Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol: Causes and Treatments
Author: Thomas Roth
Last Updated: 9/19/2022
Drinking alcohol causes diarrhea. Diarrhea is a condition that occurs when stool leaves the body in a more liquid than solid state. Diarrhea is dangerous because the body becomes dehydrated, which leads to several medical problems.
When drinking alcohol the risk of developing diarrhea increases. The risk increases because alcohol irritates the gastrointestinal organs like the stomach, small intestines, and large intestines. In some cases, alcohol also damages the colon and increases the risk of colon cancer.
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What Causes Alcohol to Cause Diarrhea?
Alcohol causes diarrhea for multiple reasons. However, medical professionals have pinpointed the most prevalent reasons alcohol causes diarrhea.
We list these medical reasons below.
- Faster digestion
- Water absorption
- Bacterial imbalance
Part of the body’s natural response to bacterial or viral infection, as well as physical injury, inflammation is the way the body organizes healing. When a person consumes alcohol, it causes inflammation to the organs it passes through during the digestion process. In the case of diarrhea, alcohol inflames the stomach, intestines, colon, and sometimes even the rectum. This inflammation places undue pressure upon the organs, and can result in diarrhea.
2. Faster digestion
When alcohol is consumed, it speeds up the body’s normal rate of digestion. This occurs for multiple reasons, the most important of which being the fact that the body processes alcohol faster than other substances. This is why, when a person does not eat enough, the effects of alcohol may strike them far quicker. The body digests alcohol faster than other substances, and without food to act as a buffer, the alcohol will enter the bloodstream extremely rapidly. This can cause diarrhea, as the body does not have time to incorporate other foods and only excretes alcohol based liquid.
3. Water Absorption
When the digestive system speeds up, the colon and lower intestine do not have the normal amount of time to absorb water. Stool containing alcohol squeezes through the lower intestine and colon faster than usual, which rushes out water that would otherwise be absorbed. Ultimately, faster digestion is one of the reasons a person may experience diarrhea.
4. Bacterial Imbalance
A potentially more serious complication caused by drinking alcohol is a bacterial imbalance. Drinking alcohol kills off the healthy bacteria that lives in the digestive tract. When this happens, the bad bacteria in the alcohol results in a bacterial imbalance which also leads to abnormal stools like diarrhea. Only after abstaining from drinking will the good bacteria regrow. The process of which can be sped up by ingesting fermented foods that contain healthy, positive bacteria.
Do Certain Alcohols Cause Diarrhea More Than Others?
Drinking any kind of alcohol can cause diarrhea. However, certain alcohols are known to cause diarrhea more than others. Beer is a well-known culprit for causing diarrhea because of the high carbohydrates. Beer has more carbohydrates than other forms of alcohol, and the digestive system has to exert more energy breaking down the extra carbohydrates. This pushes the beer through the digestive system quickly and the excess water is not absorbed. For alcoholics, this results in the excretion of abnormally watery stool.
Wine is also a well-known cause of diarrhea. While not solely down to the carbohydrate count, wine possesses tannins. For some, tannins are difficult to digest and cause inflammation within the digestive system. An adverse reaction to tannins causes diarrhea, headaches and nausea.
Sugary alcoholic drinks also cause diarrhea. When it comes to alcoholic drinks that are mixed with sugary beverages such as soda, the sugar has a similar effect to alcohol. The sugar speeds up the digestion to an unhealthy level. This results in stool coming out faster without the proper absorption of water.
How Much Alcohol Causes Diarrhea?
All it takes is one or two alcoholic beverages to develop diarrhea, especially in individuals with alcohol intolerance. Still, the amount of alcohol that causes diarrhea varies. It varies based on gut health, food intake, water consumption, and other non-alcoholic beverages present in the digestive system. Additionally, when someone drinks a lot of alcohol strain on the gastrointestinal tract occurs. The result of gastrointestinal distress is often diarrhea.
However, drinking large quantities of alcohol causes constipation because digestion is delayed. Stopping waste removal is even more destructive than speeding it up.
Is Diarrhea a Symptom of Alcohol Hangover?
Diarrhea is a common symptom of an alcohol hangover. Water is not absorbed by the colon properly when too much alcohol is consumed. The result of this is loose stool, diarrhea, and constipation.
When a person engages in unhealthy and irresponsible drinking habits, it takes a toll on the body, causing fatigue, headache, nausea, and, diarrhea.
Who Is At A Higher Risk of Diarrhea Caused by Alcohol?
Certain individuals are at a higher risk of suffering from diarrhea caused by drinking alcohol. Particularly, these individuals usually have pre-existing digestive issues like irritable Bowel syndrome (IBS). People with a gluten intolerance will also suffer from diarrhea when drinking alcohol that contains gluten (beer).
1. Celiac disease
People who suffer from celiac disease experience a digestive disorder that’s brought on by the immune system. Eating or drinking gluten destroys the villi in the small intestine and trouble the digestive system’s ability to absorb nutrients. Gluten is not easily digestible, so people with slight gluten intolerances also suffer from diarrhea when drinking.
2. People with Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s Disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease causing severe inflammation to the digestive tract. While there are many reasons for why a person might develop Crohn’s Disease, diarrhea is one of the major symptoms of the disease. The diarrhea occurs even without the addition of alcohol, which explains why alcohol inflames the already injured digestive system.
3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) usually have an issue with their colon. While that problem varies from being a minor inconvenience to a chronic issue, irritable bowel syndrome causes many intestinal symptoms related to a similar inflammation that alcohol causes. IBS also results in severe cramping, diarrhea, and constipation.
4. People with Gastrointestinal or Bladder Diseases
If someone is suffering from gastrointestinal or bladder diseases, then drinking alcohol shouldn’t be consumed. The inflammatory reaction caused by drinking alcohol is usually worse in people who are suffering from a disease of the GI tract. As all alcohol is processed through both of these bodily systems, abstaining from drinking is the best solution. Abstaining from alcohol will help prevent against diarrhea from drinking alcohol.
What Are the Methods to Prevent Against Diarrhea Caused by Drinking Alcohol?
The best method to avoid experiencing diarrhea caused by drinking alcohol is abstaining from drinking alcohol. Whenever alcohol is added to the system, some small inflammation is possible. Depending upon the gut health of the individual, even a small amount of alcohol increases the risk of diarrhea.
One of the best methods to prevent diarrhea if someone is drinking is to limit alcohol intake. The body processes one drink an hour, so sticking to that frequency is a safe way to give the body the time it needs to process the alcohol.
Additionally, eating foods that soak up alcohol and slow its passage through the digestive system give the body enough time to absorb the right amount of water. However, some foods speed up the natural course of digestion. When combined with alcohol, these foods also result in an adverse reaction, like diarrhea, as the body is overwhelmed.
Most crucially, apart from limited alcohol intake, having a balanced diet, and mixing healthy food with the alcohol, is a great way to give the digestive system the help it needs in processing alcoholic drinks.
How to Stop Diarrhea after Drinking Alcohol?
If drinking alcohol does cause diarrhea, there are some treatments which may calm the digestive system and help to regulate bowel movements. First and foremost, the best treatment is to stop drinking. When you stop drinking, pressure is released on the stomach, intestines, and colon. This allows these organs to return to normal digestion.
After a person refrains from drinking during diarrhea, easily digestible foods are key in helping to return the digestive system to normal. These range from eggs, bread, saltine crackers, bananas, and other simple, non-complex foods. Clear fluids are helpful too, particularly those with limited amounts of sugar and whole ingredients.
Staying hydrated is also important because diarrhea is an unnatural expulsion of water. It’s essential to restore hydration levels and help the colon and intestines regain their natural water levels.
Avoiding caffeine and foods that have dairy and high-fat, are also good tips in helping to stop diarrhea. There are also some over the counter medications which can help to calm bouts of diarrhea. These include Imodium A-D and Pepto-Bismol.
How Long Does Diarrhea Last After Drinking Alcohol?
The body requires time away from the inflammatory effects of alcohol to return the digestive system to normalcy. That said, digestion will return to normal after 24 to 48 hours after your last alcoholic beverage.
With treatment, diarrhea will only last one day after drinking alcohol. However, diarrhea also lasts for multiple days.
Should You See Your Doctor For Diarrhea Caused by Alcohol?
Diarrhea caused by alcohol is uncomfortable, but it’s not usually necessary to see your doctor. Still, visit your doctor if you try home remedies and medication and diarrhea doesn’t improve.
Also see your doctor if there is blood your stool. As a healthy digestive system regulates itself once alcohol is processed, continued diarrhea over a period of several days is an indication of a serious illness or disease. Leaving diarrhea untreated increases the risk of dying from dehydration or sepsis.