Alcohol and ulcerative colitis

Colitis Treatment & Management

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  13. Douglas D. Biomarkers May Help Differentiate Crohn’s From Colitis. Reuters Health Information. Available at August 06, 2015; Accessed: September 14, 2015.

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People with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) have chronic inflammation of their digestive tracts. While there is no cure for IBD, there are many forms of treatment aimed at reducing symptoms and helping the patient to enter and stay in remission. One form of treatment is with antibiotics.

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics are medicines used to fight bacterial infections by either killing bacteria, or stopping the bacteria from reproducing (they do not fight viral infections and can potentially worsen a virus).1,2 Some antibiotics used to treat IBD also have anti-inflammatory effects.

While there are many different kinds of antibiotics, the two most commonly used to treat IBD are:2,3

  • Metronidazole (brand name Flagyl)
  • Ciprofloxacin (brand name Cipro)

Another antibiotic that can be used to treat IBD is rifaximin (brand name Xifaxan).3

How can antibiotics help patients with inflammatory bowel disease?

Antibiotics can play two different roles in the treatment of IBD. They can be used as short-term therapy to treat complications of IBD, such as abscesses or wound infections. They can also be used as longer-term therapy for people with IBD, particularly people with CD who have fistulas. Antibiotics are more commonly used in people with CD than people with UC, although they are used in people with UC who experience toxic megacolon.2-4

Even though there is no direct link between specific bacterial infections and IBD, some scientists believe antibiotics can help to reduce IBD-related symptoms by affecting a person’s intestinal bacteria and the intestine’s immune system. Researchers think that antibiotics may help in several different ways:2,4

  • By decreasing the amounts of bacteria and fungus in the gut
  • By changing the balance of microbes in a person’s intestines toward more helpful bacteria
  • By preventing bacteria from invading intestinal tissues and treating tiny, microscopic abscesses there

For some patients with IBD, antibiotics are very effective and can be safely used as maintenance therapy if no negative side effects occur.

How are antibiotics administered?

The most common form of antibiotic administration is with oral medications taken by mouth. Some forms of antibiotics can also be administered intravenously. This means the antibiotic dose is prepared in liquid form and injected directly into a patient’s veins. IV administration is typically only used in severe cases of bacterial infection. Patients should be careful to take antibiotics as they are specifically directed by their healthcare provider.2

What are the side effects of antibiotics?

Common side effects of taking antibiotics include:2

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Yeast infections (thrush or vaginal)

This is not a complete list of side effects. Before taking antibiotics, patients should be sure to read the entire label and follow the directions carefully. It is important not to stop treatment of antibiotics without a healthcare provider’s advice, because stopping treatment too soon may cause a patient to become re-infected by any remaining bacteria.

Some forms of antibiotics affect the breakdown of alcohol and can cause nausea and vomiting. Healthcare providers can provide advice about whether or not to drink alcohol while taking antibiotics. They can also make patients more sensitive to the sun’s UV rays, so it is best to use sunscreen and avoid tanning booths while taking certain antibiotics. Pregnant women or women who wish to become pregnant should also speak with their healthcare providers before beginning an antibiotic treatment regimen.

Patients should make sure to speak with their healthcare provider about possible interactions between antibiotics and any other medications they are taking. For example, birth control pills (oral contraceptives) can be less effective in preventing pregnancy if the woman is taking an antibiotic at the same time. Taking antibiotics at the same time as blood thinning medications can also be very dangerous.

Colitis is an inflammation of the colon or large intestine. There are two types of colitis: mucus and ulceratie. Mucus colitis is a common disorder of the large bowel, producing discomfort and irregular bowel habits. Chronic ulcerative colitis is a severe prolonged inflammation of the colon or large bowel in which ulcers form on the walls of the colon, resulting in the passing of blood stools with pus and mucus. Both forms of colitis are the results of prolonged irritation of the delicate membrane which lines the walls of the colon.

Normally, it is the function of the colon to store waste material until most of the fluids have been removed to enable well-formed soft stools, consisting of non-absorbable food materials to be passed. Persons who suffer from an irritable colon have irregular and erratic contractions which are specially noticeable on the left side.


Chronic ulcerative colitis usually begins in the lower part of the bowels and spreads upwards. The first symptom of the trouble is an increased urgency to move the bowel, followed by cramping pains in the abdomen and bloody mucus in the stools. As the disease spreads upwards, the stools become watery and more frequent and are characterized by rectal straining. All this loss of blood and fluid from the bowels results in weakness, fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and anemia.

The patient may develop a bloated feeling because the gas is not absorbed or expelled normally. Some patients suffer from constipation alternating with period of loose bowel movements. Still others may suffer from a persistent diarrhea for years together. The patient is usually malnourished and may be severely underweight. He may suffer from frequent insomnia. Ulcerative colitis in its severe form may also lead to nutritional problems. The improper assimilation of the ingested foods due to inflammatory conditions may cause deficiency diseases. This may gradually result in nervous irritability, exhaustion and depression. In very severe cases, the patient may even develop suicidal tendencies.


The usual treatment of colitis with suppressive drugs is based on the assumption that colitis is due to germ infection, which it is not. The suppressive drugs drive back into the system the toxic matter in the colon which nature is endeavoring to eliminate in the form of mucus. They suppress the symptoms temporarily, without removing the cause. In such cases, the symptoms recur and colitis becomes chronic. Plain warm water or warm water with a little olive oil used as a wash-out is the only method of softening and removing the accumulations of hardened matter sticking to the walls of the colon.

Diet plays an important part in the treatment of colitis. It is advisable to observe a juice fast for five days or so in most cases of ulcerative colitis. The juices may be diluted with a little boiled water. Papaya juice, raw cabbage and carrot juices will be especially beneficial. Citrus juices should be avoided. The bowel should be cleansed daily with a warm water enema.

After the juice fast, the patient should gradually adopt a diet of small, frequent meals of soft cooked or steamed vegetables, rice, dalia (coarsely broken wheat), well ripened fruits like banana and papaya, yogurt and home-made cottage cheese. Sprouted seeds and grains, whole meal bread and raw vegetables may be added gradually to this diet after about 10 days. All food must be eaten slowly and chewed thoroughly.

Foods which should be excluded from the diet are white sugar, white bread and white flour products, highly seasoned foods, highly salted foods, strong tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages and foods cooked in aluminum pans.

Ripe bananas are highly beneficial in the treatment of ulcerative colitis, being bland, smooth, easily digested and slightly laxative. They relieve acute symptoms and promote the healing process.

An effective remedy for ulcerative colitis is the use of butter- milk. It is the residual milk left after the fat has been removed from yogurt by churning. Buttermilk enema twice a week is also soothing and helps in re-installing a healthy flora in the colon.

Another valuable remedy for colitis is tender coconut water, it is soothing to the soft mucosa of the colon. Cooked apple also aids the healing of ulcerative conditions because of its ample concentration of iron and phosphorous.

The patient should have a bowel movement at the same time each day and spend 10 to 15 minutes in the endeavor. Straining at stools should be avoided. Drinking two glasses of water the first thing in the morning will stimulate a normal bowel movement. An enema may be used if no bowel movement occurs.

Complete bed rest and plenty of liquids are very important. The patient should eliminate all causes of tension, adjust to his disability and face his discomfort with patience.


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Chronic colitis can have some severe symptoms. Ulcerative colitis is the worst with abdominal cramping, diarrhea and bloody stool. The less severe plain colitis will not cause as much problems but when you start to have the abdominal cramping and bloody and watery stool, it is time to see a doctor. The main causes of colitis are indigestion, prolonged constipation, stress, unhealthy diet, medication, and allergies to certain foods. Colitis starts in the lower intestine and, if not treated, works its way upwards. Ulcerative colitis results in open sores in the large intestine and if not treated properly the results can be as bad as frequent watery and bloody stool, fever, nausea and severe weight loss. Often time’s people with severe colitis will become malnourished because when having a flare-up it can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet. There are ways to ease and treat flare-ups by using healthy home remedies but always remember to see your doctor before the colitis gets too bad because colitis can be fatal.

Eat two to three ripe bananas everyday to help ease colitis symptoms. Bananas are easily digestible because they are bland and smooth. Bananas relieve the colitis symptoms and help promote the healing process.

Eat at least one steamed or boiled apple everyday. Apples are rich in minerals such as iron and phosphate and can be a very effective home remedy to aid in the healing process of Colitis.

Drink a glass of buttermilk or tender coconut water at least once a day. For better results from the buttermilk or coconut water, try drinking two glasses a day of either one. Buttermilk and coconut water can help ease the symptoms of colitis. Coconut water is soothing to the colon.

Mix a bowl of boiled rice with a glass of buttermilk and a ripe banana and eat every day. Rice is low in fiber and soothing for patients suffering from colitis. For those suffering from colitis it is very important to eat a healthy diet. A bowl of boiled rice, buttermilk, and a banana is a good source of nutrition and will help ease symptoms of colitis and aid in the healing process.

Give yourself an enema with lukewarm water. Wait 10 to 20 minutes and then take an enema with 90 to 120 ml. of wheat grass. Retain the wheat grass for 15 minutes. Wheat grass helps detoxify the walls of the colon when used as an enema. Wheat grass can usually be found at any health food store or if the colitis patient cannot find wheat grass in their area they can also be grown at home in earthen pots. Wheat grass is a very effective remedy for diseases and disorders associated with colitis. An enema is a way of putting liquids into the colon and rectum through the anus. Enema’s are used for medical purposes and can help cleanse the colon.


Drink plenty of vegetable juice to maintain a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits such as apples, bananas, and papayas. Once you get enough vegetable juice in your system after or during a colitis flare-up, you should start eating steamed vegetables, rice, and cottage cheese. It is very important to eat these kinds of foods during and after a colitis flare-up to make sure you have the nutrients you need. It is very important not to get malnourished or you will suffer considerable unhealthy weight loss. Get complete bed-rest and avoid stress as much as possible.


Avoid citrus juices. Citrus juices can trigger colitis flare-ups. Avoid foods such as white sugar, white bread, white flour, highly seasoned foods, strong tea, coffee, alcoholic beverages, and foods cooked in aluminum pans. See a doctor if you have colitis symptoms. Although these home remedies can be used to help ease the symptoms and promote the healing process, colitis can be fatal so it is very important to see a doctor for medical treatment.

By The Recovery Village Editor Camille Renzoni Reviewer Conor Sheehy Updated on01/24/20

No, alcohol does not cause ulcerative colitis (UC). Influential studies support this claim. Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic disease that is caused by an autoimmune dysfunction in the gastrointestinal tract. It develops independently of alcohol use or abuse.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defines ulcerative colitis as, “… a chronic, or long lasting, disease that causes inflammation — irritation or swelling — and sores called ulcers on the inner lining of the large intestine.”

Ulcerative colitis is part of a family of diseases that exist within the umbrella term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The other common IBD are Crohn’s disease and microscopic colitis.

Unfortunately, UC is a progressive, lifelong disease and is characterized by flares and remissions. During a flare, you would experience some or many of these symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Inability to defecate despite urgency (constipation)
  • Rectal bleeding, or passing a small amount of blood with stool
  • Rectal pain
  • Urgency to defecate
  • Weight loss

Ulcerative colitis happens when your immune system incorrectly starts attacking the cells of your large intestine, or colon. These cells become inflamed (swollen, red and sensitive) and send chemical systems through your bloodstream to recruit immune system cells to help fight an infection that is not there. The immune cells incorrectly attack your large intestine cells. This effect causes symptoms during flares and damage over the long-term.

Alcohol Use and Colitis

Can alcohol cause colitis if you have already been diagnosed with it? Kind of. Alcohol can cause a UC flare, but since UC is lifelong, it never goes away completely, it just goes into remission. When you drink alcohol, it travels through your gastrointestinal tract (GI tract), which is the hollow organ that starts at your mouth, includes your stomach and intestines, and ends at your colon. Alcohol is an irritant and causes damage to the cells that line the inside of your GI tract, which is especially present in long-term alcohol use.

Effects of Drinking Alcohol With UC

The irritating effects of alcohol can mimic and worsen the symptoms of UC. In general, if you have any form of IBD, you should avoid all alcohol consumption. Since alcohol can mimic a lot of the symptoms of UC, it may cause more harm for those that consume alcohol on a regular and long-term basis.

Symptoms that alcohol can cause in the GI tract may include:

  • Alters smooth muscle (intestinal) function
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Damage to the lining of the intestines
  • Decreased nutrient absorption
  • Gastroparesis (food does not empty itself of food)

Notice how many of the above symptoms are the same as UC. Chronic use of alcohol can not only mask but can worsen the disease course of IBD.

Alcohol and Infection Risk

Alcohol has been shown to increase susceptibility to infection. The damage caused by alcohol in the GI makes your cells easier to colonize for bacteria. Unfortunately, GI infections are often very serious and sometimes fatal, and they usually require hospitalization.

Alcohol and Trigger Flares

Alcohol, caffeine, spicy food and other irritants are known to cause and prolong flares for people with UC. Sadly, UC is an incredibly difficult disease to live with, and alcohol consumption is a modifiable risk factor that can make the disease easier to live with.

Key Points: Alcohol and Colitis

A few key takeaways on alcohol and colitis include:

  • Alcohol does not cause ulcerative colitis
  • Alcohol can mask or worsen some of the symptoms of UC
  • Avoid all alcohol with UC, as it can cause a flare of the disease
  • Alcohol increases the risk of infection in your gastrointestinal tract

If you or someone you know needs treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction and they have ulcerative colitis (a type of inflammatory bowel disorder), The Recovery Village can help. Alcohol cessation can help control symptoms of UC and make it more manageable. To take the first step toward recovery, call The Recovery Village today.

  • Sources

    Bergmann, MM, et al. “No Association of Alcohol Use and the Risk of Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease: Data from a European Prospective Cohort Study (EPIC).” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017. Accessed 29 Apr. 2019.

    Cannon, Abigail R, et al. “Alcohol Enhances Symptoms and Propensity for Infection in Inflammatory Bowel Disease Patients and a Murine Model of DSS-Induced Colitis.” Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 2018, Accessed 29 Apr. 2019.

    Bode, Christianne. “THE GI TRACT—AN OVERVIEW.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1980. Accessed April 2019.

    The Mayo Clinic. “Ulcerative Colitis – Symptoms and Causes.” 2018. Accessed 29 Apr. 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Alcohol and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Alcohol and IBD

Can I drink alcohol with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis?

Clinical practice guidelines recommend that people with IBD avoid alcohol1. Some people with IBD report that alcohol does affect their Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, whereas others feel it doesn’t. Whether you choose to drink is your own decision. You should also bear in mind some of the other health affects of drinking alcohol in making your decision.

There have been a few studies that relate specifically to alcohol consumption and IBD.

One study found that ‘alcohol consumption may lower ulcerative colitis incidence’2 before disease onset. However, other studies have found that alcohol could have a negative impact on IBD once it’s developed.

One study reported that 75% of people with IBD taking part in the study reported a worsening of gastrointestinal symptoms with alcohol consumption3.

Another study looked at a group of people with IBD who consumed red wine daily over a one week period. It concluded that those with currently inactive IBD who drink red wine daily may be at an increased long-term risk of a relapse/flare4.

Some of the other side effects that alcohol can cause include:

  • Anaemia – which is also a common complaint for people with IBD
  • Worsen existing liver disease – chronic liver disease is a serious complication of IBD
  • Short-term effects of alcohol can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and drowsiness; Long-term effects include ulcers, gastritis (inflammation of stomach walls), malnutrition. These are all symptoms that people with IBD may already suffer with and don’t want worsening

Alcohol can also interact with some medications taken to help control IBD.


Ulcerative colitis – a type of inflammatory bowel disease – can be aggravated by alcohol, which has been found to worsen the symptoms.

There are a number of negative effects of alcohol on anyone, regardless of their colitis diagnosis. A known depressant, alcohol slows down functions in the body, such as speech or movement. The more alcohol you consume the more affected you are, as the alcohol is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to long-term effects on the body, for example, liver disease.

Avoiding alcohol if you have inflammatory bowel disease is particularly recommended, as evidenced in the numerous research studies on the subject. In one study, alcohol consumption was found to lower the rate of ulcerative colitis before its onset, but once IBD develops the impact of alcohol is negative.

In an alternative study, alcohol consumption in IBD patients was found to worsen symptoms in 75 percent of participants.

Another study found that those IBD patients who consumed wine regularly had a higher risk for relapse and disease flares.

Other consequences of alcohol consumption in IBD include anemia and worsening existing liver disease, as well as short-term effects like diarrhea, vomiting, and drowsiness.

Lifestyle changes to prevent ulcerative colitis

Dealing with colitis flare-up can be approached different ways. Some people have reported that herbal remedies help manage their symptoms. Probiotics, the spice turmeric, and the herb boswellia have been used to control ulcerative colitis. Studies have also shown that gingko biloba has been effective in treating colitis in rodents.

Since stress has been linked to the disease, exercises like yoga and meditation are often recommended to patients. At the same time, certain foods have a higher chance of aggravating ulcerative colitis, so obviously avoiding such food items is a good idea. Some examples of foods to stay away from are whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, beans, raw vegetables, and dried fruit. Keeping a diary of what you eat can often help you pinpoint the exact cause of a flare-up.

A diary or journal can also help when you are taking medications. For example, if you experience a flare-up while taking an over-the-counter medication, ask your doctor and/or pharmacist about a possible alternative.

To ease the diarrhea brought on by a flare-up, some people take over-the-counter antidiarrheal medication. There are some situations where this can cause problems in those with bowel disease. People with bowel disease are at higher risk for a bacterial infection called C-difficile. Antidiarrheal medication can slow down the colon and expose a person to toxin for longer. People with ulcerative colitis should consider being tested for C-difficile before taking antidiarrheal medication.

Controlling ulcerative colitis flare-up can take time. Some people will have multiple triggers and won’t be able to make all the necessary lifestyle adjustments all at once. Sometimes, just a few changes can make a huge difference though. The following simple steps have proven to help many people tame their flare-ups:

  • Drinking small amounts of water throughout the day
  • Reducing fatty foods
  • Eating smaller meals throughout the day
  • Lowering intake of milk

While there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, treatment is available in the form of medications or surgery. Medications are designed to reduce inflammation, which causes the uncomfortable symptoms of the chronic disease. In severe cases of colitis, people are hospitalized because they may be suffering from dehydration and malnutrition. In 25 to 40 percent of cases, people need surgery to remove the colon. Oftentimes, surgery is required because there is a high risk of cancer. The most common surgical procedure is called a proctocolectomy with ileostomy, which means the entire colon and rectum are removed. As a result, waste then drains through an opening in the abdominal wall into a bag attached to the patient.

Ulcerative colitis can be a life-changing condition, leaving people feeling uncomfortable and isolated. Preventing symptoms that lead to flare-ups can make the difference between living a solitary lifestyle and living a normal life. If you have ulcerative colitis, it’s important to maintain regular check-ups with your doctor and to keep track of potential triggers. Keeping a diary or journal about your flare-ups may seem inconvenient, but in the long run, it could prove to be an effective way to help ward off those nasty colitis symptoms.

Ulcerative Colitis and Alcohol

Drinking Alcohol with Ulcerative Colitis

Those individuals who have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis are likely to need to make some major changes to their life. This can include eating differing things and avoiding anything that exacerbates their symptoms. A common question that people with this type of inflammatory bowel disease will have is whether they are allowed to consume alcohol. There is no definitive answer to this, but it is certain that people with UC should avoid drinking above safe limits.

Ulcerative Colitis Explained

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the colon. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease and shares many of the same symptoms as Crohn’s disease. There is no cure for UC, but it is usually possible to manage the symptoms.

Types of Ulcerative Colitis

The different types of ulcerative colitis can include:

* Ulcerative proctitis involves inflammation of the rectum.
* Universal colitis (pancolitis) involves inflammation of the entire colon.
* Fulminant colitis is a rare form of universal colitis that can be life threatening because it is such a severe inflammation.
* Prostosigmoiditis means an inflammation to the sigmoid colon as well as the rectum.
* Left sided colitis begins at the rectum and moves in the direction of the left colon.

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

The exact symptoms that people will experience will depend on where the inflammation occurs but can involve:

* Rectal bleed
* Anemia is a lack of healthy red blood cells and it is caused by rectal bleeding.
* An urgent need to defecate
* Rectal pain
* Loss of fluids and nutrients from the body.
* Children with UC may fail to develop normally
* Skin lesions
* Rectal Tenesmus means that the individual feels unable to empty their bowels when they are defecating.
* Abdominal cramps
* Weight loss
* High body temperatures
* Night sweats
* Feeling tired all the time

Those individuals who have fulminant colitis can experience:

* Extreme abdominal pain
* Dehydration
* Excessive bleeding from the anus
* Severe diarrhea

Causes of Ulcerative Colitis

There is still some debate as to the exact cause of ulcerative colitis. In the past it was believed that stress was a major reason for the condition, but this has not been supported by evidence. It is likely that the condition is due to a number of different factors combining together including:

* It is likely that genetics plays a role in the development of ulcerative colitis. Those who have a parent or sibling with UC are more likely to develop the condition.
* It is also likely that this condition is originally triggered by some type of infection.
* It may occur because the immune system is mistakenly triggering an inflammatory response to kill a pathogen that is not there.
* Certain types of diet may encourage such inflammation
* Those who are of Ashkenazi Jewish decent seem to be more likely to develop the condition. White people also have a higher risk of developing UC than non-whites.
* Those who are under thirty years of age have a higher risk of developing UC.
* Those individuals who have taken the drug Isotretinoin seem to be more at risk.

Many people with UC may be able to tolerate a moderate amount of alcohol, but some individuals will find that even a small amount leads to flare ups. It is definitely recommended that people avoid drinking excessive amounts of alcohol as this is almost certainly going to make their condition worse. Some people have found that the symptoms of their UC improved greatly once they gave up alcohol completely. It therefore seems sensible that those with the condition at least take a break from drinking to see if it helps.

Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis

The goal of treatment for UC is to avoid inflammation and the best approach to this will be decided by the severity of the symptoms. The most common form of treatment for the condition is drugs such as:

* Anti-inflammatory drugs work by reducing inflammation in the body. The usual anti-inflammatory drugs used to treat UC include corticosteroids, mesalamine, and sulfasalazine.
* Immune system suppressors such as azathioprine and cyclosporine work by preventing the inflammatory response occurring in the first place.
* It can be necessary for people to take other medications for their UC including; anti-diarrhea medication, antibiotics, iron tablets (to combat anemia), and pain relievers.

If medications are unable to keep the inflammation at bay it may be necessary to perform surgery. This may involve removing the entire colon and rectum. Once the procedure is performed the individual will need to wear a colostomy bag. There is usually no further inflammation after the surgery.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Ulcerative Colitis

There are things that people with UC can do to reduce the chances of inflammation including:

* Avoiding excessive use of alcohol. It is a good idea to take a break from drinking alcohol to see if this reduces the severity of symptoms.
* Those who are lactose intolerant should avoid too much dairy products.
* The individual is likely to find that certain foods will exacerbate their symptoms and this can differ between people. Keeping a food diary will allow people to see which food items need to be avoided.
* Avoid too much caffeine as these drinks can exacerbate diarrhea.
* It is best to eat regular small meals rather than large ones.
* Some people benefit from adding more fiber to their diet while for other people this may make their symptoms worse.
* Stress may not cause UC but it is still likely to exacerbate the symptoms. It can therefore be highly beneficial to learn some relaxation techniques in order to deal with stress more easily.

How Does Alcohol Affect Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition that affects between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. The symptoms vary but usually include some combination of cramping, stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.

There is a long list of foods and beverages that can potentially worsen IBS symptoms—including alcohol. While some people suffering from IBS have to eliminate alcohol from their diet completely, others can still enjoy an occasional drink.

If you suffer from IBS, you need to understand how your body reacts to alcohol so you can manage how much alcohol you drink.

What causes IBS?

While researchers are not exactly sure what causes IBS, a number of triggers have been identified that can lead to symptoms. Triggers and symptoms vary from person to person, but the most common include:

  • Foods. It’s not yet clear how food affects IBS symptoms, but many people report worsening symptoms when they consume chocolate, fats, fruits, beans, cabbage, dairy products, carbonated beverages, coffee and alcohol.
  • Stress. Although stress does not cause IBS, it has been shown to aggravate symptoms.
  • Hormones. Women are more likely to have IBS than men, so researchers believe that hormonal changes may worsen symptoms.

Unlike inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, IBS doesn’t cause damage to your colon and doesn’t increase your risk of developing colon cancer.

How does alcohol affect IBS?

Alcohol has been shown to irritate the gut, which can lead to a flare-up of IBS symptoms. If alcohol is one of your triggers, you may notice increased cramping or bloating after consuming even a small amount. You also may notice diarrhea or constipation if you’re especially sensitive to alcohol.

Depending on your level of sensitivity, even one alcoholic beverage can be enough to trigger a flare-up. Some alcoholic beverages may be more likely to cause flare-ups than others. For instance, many IBS patients report that beer significantly worsens their symptoms.

Some individuals report a noticeable improvement in IBS symptoms after giving up alcohol completely. Others experience relief after cutting back on the amount of alcohol they consume or by avoiding certain types or alcohol, such as beer.

How can I tell if alcohol is one of my IBS triggers?

It’s important to keep track of what you eat and drink, and the amounts, so you can clearly understand what foods or beverages worsen your symptoms.

If you’re not sure if alcohol bothers you, eliminate it completely and see if your symptoms subside. Once your symptoms are stable, try one drink to see if it triggers your IBS symptoms. You can try this same technique with different types of alcohol to see if some are more tolerable than others. Of course, it’s recommended that you drink alcohol in moderation—no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

Although IBS can cause some discomfort, most people are able to manage their symptoms by controlling diet and managing stress. However, you should talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing severe symptoms that affect your quality of life.

To make an appointment for consultation with a Virtua gastroenterologist call 1-888-VIRTUA-3.

Updated October 1, 2019

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