Effects Of Alcohol On Your Digestive System
Alcohol negatively impacts the digestive system as well as regular weight gain.
For most people, even a small amount of alcohol can trigger:
- Inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract
- Increased production of stomach acid
- Inability of the large intestine to properly absorb water needed for hydration
- Faster digestion due to an increase in colon contractions
- Bacterial imbalance due to alcohol killing off healthy bacteria in the gut
An excessive amount of alcohol changes the composition of the gut by killing healthy bacteria and allowing unhealthy bacteria to grow.
Regular heavy drinking is also associated with a higher risk of gastrointestinal cancer.
ALCOHOL REHAB HELP
How Long Does Wine Diarrhea Last
Most cases of alcohol-induced diarrhea go away on their own within a week. Its critical to drink plenty of water and replenish your electrolytes as soon as possible. If your symptoms are severe or dont improve after a few days, its important to see a doctor. They can rule out other potential causes of your diarrhea and provide additional treatment if necessary. In rare cases, alcohol-induced diarrhea can lead to more serious problems like dehydration. If you experience severe diarrhea, vomiting, or fever, seek medical attention immediately.
What To Do About It
These outcomes are not the glamorous things that come to mind when we agree to grab a drink with a friend, but the reality is that excessive alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on the digestive system. For those of us who have experienced the consequences of excessive drinking firsthand, we know how unpleasant it can be. Here are some tips to help you get ahead of and recover from alcohol-related changes to your bowel movements.
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Ibs Statistics & Prevalence
The disorder appears to wax and wane in some individuals, and when it is at its peak, it is often associated with significant functional impairment. The estimates of the prevalence of IBS range from 7 percent to 21 percent worldwide.
According to a 2014 study in the journal Clinical Epidemiology, IBS occurs more often in women than in men and across all age groups.1 It occurs more often in industrialized countries and twice as often in people with a family history of the disorder.
It May Cause Diarrhea
Alcohol is absorbed through our stomach and small intestine directly into our bloodstream. And since it is technically a toxin, the body tries to process it as quickly as possible to remove it. Having food in our stomachs can help slow down digestion, but alcohol is processed particularly quickly on an empty stomach. Once alcohol is absorbed, our body flushes out water and nutrients through our digestive tract, which dehydrates us and can cause alcohol-related diarrhea.
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What Causes Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol
There are two main reasons alcohol causes diarrhea. The first is that drinking increases bowel motility, the speed at which feces travel through the colon.
Under normal circumstances, the large intestine has time to reabsorb excess water from stools into the bloodstream before sending them to the rectum. Thats because bowel movements are slow. But when alcohol is present, it speeds up the muscular contractions that push stools along, causing them to come out faster. If the large colon hasnt had time to absorb the water, diarrhea results.
The second main cause is fluid retention. Alcohol appears to stimulate the large intestine to hold onto fluid instead of depositing it back in the bloodstream. Consequently, it comes out when you go to the bathroom.
Researchers have found even small amounts of alcohol speed up the rate of digestion. Like fibrous and greasy foods, alcohol seems to stimulate the movement of the gastrointestinal tract, making diarrhea more likely.
Interestingly, though, large amounts of alcohol appear to have the reverse effect. Researchers found that people who drink higher alcohol concentrations were more prone to constipation than those who dont.
There may be other mechanisms at play, too. For instance, alcohol may change the bacterial composition of the gut. In turn, this process may irritate the gut lining, causing inflammation and making diarrhea more likely.
It Could Delay Stomach Emptying
After we swallow our food, it makes its way through our esophagus and down to our stomach. In order for it to move from our stomach to our intestines, a process called gastric emptying needs to occur. To stimulate gastric emptying, the smooth muscles of our stomach contract in waves and work to release the muscle at the bottom of our stomach. Liquids usually pass more quickly than solids, and a typical meal takes around 1½ to 2 hours to empty. Research has found that chronic overconsumption of alcohol can lead to delayed gastric emptying. Over time, this can impair the way that your gastrointestinal tract is able to function, and can lead to dangerous blockages.
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Can Drinking Too Much Alcohol Cause Diarrhea
To begin with, yes. If youve ever woken up after a night of drinking unable to stop going back and forth to the toilet, you know what were talking about. While one or two drinks may not wreak havoc on your digestive system, a heavy bout of drinking can definitely mess with your intestines.
Alcohol is ingested and transported through your GI tract, and can have a significant impact on your gut health. If you already have a GI tract disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome , alcohol can also worsen your symptoms
- GI tract inflammation, leading to more frequent bowel movements
- Disrupted gut bacteria and gastric acid content
- Damaged mucous lining in your GI tract, increasing the permeability of your intestines .
- Acetaldehyde buildup in the colon .
Not to mention that you might make worse dietary choices while drinking, making the situation even worse.
Treatment For Ibs And Alcoholism
There is no formal cure for IBS. The treatment often consists of symptom management techniques that may include:7
- Limiting alcohol intake or avoiding alcohol.
- Limiting caffeine intake.
- Eating specific foods and taking probiotics and certain medicines to deal with symptoms.
- Using behavioral methods to identify which foods exacerbate IBS symptoms.
- Engaging in stress management techniques, including psychotherapy.
Treatment for alcohol use disorder would begin with a physician-assisted withdrawal management program to help an individual negotiate any withdrawal symptoms they may experience when they stop drinking alcohol.
Most often, physicians prescribe benzodiazepines on a tapering schedule and then prescribe other medications as needed.
Following the withdrawal management program, individuals are strongly encouraged to become involved in a formal alcohol use disorder treatment program that includes therapy , support group attendance , other forms of therapy as needed , and other forms of treatment for any co-occurring conditions, such as IBS, depression, anxiety disorders, etc. Individuals find that their success in substance use disorder treatment is related to the length of time they remain involved in treatment. The longer individuals remain active in formal treatment, the better chances they have at being successful in recovery.
Individuals who begin to express the symptoms of IBS and already have issues with alcohol abuse should address both of these issues together.
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Do Certain Alcohols Cause Diarrhea More Than Others
Drinking any kind of alcohol can cause diarrhea. However, certain alcohols are known to cause diarrhea more than others. Beer is a well-known culprit for causing diarrhea because of the high carbohydrates. Beer has more carbohydrates than other forms of alcohol, and the digestive system has to exert more energy breaking down the extra carbohydrates. This pushes the beer through the digestive system quickly and the excess water is not absorbed. For alcoholics, this results in the excretion of abnormally watery stool.
Wine is also a well-known cause of diarrhea. While not solely down to the carbohydrate count, wine possesses tannins. For some, tannins are difficult to digest and cause inflammation within the digestive system. An adverse reaction to tannins causes diarrhea, headaches and nausea.
Sugary alcoholic drinks also cause diarrhea. When it comes to alcoholic drinks that are mixed with sugary beverages such as soda, the sugar has a similar effect to alcohol. The sugar speeds up the digestion to an unhealthy level. This results in stool coming out faster without the proper absorption of water.
A Detailed Look At The Causes
Consuming too much alcohol may tear away at tissue and cause it to become more sensitive. These tears, called Mallory-Weiss tears, can cause significant bleeding and may lead to pooping blood. The tears can form anywhere in the digestive tract, including an individuals intestines as well as their throat.
A damaged liver may cause veins in an individuals esophagus to swell to abnormal sizes, making them susceptible to bleeding.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is acid reflux that causes irritation and inflammation in the lower esophageal sphincter, where the gullet meets the stomach. This irritation causes gastrointestinal bleeding along the lining of the esophagus. The disease is also responsible for throat inflammation.
- Diverticular disease
When the digestive tract lining develops small pockets or pouches, the condition is known as diverticulosis.
The condition affects almost 200,000 individuals yearly in the U.S. and usually has no symptoms until the pockets become inflamed. Inflammation is what causes the condition to worsen, thus causing gastrointestinal bleeding.
A peptic ulcer is a sore that develops on the small intestine or the stomach lining. It is the most common cause of gastrointestinal bleeding.The use of anti-inflammatory medications like Advil can contribute to peptic ulcer growth in the long term.
Crohns Disease And Alcohol
Alcohol affects gut functioning, the immune system and can lead to inflammation of the stomach. As such, it is generally advised to avoid excessive use of alcohol in general, and particularly so if you are having an active flare-up. However, as the symptomology and severity of Crohns disease varies from person to person, whether or not you can or should drink alcohol will rely entirely on your tolerance. It is frustrating for people with inflammatory bowel diseases to hear, but there is no quick fix or decisive health plan for dealing with Crohns disease. People living with Crohns must monitor their symptoms and make changes to their diet and alcohol consumption as needed.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms appear within six hours after an individual initiates the detox. The nature of these symptoms varies, and their duration also depends on several factors. Diarrhea from alcohol withdrawal is a common side effect along with others such as anxiety, restlessness, and cravings. The severity of these symptoms may also vary depending on the individual. If you experience chronic diarrhea after quitting drinking, the resulting dehydration and nutrient deficiency can lead to more health issues.
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Can You Prevent Diarrhea Before A Night Of Drinking
Your best bet for avoiding diarrhea after drinking is to drink in moderation and to avoid alcohol altogether if you have a preexisting condition that puts you at risk for gastrointestinal distress from alcohol.
Its also important to stay hydrated as you drink and take breaks between each glass of alcohol.
I tell my patients that if theyre going to be drinking, try to alternate alcoholic beverages with non-alcoholic beverages like seltzer or water with lime in it, says Dr. Ganjhu. This way, theyre drinking and socializing but less likely to have the complications of over-drinking and getting dehydrated.
Snacking while you drink will also help to slow down the absorption of alcohol and its side effects.
When Should I See My Doctor
Most of the time, diarrhea after drinking alcohol will resolve over a few days of home care.
However, diarrhea can become a serious condition when its severe and persistent because it can lead to dehydration.
Untreated dehydration can be life-threatening. Dehydration symptoms include:
- excessive thirst
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Alcohol And Bad Choices:
Alcohol has an amazing way of making a pile of greasy french fries seem like a great idea! Come on, a few wont hurt, right? How about some Pizza for those people that really not should eat dairy and/or wheat? MMMMM, I could go for some Chinese food! Chicken fingers and grease and MSG, OH MY! Alcohol helps us choose things we shouldnt be eating if we have food sensitivities or IBS food triggers. Of course it can help you make other bad decisions but those are none my business ).
How Can I Tell If Alcohol Is One Of My Ibs Triggers
Its 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 moderationno 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 with a Virtua gastroenterologist call 888-847-8823.
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When To Seek A Medical Professional
In most cases, alcohol related diarrhea and vomiting after excessive alcohol exposure are common mechanisms of the body to eliminate the excess toxins from the body.
The signs and symptoms of these two mechanisms will refrain after a few days without going to the doctor.
A person may also experience vomiting after alcohol drinking that could make them feel that they need the assistance of a doctor.
Alcohol related diarrhea can seem pretty serious especially because the alcohol speeds up chronic diarrhea immediately.
But, although vomiting and alcohol causing diarrhoea can be treated at home, they are still considered serious, and especially if the signs are persistent and severe.
Throwing up together with diarrhoea can after drinking can make a person dehydrated, and if left untreated, it could lead to a life-threatening condition.
When you experience the following signs you should seek medical attention:
- Experience persistent throw-ups for more than one day.
- Has a fever or the body temperature is more than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- Start to show signs of breathing problems
- There is blood included in the vomit
- Symptoms of untreated dehydration such as dark urine, dizziness, and inability to release urine.
- Excessive thirst
Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse
Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be potentially life-threatening if left untreated by medical professionals. Evidence-based treatment facilities for substance use disorder can help.
- dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health issues
- outpatient treatment
- residential programs
Severe withdrawal symptoms may include high blood pressure, mood swings, fast heart rate, disorientation, auditory hallucinations, and drastic changes in body temperature.
To avoid a medical emergency, its highly advised to seek a substance abuse treatment center for appropriate medical care and supervision.
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It May Increase Inflammation In The Gut
In large quantities, the metabolites of alcohol digestion can promote intestinal inflammation. Research suggests that this increase in inflammation can exacerbate alcohol-related organ damage, which leads to more inflammation and so the cycle is perpetuated. The negative effects this can have on your digestive tract in the long run include altered microbiome composition, increased intestinal permeability and damage to the immune system. In other words, this can damage your gut health and immune system, making it harder to stay healthy and normally digest foods.
How To Stop Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol
If drinking alcohol does cause diarrhea, there are some treatments which may calm the digestive system and help to regulate bowel movements. First and foremost, the best treatment is to stop drinking. When you stop drinking, pressure is released on the stomach, intestines, and colon. This allows these organs to return to normal digestion.
After a person refrains from drinking during diarrhea, easily digestible foods are key in helping to return the digestive system to normal. These range from eggs, bread, saltine crackers, bananas, and other simple, non-complex foods. Clear fluids are helpful too, particularly those with limited amounts of sugar and whole ingredients.
Staying hydrated is also important because diarrhea is an unnatural expulsion of water. Its essential to restore hydration levels and help the colon and intestines regain their natural water levels.
Avoiding caffeine and foods that have dairy and high-fat, are also good tips in helping to stop diarrhea. There are also some over the counter medications which can help to calm bouts of diarrhea. These include Imodium A-D and Pepto-Bismol.
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Celiac Disease And Alcohol
Symptoms of Celiac disease are triggered by gluten, a common ingredient in beer. However, most other alcoholic beverages are gluten-free, which means they are less likely to cause inflammation in the small intestine. That having been said, drinking alcohol is still not advised for people with inflammatory bowel diseases, as it naturally inflames the digestive system. If you do choose to drink, make sure you drink in moderation and accompany your beverages with water to dilute the alcohol. If you are a celiac who loves beer, there are also gluten-free beer options that are delicious and easy on the stomach.
Foods Can Help Relieve Diarrhoea In Alcohol Withdrawal
A healthy diet will help relieve diarrhoea. During detox, you should take up a healthy, balanced diet. Foods such as:
- Yogurt:The cultures in yogurt help manage the severity and duration of diarrhoea. You should go for yogurt that has no sugars or artificial sweeteners.
- Soups:Soups that are high in sodium help relieve diarrhoea. The body goes through dehydration during the detox process. When you take soups with sodium, you help the body retain more fluids, thus lowering the risk of diarrhoea.
- Taper off the drinking:Lower your drinking or stop altogether until diarrhoea stops. Seek medical assistance if you are a chronic drinker to avoid complications.
- Take easily digestible foods, e.g., soda crackers, eggs, rice, toast, applesauce, chicken, bananas. The issue with bananas is that if you are experiencing vomiting or nausea, this food is likely to worsen the symptom.
- Spicy foods, particularly foods with cayenne pepper, help ease the withdrawal symptoms.
You can contact a detox centre for more advise on ways to relieve the diarrhoea plus other medical issues.
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