Author: Thomas Roth
Last Updated: 3/07/2022
What is Alcohol Bloating?
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What Triggers Bloating After Drinking Alcohol?
There are several triggers that lead to bloating after drinking alcohol. These triggers vary based on things like diet, type of alcohol consumed, the amount of alcohol consumed, and even medical conditions.
The primary cause of bloating after drinking alcohol is inflammation due to a series of characteristics that alcohol possesses. 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 stomach alcohol well, or the individual has other illnesses which might interact negatively with the inflammatory properties of alcohol.
While not inherent in all forms of alcohol, carbonation is when additional carbon dioxide is present in the beverage. In the case of beer, carbonation is very prevalent, which is one reason 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 just 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 do swallow excess air, which has a similar effect to ingesting additional carbon dioxide. The accumulation of air in the stomach causes bloating. When swallowing excess air and ingesting heavy amounts of alcohol, bloating is most likely inevitable.
When the body does not have the proper amount of water to function dehydration occurs. Alcohol is naturally dehydrating, as consumption of alcohol over-stimulates the digestive system, forcing water out of the body, as the alcohol is processed, faster than the organs have time to properly absorb the alcohol. In return, when the body becomes dehydrated, it holds on to whatever water is left. This is why people experience bloating after drinking, as the swelling is a direct result of the body retaining whatever water it has until it can rehydrate and return to normal function.
What Are the Drinks Less Likely to Cause Bloating?
While irresponsible drinking, such as binge drinking, can cause bloating no matter which type of alcohol is being consumed, there are some drinks that are less likely to cause bloating than others. Clear liquor, which is the least carbohydrate dense of all the types of alcohol, is not so much the culprit of bloating as carbohydrate rich, carbonated beer, but that is not to say that drinking solely liquor will equate to no bloating. The reality is that all forms of alcohol cause inflammation, which is the most general cause of bloating, more so than any other aspect of alcohol. While sugary and carbonated drinks create more gas and discomfort, and in turn more bloating, there is no alcohol which can promise a bloat free aftermath.
What Are the Drinks More Likely to Cause Bloating?
Alcohol that is heavily carbonated and rich in carbohydrates can cause bloating more quickly than those which do not possess such characteristics. This is why beer is identified as the number one alcohol beverage which causes bloating. Beer causes more bloating than wine and liquor, on average, but it should be noted that every person’s body is different, as is their ability to process the carbohydrates and carbonation in beer.
Where Does Alcohol Bloating Appear?
Generally, alcohol bloating appears in the stomach, hands, and face. The stomach is where much of the alcohol is processed, along with the intestines and colon, but it is stored in the stomach during digestion, which is why the volume of liquid, carbonation, and alcohol, bloats the stomach. The hands and face bloat mostly due to dehydration. Alcohol 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.
How Long Does Alcohol Bloating Last?
Alcohol bloating is documented as lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending upon the amount of alcohol consumed and the risk factors inherent in the individual, such as pre-existing gastrointestinal conditions and allergies. When bloating occurs from inflammation, it will only last so long as the body is able to completely process the remaining alcohol, metabolize it, and then return to normalcy. When bloating occurs because of dehydration, the process may not be so simple, and sometimes will require rehydrating to aid the body’s metabolization of the alcohol and a return to normalcy. Increasing sodium and sugar intake will cause increased periods of bloating. The amount of drinking that a person is able to take without experiencing bloating is dependent on a wide variety of factors including sex, age, weight, and fitness.
What Are the Dangers of Alcohol Bloating?
While alcohol bloating might seem like an aesthetic, cosmetic problem, more than a genuine disease, it is the sign of the body’s inability to easily process the inflammatory characteristics of alcohol. Continued abuse of alcohol leads to continued inflammation, and this bloating can give way to a combination of other more dangerous malledies. Also, continued bloating can be taken as a sign that alcohol does not agree with the individual, which should be seen as a warning that continued irresponsible drinking can lead to more serious health problems in time.
How to Prevent Alcohol Bloating?
As alcohol bloating begins in the stomach, there are many remedies, treatments, and preventive measures that can help to counteract the effects of bloating. Incorporating a digestive enzyme or probiotic into the diet can be very beneficial in adding healthy bacteria to the digestive system in an effort to counteract the inflammation and bad bacteria that exists in alcohol. It is also important to drink and eat slowly, as rushing can not only upset the normal rate of digestion, but can also result in swallowing more air than is natural, causing bloating as well. Abstaining from overindulgence in sugary drinks and heavily carbonated drinks, like beer, is another smart way to limit the effects of bloating, as is quitting smoking, which, apart from being extremely inflammatory to more bodily systems than just the lungs, causes an individual to suck down more air than they normally would. Removing foods that are known to create gas and cause bloating, such as dairy products, fried foods, candy, cruciferous vegetables, beans, and fatty foods, may also help, as well as a steady regimen of exercise, as burning calories can aid the digestive system and help reduce bloating.
How Do You Get Rid of Alcohol Bloat?
The number one way to counteract the bloating effects of alcohol is to incorporate a good amount of water into the system before, during, and after drinking alcohol. As water restores the body’s pH after ingesting the inflammatory alcohol, as well as rehydrates the body after the dehydrating effects of alcohol, it is a vital defense against the effects of bloating. Additionally, avoiding beer and sweet cocktails is a smart move, as is avoiding salty foods, as these are also dehydrating. There are some home remedies, such as warm water with cayenne pepper, ginger aid shots, and turmeric, an anti-inflammatory powder, which can be added to the diet and are known to bring relief from bloating fast. There are also generic antacids which are known to help, as well as some over the counter medications, like simethicone, alpha-galactosidase, and lactose supplements.
What Medications Can Be Used in Case of Alcohol Bloating?
Several medications can be used for alcohol bloating. Before taking any medications for alcohol bloating you should consult with a medical professional.
1. H2 Blockers
H2 Blockers are a category of medicines that are anti-acidic, meaning they lower, and seek to maintain, the amount of acid produced by cells in the stomach lining. They work similarly to antihistamines, and in the case of countering the bloating effects of alcohol.
2. Proton Pump Inhibitors
These medications work to reduce the amount of stomach acid found in the stomach, limiting the production of the acid-producing glands in the stomach lining. They can be helpful in reducing inflammation and lowering the chances of bloating.
While it is not recommended to mix antacids and alcohol, antacids can be very helpful in reducing bloating and the amount of acid build up in the stomach after a night of drinking.
What Are the Other Effects of Alcohol Similar to Alcohol Bloating?
Drinking alcohol can actually lead to an infection of the GI tract which is known as gastritis. Not only gastritis, but drinking alcohol irresponsibly can cause weight gain, which looks similar to bloating, especially if other measures are not taken to counter the increased number of calories that exist in alcohol.