For people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), even a quick drink after work can be a major upset to digestive comfort. Because everyone is different, there is no such thing as a list of absolute dietary guidelines for IBS. Some people do well on high-fiber diets, others do well on low-fiber diets; some need a daily dose of dairy fat, others avoid dairy like the plague. When it comes to alcohol, though, what does the IBS-er need to know?
A recent research study on women with IBS studied the link between IBS type, alcohol consumption habits, and symptom flare-ups. Participants tracked their drinking behavior as well as their gastrointestinal symptoms, such as heartburn, diarrhea, nausea, constipation, and stomach pain. Thankfully, most women with IBS were able to have a drink or two with little to no gastrointestinal consequence, regardless of the type of IBS they had. However, women with IBS-diarrhea (rather than IBS-constipation or IBS-mixed) did seem to have the short end of the stick: greater sensitivity to alcohol consumption.
Don’t Drink Your Heart - or Bowels - Out
Binge drinking was a different story, which may explain the contradictory results previous studies on alcohol and IBS provided. Women who indulged in four or more drinks in one evening were significantly more likely than other women to experience unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms the next day (including diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and indigestion).
In general, alcohol consumption guidelines are similar for women with and without IBS: stick to one per night, because four or more drinks spell trouble! If you are out on the town, alternating an alcoholic beverage with a glass of water may help ease some IBS-related discomfort. Remind yourself that time with friends or in a relaxing environment can be just as enjoyable as imbibing lots of booze—without the IBS symptom hangover!
Also, if you choose to engage in a bit more drinking than usual, be smart about it. Stay hydrated. Avoid large meals. Pair your drinks with foods that you know are on your personal “safe” list to avoid doubling your discomfort because of food-based IBS culprits. (This may mean skipping the deep fried appetizers and fatty dips. Sorry!)
Finally, if you decide to drink heavily, always remind yourself beforehand that you really are “picking your poison”—and the side effect of whichever “poison” you favor may be a major uptick in IBS symptoms the following day. Choose wisely.