Many people drink socially. For people who have normal gastrointestinal tracts, this usually isn’t a problem. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), however, alcohol can induce or aggravate symptoms. Like a hangover, the affects of alcohol usually aren’t felt until the next day and the symptoms can range in severity from mild to disabling.

Alcohol is a gastrointestinal (GI) tract irritant. Drinking alcohol can lead to the development of symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and intestinal bleeding. How and what you drink will generally determine how the alcohol will affect you. Carbonated alcoholic drinks, like beer, can cause bloating and gas. Drinking a glass of red wine can induce constipation because of alcohol’s dehydrating effect on the GI tract.

If you are taking a prescription medication to treat irritable bowel syndrome, a negative interaction can occur when you drink alcohol. The liver is tasked with getting rid of toxins in the body, and dealing with toxins from a prescription medication and alcohol at the same time can put a strain on it. Additionally, alcohol may inhibit the effectiveness of the medication or worsen its side effects.

It is important to note that not everyone with IBS is affected by alcohol the same way. Some people can drink with impunity while others suffer severe symptoms after one beer or one glass of wine. To determine how drinking alcohol will affect you, it is best to abstain completely until your IBS symptoms are under control. At that point, you can consume small quantities of alcohol and make note of how you feel afterwards.

Another thing that can help alleviate IBS symptoms when you drink is to consume adequate amounts of water. As noted before, alcohol has a dehydrating affect on the body that can worsen IBS symptoms like constipation and bloating. Remaining hydrated can reduce alcohol’s impact and possibly prevent an IBS flare up.

Drinking is an individual choice and one that should be made with caution if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. In addition to making adjustments to your diet, you can take medication to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. We have found a few IBS medications that can reduce or eliminate IBS symptoms without side effects.