Why IBS doesn’t mix well with certain alcohol

Sparkling wine can be a treat for people with IBS - in moderation (Photo: Anthony Delanoix)

Have you ever found yourself drinking with friends and then feeling like your GI track took a drastic turn? The cramping, bloating, or even the passing of gas in public are enough to swear off alcohol for good!

How Alcohol Affects the Gut

Alcohol is an irritant to the GI track. In the stomach, it can increase acid secretion, slowing down its ability to empty. In the small intestine, it can speed up the motility in the gut, leading to diarrhea. It can also weaken the esophageal muscles, triggering acid reflux.

While there’s enough study to show the link between IBS and alcohol consumption, its effect differs with each individual, according to a study done by Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Some people can feel the effects severely, while others may just report more gas than normal.

The type of alcoholic drink can also make a difference. Most cocktails and mixed drinks are high in FODMAPS, which are the fermentable “sugars” – oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. When these sugars reach the large intestines, they interact with the bacteria that commonly lives in the lining, which leads to the IBS symptoms most people complain about.

Information is limited when it comes to alcohol-induced symptoms because it really depends on how much one consumes. There is no distinct symptom that concretely means one shouldn’t drink if he or she has IBS.

Nevertheless, a diagnosis of IBS may mean revisiting the habit of consuming alcohol. But having IBS doesn’t mean avoiding celebrations or office gathering for good. It just means being careful about the type of – and amount of – alcohol consumption.

For example, January is known as the “dry month”, a time for people to swear off alcohol. Folks can use the month as an opportunity to start the year fresh by avoiding drinking. There are also multiple benefits to being sober. People who avoid alcohol report better sleep, feel more hydrated, have lower blood pressure, and are more emotionally balanced.

So, what beverages are best for IBS?

On special occasions where alcohol my be offered, such as wedding receptions or birthday parties, consider choosing beer, red or white wine, whiskey, vodka, or gin. These are considered low-FODMAP and may be kinder to the gut – in moderation. Avoid cider, rum, sherry, port, or any sweet dessert wine, because these will trigger IBS symptoms very quickly.

Now what about champagne? Fortunately, sparkling wines are on the low-FODMAP list, so individuals can enjoy it guilt-free – in small doses. Keep in mind that the carbonation will intensify the bloating, so make sure to drink water to lessen the irritation.

Overall, it’s best to think wisely when it comes to alcohol, especially if you don’t know whether it’ll trigger symptoms. Celebrating with friends does not necessarily mean having a drink or two. Just being there with them enjoying the moment may be more than enough.