Impact of Alcohol on IBS

The Impact Of Alcohol On IBS

The Tummy Clinic | June 29th, 2022

Can you enjoy alcohol if you have IBS? Read on… Cheers!

Alcohol is a known gut irritant that affects intestinal mobility, absorption, and permeability. Also some alcoholic drinks contains FODMAPs. FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. Basically, they are carbohydrates that are poorly digested by people; often linked to stomach pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and gas. Research shows that following a low FODMAP diet can help relieve people of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms.

IBS & Alcohol

So, can one enjoy a drink or two or more if suffering from IBS? There is no definite answer to this question as everyone’s alcohol consumption habits and triggers of IBS vary significantly. Some people who give up alcohol completely experience a noticeable improvement in their IBS symptoms. Those who cut back on the amount of alcohol they consume in one sitting, while avoiding certain types of alcohol like beer which are known to cause flare-ups, also get some respite. However, people’s sensitivity levels differ and for some, even one alcoholic beverage is enough to trigger a flare-up. Incidentally, it has been found that binge drinking impacts IBS the most. People who indulge in moderate to light drinking experience fewer symptoms.

IBS & Drinking Responsibly

LISTEN to your body. If a sip of wine sends you straight to the washroom, it is best that you abstain from alcohol completely. Check if your symptoms wane or disappear totally after that. If your symptoms do subside, see if a drink initiates the return of your IBS symptoms. However, if the symptoms continue even after completely abstaining from alcohol, you’ll have to tackle your diet or your day-to-day activities that cause you stress. Work with a registered dietician to help you identify foods that trigger your condition.

Some low FODMAP alcoholic drinks include: 

  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whiskey
  • Red & White Wine (sugar might be an issue)
  • Beer (carbonation and gluten might be an issue)

High FODMAP alcoholic beverages to avoid: 

  • Cider
  • Rum
  • Sherry
  • Port
  • Sweet dessert wine

Fruit juices are usually high FODMAP choices (especially when they contain high-fructose corn syrup); Seltzer water is a low FODMAP beverage for mixing cocktails. While it is uncertain whether people with IBS can consume alcohol and in what quantities, it is generally accepted that people’s alcohol habits impacting IBS vary greatly. While some people with IBS eliminate alcohol completely from their diet, others can still enjoy an occasional drink.

Some general tips for drinking when you have IBS:  

  • Hydrate yourself with water when you are drinking alcohol; it helps dilute the alcohol, making it less irritating for your bowels.
  • The next time you are drinking alcohol, go slow on fizzy drinks that are used as mixers.
  • Also, avoid mixers that are high in fat or fructose (fruit juices, regular or diet pop) as they are high FODMAP ingredients that can cause digestive symptoms.
  • Eat when you drink. Food in your stomach reduces the irritation from alcohol as long as you choose your food wisely. Avoid oily, greasy and spicy foods, as well as dairy and sugar.
  • Ensure you eat before and during the consumption of alcohol. Plan ahead if you know you are going to a party and will be drinking. Stack your fridge and pantry with foods that you know are safe to eat. Keep safe snacks in your office drawers and handbag while travelling, to make sure that you are always equipped with nibbles that won’t harm you.
  • Maintain a slow intake of alcohol to give your system time to process the alcohol.
  • Keep track of your drinks. Not only does the type of alcohol matter, but the amount does too.
  • Seek help from a registered dietician to identify whether alcohol is a trigger for your IBS symptoms.

If, after this, you still notice an increase in IBS symptoms after consuming alcohol, consider reducing your intake significantly or abstaining entirely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by a variety of symptoms, including cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation, or both. IBS is a chronic condition that you’ll need to manage long term. The cause is not well understood.

There is no definitive test to diagnose IBS. IBS is diagnosed after your doctor has reviewed your symptoms and occasionally ordered tests to rule out other conditions.

Visits at the Tummy Clinic are not covered by OHIP or your provincial health care system, however, most extended healthcare plans cover many aspects of the care you will receive here, such as visits to Naturopathic Doctors, Dietitians, Social Workers or Psychotherapists. Check your benefits package or contact your insurance company for more information.