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Can Drinking Alcohol Affect IBS? Crucial Facts You Need To Know!

Video Transcript:

The summer season is in full swing. And with those hot humid days we've had, it sounds pretty nice maybe to sit on your deck and have a cold one or maybe a vodka soda.

But if you have IBS symptoms, is drinking alcohol really something that's going to help keep your symptoms away?

My name is Marcie Vaske and I'm a functional medicine nutritionist specializing in gut health and also someone who suffers from IBS. So I've had the effects of drinking alcohol and definitely not keeping my symptoms away.

So not only am I a gut health expert, but I see a lot of clients with constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and gas, and if it sounds like you or maybe a family member or someone you love and know, you can easily make an initial appointment.

And if you're the kind of person who likes to do things on their own, download our free guide, which is five ways to improve your Gut Health. That way you can get a start on getting better gut health and changing your life.

Can I Drink With IBS? Here's What You Need To Know

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Now we know that alcohol does irritate the GI tract and cause diarrhea, bloating, or abdominal pain for even people who don't have gut issues or IBS. So for those of you who do have IBS, alcohol may not be your best friend.

The reality is that alcohol disrupts our microbiome. Our microbiome is made up of trillions of bacteria that help support our immune system and support neurotransmitter production that sends messages to our brain via the Vagus Nerve.

Now it's just like if you would pour alcohol onto a wound to kill all the bacteria, drinking alcohol does the same thing to your gut.

Now, on top of alcohol killing the bacteria in our gut microbiome, research suggests that symptoms worsen after a period of drinking. So symptoms like the bloating, the diarrhea, maybe extra gas, or just plain abdominal pain.

Now outside of killing the good bacteria in our microbiome,

What else is alcohol really doing to our digestive system?

Now, alcohol affects our digestive system in many ways.

It has the possibility and has been shown in research to damage our digestive organs and even the tissue and the lining of all of our organs. And that's simply not only heavy alcohol use, but even moderate alcohol use.

Now, damage to the lining of the tissues in our digestive system can lead to a leaky gut as well. And so, having IBS and having a leaky gut, now you're really getting your digestive system into a pickle and likely will have many more symptoms.

Alcohol can even weaken our esophageal sphincter, which brings us or gives us the symptoms of acid reflux. Not only that, but alcohol can diminish the hydrochloric acid in our stomach leading to more heartburn and indigestion.

When we drink alcohol, it reduces that hydrochloric acid causing slower gastric emptying. So you have a drink or two and then you eat and you kind of feel like, oh, I have some indigestion or reflux. And this is why is because the alcohol is really causing your digestive system to slow down, creating a lot of symptoms.

Now, if you struggle with more gas and bloating, what is happening is that there's malabsorption going on in your small intestine.

So alcohol actually decreases the absorption rate in your small intestine where we do a lot of that metabolism of our food, especially carbohydrates. The carbohydrates will not digest properly and interact with the bacteria in our large intestine, creating more gas and bloating.

So you can see that by having even a drink or two every day will slowly harm your digestive system. And even if you're one that doesn't have gut issues, now if you're constantly consuming alcohol on a regular basis, this might be something you end up with in years to come.

And even in the interim, if IBS doesn't show up for you, you're still having effects from that. And maybe some of you have noticed that after you have a couple of cocktails you get a little bit more reflux or you feel like food's not digesting or you do get more bloated and gassy.

If that's the case, then I want you to really think about, do I need the drink or not. And use it, be wise about it. And if you are someone who struggles with IBS, I'm sure you're working every day to limit your symptoms by trying to get enough sleep and eating foods that don't bother you.

And if you tend to end up having a drink at the end of the day, or maybe it's just a few times a week, you're really stalling that process of letting your gut heal and getting to a place where your digestive system works efficiently and effectively.

There was actually a study completed in 2013, where it took 166 women between the ages of 18 to 48 compared to 48 women with no IBS. So, 166 had IBS and 48 did not. And what they were trying to find out is, if after a night of drinking and into the next day, were there more symptoms in the IBS individuals versus the non-IBS individuals.

And I'm pretty sure you can guess what I'm going to say is that, yes, for women that had IBS and had a night of drinking the next day, their symptoms were much more elevated with more bloating and, more diarrhea and just abdominal cramping.

Managing Alcohol Consumption for Individuals with IBS

Now, of course, we can address what kind of alcohol is even going to be better on IBS. And I get this question a lot from clients....

...if they're going to drink, what should they be even having?

And while I just explained above that, alcohol does us no favors whatsoever for our digestive system and obviously for the rest of our body, but if there are occasions where you're going to have a cocktail, tend what's going to be better?

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And so things that are alcohol that tend to do better for people with IBS would be sticking to clear alcohol.

So things like vodka or gin or tequila, and then mix them with non-carbonated beverages or; and definitely, no juices.

Worse things will be, the dark liquors or beer carbonated beverages, seltzers, things like that.

Because, of course, those are going to induce a lot more bloating and gas.

And so if you're going to choose to have a cocktail every now and again, or just on special occasions and you do have IBS stick to the clear things, make sure you have a drink, drink some water, and, just be mindful about it.

Because really, the answer to our question today of, Can I drink alcohol with IBS really comes down to a personal decision. As I mentioned and talked about, we are going to have symptoms if we have alcohol and we have IBS.

But sometimes, like, I mentioned too, if it's a special occasion, you know what you're getting into and you're like, okay, well, I can deal with the symptom for a day, then that's your choice.

But I think in the long term if you're really trying to heal the gut and trying to get to a better place with it, really eliminating alcohol from your diet, from your daily life week, month, year is definitely going to be your best bet.

And so I hope this helped you kind of come to a decision on what you want to do about your own gut health if you are struggling. And of course, if you are we're happy to help you at Oswald Digestive Clinic.

Easy to make an initial appointment on the website that I've linked below, and we can help you get to better Gut Health leading your best life.

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If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.

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