt your liver and other organs.
I wasn’t routinely prescribing probiotics for patients with IBS flare-ups due to alcohol until I came across this study. The study concludes that alcohol may alter the good bacteria and increase the permeability of intestine to toxins.
The researchers concluded that probiotics are good for both IBS and alcohol drinking. And I personally noticed the overall improvement of symptoms
So, my advice to you is to take probiotic regularly if you have IBS and want to drink alcohol safely.
For the best probiotics for IBS and alcohol, refer to my resources page.
BUT BE AWARE
Never take probiotics and drink alcohol at the same time of the day. Alcohol may kill the good bacteria in your probiotics making it useless.
So, Try to make at least 4 to 5 hours between probiotic intake and alcohol drinking.
- Alcohol can cause IBS flare-up, diarrhea, and gas, but it depends on the amount and type of alcoholic beverage you drink.
- Light alcohol drinking may not affect your IBS.
- Not-drinking alcohol at all is the best option for your IBS.
- Never drink alcohol high in FODMAPs like High-fructose beverages, carbonated alcoholic drinks and alcohols containing artificial sweeteners (diet alcohols).
- Dry wines like red and white wires are low in FODMAP. Also, vodka, whiskey, and Gin are OK to drink with IBS.
- Never take alcohol on empty stomach but try to drink water or eat before you drink.
- Studies proved that probiotics can decrease the effects of alcohol on your IBS.
If you have any concerns about your IBS and alcohol, please comment below and I will respond. thanks!
A gastroenterology doctor & Irritable Bowel Syndrome sufferer!
I founded oh-mygut.com to share my experience and provide oversimplified, EVIDENCE-BASED tips and information about IBS & other gut symptoms.
Feel free to ask me anything in comments!