Women drinking wine with pink microbe background

Alcohol and IBS

CDHF

Written by: CDHF

Updated: November 16th, 2022

Alcohol is a known gut irritant, as it can affect intestinal motility, intestinal absorption, and permeability. (3) Alcohol also contains FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), which may trigger IBS symptoms in some people, such as bloating, pain, and gas. (1)

Can you enjoy alcohol if you have IBS?  

There seem to be mixed reviews on this question, with no definite answer.  However, everyone seems to agree that the reason why the answer to this question is so elusive, is  because everyone’s alcohol habits and IBS triggers vary greatly.  While some people suffering from IBS must completely eliminate alcohol from their diet, others can still enjoy an occasional drink.   

Some individuals who give up alcohol completely will experience a noticeable improvement in their IBS symptoms and others who cut back on the amount of alcohol they consume and avoid certain types of alcohol more likely to cause flare-ups, such as beer, will also experience relief.  However, everyone’s sensitivity levels vary and even one alcoholic beverage can be enough to trigger a flare-up. 

An observational study exploring the relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and gastrointestinal symptoms among patients with irritable bowel syndromefound that the strongest association between next day GI symptoms came from subjects who participated in binge drinking. Subjects who participated in moderate to light drinking experienced little to no GI symptoms. (2)   

Drinking alcohol responsibly with IBS 

Regardless of what any study says, you need to listen to YOUR body. If one sip of wine sends you straight to the washroom, it is likely better that you abstain from alcohol entirely. Try eliminating it completely and see if your symptoms subside. If your symptoms do subside, see if a drink initiates the return of your IBS symptoms.  If you continue to experience symptoms, even if you have completely abstained from alcohol, the answer will lie within your diet, or your day-to-day stressors.  Work with a  registered dietitian to help you identify your personal trigger foods. Use these tips next time you go out to ensure that you are keeping your health in mind: 

As always, CDHF recommends working a registered dietitian to identify whether alcohol is a trigger for your IBS symptoms. To learn more about low and high fodmap foods, download the Monash app.  


References: 

  1. https://www.monashfodmap.com/blog/more-fodmaps/ 
  2. Reding KW, Cain KC, Jarrett ME, Eugenio MD, Heitkemper MM. Relationship between patterns of alcohol consumption and gastrointestinal symptoms among patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013 Feb;108(2):270-6. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2012.414. Epub 2013 Jan 8. PMID: 23295280; PMCID: PMC3697482.
  3. Bode C, Bode JC. Alcohol’s role in gastrointestinal tract disorders. Alcohol Health Res World. 1997;21(1):76-83. PMID: 15706765; PMCID: PMC6826790.
  4. Drossman, D.A., Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: History, Pathophysiology, Clinical Features and Rome IV. Gastroenterology, 2016. 

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