Alcohol and Diarrhea
Drunk, angry bowels strike back!
Alcohol and diarrhea often go together, particularly if you are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. Alcohol irritates the digestive tract in general, and if you have sensitive bowels, well, let’s just say that instead of “driving the porcelain bus”, you may be riding it. :( Since many people don’t even know they have irritable bowel syndrome you may want to check the IBS symptoms page. You may find out you’ve been sick, and there is help. Now I’ve got no gripe with alcohol. I’m part Irish, and you know the reputation ;), but I almost never drink alcohol of any kind because…
Alcohol and IBS don’t go well together.
If you’re already struggling with diarrhea, alcohol can make it worse. If you’re currently between bouts of IBS, alcohol can trigger an attack! For other foods that may trigger IBS, see Foods to Avoid with IBS. Alcohol irritates the lining of your bowels even if you don’t have IBS, but for those of us that do (%20 of the population by many estimates), that irritation can lead to belly pain, diarrhea or even constipation. That’s right, alcohol can cause constipation as well as diarrhea. For me, a few hours of warm fuzzy feeling isn’t worth two or more days of alcohol diarrhea and bowel pain (make that agony).
How does alcohol cause diarrhea?
Well as I’ve mentioned above, Alcohol itself irritates the lining of the bowel, but many ingredients in your favorite
booze may cause IBS symptoms. For instance if you have:
- Wheat intolerance – Most beer is made from wheat or related grains.
- Celiac – This is a genetic form of grain intolerance.
- Yeast – Many people have a yeast intolerance or allergy.
- Sulfites – A kind of preservative that many people have a food sensitivity to.
- Serotonin problem – Okay this part is a guess, but since there is more serotonin in your bowels (%90), than in your brain (%10), and since alcohol is a nervous system depressant, I believe they’re related. I know I feel pretty down for a day or two after drinking even small amounts.
- Bowel spasms – The irritation from alcohol (or many other foods) can cause spasms that lead to diarrhea OR constipation. It also hurts like heck!
What about alcohol and constipation?
Yes, many people get constipated from drinking alcohol. Painful bowel spasms (cramps) can stop up your colon, causing hard dry stool. Alcohol can also cause dehydration (remember how you had to pee, like 50 times), which can cause constipation or make it worse.
Alcohol and bad choices:
Alcohol has an amazing way of making a pile of greasy french fries seem like a great idea! Come on, a few won’t hurt, right? How about some Pizza for those people that really not should eat dairy and/or wheat? MMMMM, I could go for some Chinese food! Chicken fingers and grease and MSG, OH MY! Alcohol helps us choose things we shouldn’t be eating if we have food sensitivities or IBS food triggers. Of course it can help you make other bad decisions but those are none my business ;).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lecturing against alcohol.
I miss having “a few beers” with friends, or some wine with dinner. It’s just not worth it for me. I know alcohol, diarrhea and abdominal pain will plague me for days. That along with feeling down is more than enough to keep me away from the booze. I still miss it though.
Alcohol and diarrhea. What can you do?
If you decide that you want to risk alcohol induced diarrhea or constipation, there are a few things you can try. I’m NOT saying you should drink, but here they are: Find out if you have a food intolerance. If you do, you may be able to find a form of alcohol that you can still drink. For instance if you are gluten intolerant or have problems with wheat, you might be able to drink wine. If you’re sulfite intolerant, you could skip wine and try beer or even hard liquor. If it’s alcohol causing your diarrhea then these steps won’t help. Also, you will still likely make the occassional “bad choice” for food etc. Frankly, I’d try giving it up. My life has been a lot better without it. And I’m Irish ;). Good luck and be safe! Shawn