Alcohol and IBS

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Unrestricted educational grant from Nestle Health Science, makers of IBgard.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an extremely common functional gut disorder. In fact, Canada has one of the highest prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in the world – an estimated 18% vs. 11% globally. (Lovell et al. 2012) 

People who suffer from IBS often experience uncomfortable symptoms, such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. There is no cure for this disorder, but there a number of ways to manage it.  There are several IBS diets that patients are encouraged to try with the help of a registered dietician that you can learn more about here  

Is Alcohol an IBS trigger? 

Aside from just monitoring your diet, we also know that stress can also be a huge factor for IBS symptomsBut what about things like alcohol? Can you still enjoy alcohol if you have IBS? 

There seems to be mixed reviews on this question among healthcare professionals. However, everyone seems to agree that the reason why the answer to this question is so elusive, is due to the fact that everyone’s alcohol habits and IBS triggers vary greatly.  

As it turns out, drinking alcohol can slow the digestion of carbohydrates in the digestive systems, much the same way high FODMAPs foods do, so it stands to reason that alcohol could be a trigger for some people.  

However, the most promising data found to correlate between symptoms of IBS lies in the pattern of drinking someone with IBS partakes in. 

In this study, it was found 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.  

This suggests that each individual’s drinking patterns may play a role in the inconsistent findings between alcohol consumption and IBS.    

Drinking alcohol responsibly with IBS 

Regardless of what any study says, you need to listen to YOUR body first and foremost. If one sip of wine sends you straight to the washroom, it is likely better that you abstain from alcohol entirely.  

Realistically, alcohol is not good for even the healthiest of people, so avoiding it altogether is likely your best bet. 

However, there is no denying that consuming alcohol is a prevalent aspect of our culture. It’s exceedingly common for social groups to gather over a couple of drinks, so if you feel you absolutely must participate, do your best to drink responsibly. Use these tips next time you go out to ensure that you are keeping your health in mind.  

  • Try to keep it to one standard drink a day. You can learn about standardized drink sizes here. 
  • Be sure to match each alcoholic drink you have with a full 8oz glass of water. Staying hydrated will help dilute the alcohol content and ease some of the irritating effects on your digestive system.
  • Make sure to eat before, during and after the consumption of alcohol. Pre-plan if you know you’re going to an event where you might drink, and ensure that you’re equipped with foods that you know are safe for you to eat. 
  • Count your drinks. if you plan on having more than one drink, Make sure that you do not exceed more than one standard drink an hour. As mentioned above, if even a small amount of alcohol does seem to aggravate your IBS symptoms, consider abstaining entirely.  

Nobody but you can decide what’s best for you and your health, so listen to your body and be careful. Your well-being should be your top priority, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself in whatever way makes the most sense for you.  

I stopped drinking alcohol, but still have symptoms, what now? 

If you are experiencing higher than normal IBS symptoms, even if you have completely abstained from alcohol, the answer might lie within your diet, or your day to day stressors. Work with a dietician to get your eating habits straightened out and to help you identify your personal trigger foods. If you’re looking for pain relief, there are also some great over the counter medications which can really help with the more painful symptoms, such as IBgard 

You can pick up this peppermint based tablet at any local pharmacy or sign up for a free sample to be sent to you hereIBgard is a clinically tested capsule filled with tiny beads of peppermint oil, using a technology called SST (Site Specific Targeting). It’s the only product of its kind that has actually been proven to be effective and safe in relieving symptoms in people with moderate to severe IBS-M and IBS-D. Many patients tested actually saw lasting results over the course of 3-4 weeks! 

This product is easily attainable and available over the counter. Patients tested saw relief in symptoms over the course of 24 hours and continued relief over a 3-4 week period.