Can Alcohol Cause IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a relatively common condition that impacts the colon. If you suffer from IBS, your symptoms may include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a condition that is chronic, but it’s also manageable. Most people manage their IBS symptoms with a combination of eating healthy, well-managed diet, exercising, and managing stress, although medication-based interventions may be part of their treatment as well.

Alcohol and IBS | Can Alcohol Cause IBS?

Symptoms of IBS include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Mucus in the stool

For most people, the symptoms of IBS tend to come and go. Sometimes there will be a particularly bad flare-up symptoms, and then symptoms will get better or go away altogether for a period of time.

It’s not exactly understood what causes IBS, but it’s likely partially because of abnormalities in parts of the gastrointestinal nervous system. While there are certain things such as food and stress that can trigger IBS symptoms, they don’t necessarily cause the condition.
So what about alcohol and IBS? Can alcohol cause IBS, or make symptoms worse?

We will discuss alcohol and IBS below and answer the question “can alcohol cause IBS?” For now, we’ll focus in on possible triggers of IBS.

There are many believed triggers or reasons a person might experience IBS symptoms:

  • Certain foods have been shown to exacerbate the symptoms of IBS. Some of these foods include fruits, fats, chocolate, spices, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli, among others.
  • Stress tends to make IBS symptoms worse.
  • Women are two times as likely as men to have IBS, so researchers believe there is a link between hormones and the condition.
  • In some cases, the presence of excess amounts of certain kinds of bacteria in the intestines may lead to or make IBS worse.

But what about alcohol and IBS?

Alcohol and IBS are not two things that go well together. Alcohol is known as an irritant to the GI system, meaning it can absolutely make IBS worse. Alcohol is a toxin, at least as far as the bowel and intestinal system are concerned, which is why it can be problematic for people with IBS.

Regarding specific types of alcohol and IBS, beer seems to be the worst culprit, probably because of the combination of the alcohol and the carbonation of the beer. Many people with IBS will notice that after drinking even a small amount of alcohol, they start to feel symptoms like cramping and diarrhea. Your individual level of sensitivity may vary, however. For example, for some people with alcohol and IBS, it may just be one drink that causes symptoms. For others, it can take more before they begin to feel symptoms. Many people with IBS report that their symptoms get significantly better when they stop drinking.

There are some other ways alcohol and IBS may have a relationship to one another as well. One way relates to nutrition. Having a healthy, balanced diet is important to keep IBS symptoms at bay, but people who drink excessively are often lacking in key nutrients and can even become malnourished. When someone with a drinking problem does eat, it’s not usually healthy items. Eating unhealthy foods can make the symptoms of IBS worse. If you have IBS, you should keep records of what you’re doing and what you eat or drink when a flare-up occurs, because this can help you identify what you should eliminate.

Another thing to consider with alcohol and IBS is the fact that alcohol may temporarily relieve stress, but it can actually make people more stressed over time. Stress and nervous system problems can lead to IBS flare-ups.

While we’ve shown that alcohol and IBS can be related to one another, can alcohol cause IBS? The question of can alcohol cause IBS is asked frequently, and the answer is no. Alcohol isn’t a known cause of IBS, but it is something that can very easily make IBS worse.

If you feel like you have a problem with alcohol to the point where you continue drinking even though it makes IBS symptoms worse, you should consider treatment. One of the top signs of an alcohol dependence or addiction is continuing to drink even when there are negative consequences. Suffering from worsening IBS symptoms would certainly be considered a negative consequence. If you or someone needs help overcoming alcohol addiction or dependence, a treatment center like The Recovery Village can help.

So, to sum up, IBS is a condition that’s chronic but manageable. With alcohol and IBS there may be a relationship where the alcohol makes symptoms of IBS more noticeable or worse. However, can alcohol cause IBS? Probably not.

Can Alcohol Cause IBS?
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