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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 7/05/2022

What is Alcohol Bloating?

Bloating is a term for general swelling in the abdomen that looks like weight gain. When bloating does occur from drinking alcohol, it happens because alcohol has dehydrated the body.

However, there are several more specific reasons why alcohol can cause bloating, as well as many factors that are involved in the dehydration process. Additionally, carbonation that’s added to some alcoholic beverages and inflammation are a big factor of bloating after drinking alcohol.

What Triggers Bloating After Drinking Alcohol?

The most common trigger for bloating after drinking alcohol is carbonation. Many alcoholic beverages like beer and alcoholic seltzers have carbonation. This carbonation forces the stomach to expand, which triggers bloating. Still, there are several triggers that lead to bloating after drinking alcohol. 

These triggers are listed below.

  • Inflammation
  • Carbonation
  • Swallowing air
  • Dehydration

Depending on the person, one or all of these triggers can lead to bloating after drinking alcohol.

1. Inflammation

The primary cause of bloating after drinking alcohol is inflammation. First and foremost, alcohol is an inflammatory substance, causing swelling in the body when consumed. This swelling can result in bloating if too much alcohol is consumed at once. 

If the individual does not handle alcohol well, or the individual has other illnesses that cause inflammation, the risk of bloating after drinking increases. Inflammation can also be caused by unhealthy foods that are consumed when someone is drunk.

2. Carbonation

While not in all forms of alcohol, carbonation is when additional carbon dioxide is present in the beverage. In the case of beer, carbonation is important, which is why beer is known to cause bloating. 

When excess carbon dioxide is added to the digestive system, it creates bloat and puffiness throughout. This is not only true of beer but also of other carbonated beverages that are non-alcoholic, especially when added to liquors.

3. Swallowing Air

When eating and drinking too quickly, people swallow excess air. Swallowing air has a similar effect as ingesting additional carbon dioxide (carbonation). The accumulation of air in the stomach causes bloating. When swallowing excess air and ingesting heavy amounts of alcohol, bloating is inevitable.

Swallowing air is more likely to occur when someone is drinking without a straw. Chugging alcohol (rapidly drinking) can also cause someone to swallow air. Swallowing air can also lead to bloating when alcohol is not involved.

4. Dehydration

When the body does not have the necessary amount of water to function dehydration occurs. Alcohol is naturally dehydrating, as consumption of alcohol over-stimulates the digestive system. This is what makes alcohol a diuretic, which is a substance that forces the kidneys to release more water into the bladder.

When alcohol forces water into the bladder people need to pee. Then, the frequent urination causes the body to become dehydrated. For this reason, people experience bloating after drinking as a direct result of the body retaining whatever water it has until it can rehydrate and return to normal function.

A full bladder can also lead to bloating, especially if it’s not being emptied.

What Are the Drinks Less Likely to Cause Bloating?

Clear liquor is less likely than other types of alcohol to cause bloating. Because clear liquor has less carbohydrates and no carbonation, it doesn’t cause inflammation or force the stomach to expand. Compared to beer and wine, it’s the best choice to prevent bloating after drinking.

That said, all types of alcohol cause inflammation, which is the most common cause of bloating. So, even clear liquor causes bloating when consumed in large quantities.

What Are the Drinks More Likely to Cause Bloating?

Beer is the most likely drink to cause bloating. It causes the most bloating because it has a lot of carbohydrates and carbonation. Carbohydrates and carbonation increase the risk of bloating after drinking. However, some beers have more carbohydrates than others. Therefore, dark IPAs have the highest risk of causing bloating after drinking.

Still, all types of alcoholic beverages can cause bloating after drinking. Bloating after drinking can be caused by several factors, so even clear liquor and wine can lead to bloating. To avoid alcohol bloating, we recommend limiting your drinking and staying hydrated.

Where Does Alcohol Bloating Appear?

Alcohol bloating appears in the stomach, hands, and face. The stomach and intestines experience bloating because that’s where alcohol is absorbed by the body. Plus, when alcohol sits in the stomach is caused inflammation because of its acidity.

The hands and face also bloat but due to dehydration. Face bloat occurs when the body is attempting to store water after experiencing dehydration, causing a puffiness in the face. Similarly, the hands swell when the body is contending with the effects of dehydration.

Some people may also notice bloating in other areas like the legs.

How Long Does Alcohol Bloating Last?

Alcohol bloating can last for a few hours or a few days. Ultimately, it depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk factors of the individual. These risk factors can include pre-existing gastrointestinal conditions and allergies. The type of alcohol consumed can also influence how long alcohol bloating lasts.

That said, alcohol bloating that’s caused by inflammation lasts longer than alcohol bloating caused by dehydration or carbonation. Inflammation-related bloating lasts longer because it can take a few days for the body to reduce inflammation.

What Are the Dangers of Alcohol Bloating?

While alcohol bloating might seem like a cosmetic problem, it’s the sign of the body’s inability to process alcohol efficiently. Continued abuse of alcohol also leads to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has several negative effects on the body and increases the risk of arthritis, heart disease, and immune system problems.

Continued bloating can also be taken as a sign that alcohol does not agree with the individual. There are conditions like alcohol intolerance can cause alcohol bloating to become worse. If alcohol bloating is followed by redness in the face, it’s possible that the individual has an alcohol intolerance.

How to Prevent Alcohol Bloating?

Alcohol bloating can be prevented by diet changes, consuming less alcohol, and even walking. Incorporating a digestive enzyme or probiotic into your diet can also be beneficial. We recommend these enzymes because they add healthy bacteria to the digestive system. Healthy bacteria can counteract the inflammation and bad bacteria that exists in alcohol.

It’s also important to drink and eat slowly. Rushing drinks can upset the normal rate of digestion, which can result in swallowing more air than is natural. Abstaining from sugary drinks and carbonated alcoholic beverages (like beer) is another way to limit effects of bloating.

Removing foods that are known to create gas and cause bloating (dairy, sugary foods) may also help. Even a brisk, 30-minute walk can be helpful for reducing bloating.

How Do You Get Rid of Alcohol Bloat?

The best way to get rid of alcohol bloat is to drink water before, during, and after drinking alcohol. Water restores the body’s pH after ingesting alcohol and rehydrates the body. Furthermore, avoiding beer and sweet cocktails is recommended. Avoiding salty foods can also help with alcohol bloat.

There are also home remedies like warm water with cayenne pepper, ginger aid shots, and turmeric. These foods and spices can be added to any diet and are known to bring relief from bloating. There are also generic antacids that are known to help. Plus, some over-the-counter (OTC) medications, like simethicone, alpha-galactosidase, and lactose supplements can help you get rid of alcohol bloating.

What Medications Can Be Used in Case of Alcohol Bloating?

Several medications can be used for alcohol bloating. Most medications used for alcohol bloating work by limiting acid in the stomach. Because high levels of stomach acid can lead to inflammation, reducing acid in the stomach can reduce bloating. This works because bloating is typically caused by inflammation in the stomach.

Below are the common medications used to reduce bloating.

  • H2 blockers
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
  • Antacids

These medications can be dangerous when mixed with alcohol and other substances. Always consult with your doctor before mixing medications with alcohol.

1. H2 Blockers

H2 Blockers are a category of medicines that are anti-acidic. Anti-acidic medications lower and maintain the amount of acid produced by the cells in the stomach lining. These medications work similarly to antihistamines.

While there are many types of H2 blockers, it can be dangerous to mix H2 blockers with alcohol. Always consult with your doctor before using H2 blockers to reduce bloating after drinking alcohol.

2. Proton Pump Inhibitors

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) reduce the amount of stomach acid found in the stomach. PPIs limit the production of the acid-producing glands in the stomach lining. These medications can be helpful for reducing inflammation and lowering the chances of bloating. However, the data is not clear on whether or not it’s safe to mix alcohol with PPIs.

3. Antacids

While it is not recommended to mix antacids and alcohol, antacids can be helpful for reducing bloating. Antacids are helepful because they can reduce the amount of acid build-up in the stomach after a night of drinking. Some common antacids are Tums and most antacids can be found over-the-counter (OTC).

What Are the Other Effects of Alcohol Similar to Alcohol Bloating?

Bloating is not the only problem that alcohol causes. In fact, alcohol can cause several negative health effects. Long-term alcohol abuse can also lead to chronic illnesses like arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. There are also some conditions like chronic inflammation that are similar to alcohol bloating.

Below are the other alcohol effects that are similar to alcohol bloating.

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Dehydration
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble walking

These are only some of the effects of alcohol that are similar to bloating.