IBS and alcohol don’t normally mix well together. There are many reasons for this and I will outline these for you here.
It seems to upset bowel symptoms and many sufferers find that they are intolerant and need to avoid alcoholic drinks.
Gluten is contained within some drinks, particularly beers, stout, larger and ales.
As a lot of people are intolerant to gluten, it is not too surprising that these types of drinks can cause issues.
As well as the direct effect of gluten on IBS symptoms, alcohol can upset your gastrointestinal tract from the mouth to the anus for other reasons.
It has an effect on the gastrointestinal junction or GOJ, the part that separates the gullet or esophagus from the stomach.
It is this area that helps prevent reflux of acid from the stomach and alcohol seems to relax the sphincter mechanism which normally stops this.
As a consequence heartburn and acid indigestion are common.
Alcohol causes the lining of the stomach to inflame and is known as alcohol induced gastritis.
This can cause symptoms of pain in your upper abdomen which can be potentially severe.
Alcohol is a very common cause of pancreatitis, a condition where the pancreas gland becomes inflamed.
This can cause severe abdominal pain and diarrhea as well as longer term issues of fat malabsorption, possible diabetes and yellow stools known as steatorrhea.
Your small bowel contains trillions of bacteria. Alcohol can be fermented by the bacteria and cause wind and bloating - common symptoms of IBS.
It can also promote diarrhea and in excess over long periods can cause issues with vitamin deficiencies.
It can irritate the colon causing abdominal pain and diarrhea, dehydration and sickness.
There was a study on the relationship between irritable bowel syndrome, worry and stress in adolescent girls by Song et al (J Korean Med Sci. 2012 Nov;27(11):1398-404. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2012.27.11.1398. Epub 2012 Oct 30).
Stress appears to increase IBS bowel symptoms and drinking alcohol to try to counteract the effects of stress appeared to decrease symptoms in these girls.However, this isn’t always the case for the reasons I have already outlined.
A study by Ligaarden et al looking at diet in subjects with irritable bowel syndrome (BMC Gastroenterol. 2012 Jun 7;12:61. doi: 10.1186/1471-230X-12-61) showed a correlation between higher alcohol intake and IBS-D.
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