Is Alcohol an IBS Trigger?

  • Post category:Gut Health

With IBS, carefully avoiding potential triggers can help you steer clear of stomach pain, cramping, bloating, gas, and other uncomfortable symptoms. From coffee to fried foods to dairy products, there are several IBS triggers to keep in mind. But, is alcohol one of them?

Can Alcohol Trigger IBS Symptoms?

In short, yes! Alcohol is a major IBS trigger, gastrointestinal irritant, and potential colon carcinogen. It can cause GI discomfort in anyone but is particularly harmful to people with IBS. 

Alcoholic drinks that combine alcohol with other IBS triggers tend to be the most irritating, such as:

  • Carbonation (i.e. beer and champagne)
  • Coffee (i.e. espresso martinis)
  • Dairy and coconut cream (i.e. pine coladas and creme liqueurs)
  • High-fructose fruit juices (i.e. pomegranate, apple, and grape juice)

Can I Never Drink Alcohol if I Have IBS?

While it’s generally best to avoid alcohol altogether for your gut health, you may still be able to drink in moderation. To determine what’s best for you, keep these tips in mind:

  • If you don’t know how your gut responds to alcohol, omit it completely and stabilize your diet. 
  • Be wary of assuming that “just one drink” won’t hurt. Doing so is a common pattern for foods and drinks that people don’t want to give up. But, it can hold you back from seeing the positive results of abstaining from alcohol. 
  • Knowledge is power. Though it’s a challenge, understanding how your body reacts to triggers is invaluable in treating IBS. 
  • Unfortunately, individuals with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis with IBS must usually abstain from alcohol completely. 

What if My IBS is Stable?

If your IBS symptoms are already stable, try one drink (ideally avoiding the drinks listed in the previous section) and see how you respond. 

Tips for Drinking Safely with IBS

Your drinking habits can also influence how your GI tract responds to alcohol. If you find that one drink is tolerable for your gut, try adopting these habits:

  • If you want to have a drink, opt for a light drink after a high-soluble fiber meal and a fiber supplement. On occasion, this may not cause symptoms flare-ups. 
  • White wine tends to be safer than red for IBS. Beer is generally the most troublesome beverage. 
  • Enjoying a drink when you’re calm, rather than stressed out, can help keep your symptoms at bay. 
  • If you have a drink, make sure to have at least one glass of water per alcoholic beverage. Alcohol is highly dehydrating, which can largely impact bloating and constipation. 
  • Take a peppermint oil capsule on an empty stomach an hour before drinking to prevent GI cramps. Having a cup of fennel or peppermint tea after having alcohol can also help. 
  • Thankfully, cooking with alcohol seems to be consistently safe for IBS sufferers. The alcohol and carbonation evaporate during the cooking process. 

Ultimately, alcohol is never a good idea for IBS. Avoid it whenever possible, and if you do decide to have an alcoholic beverage, limit it to small quantities on infrequent, celebratory (but not stressful) occasions.

The expert team at Body Flow Wellness can provide further recommendations to help prevent IBS flare-ups. Schedule an appointment with us today!