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Can Alcohol Cause Constipation?

We’ve all been there: drinking alcohol and then paying the price the next day with a hangover.

But did you know that alcohol can also cause constipation? If you’re struggling to go to the bathroom after a night of drinking, read on to find out why and what you can do about it.

Does Alcohol Cause Constipation?

The short answer is yes, alcohol can cause constipation. But it’s not just heavy drinking that can lead to digestive issues. Even having a glass of wine or beer regularly can disrupt your digestive system.

There are a few ways that alcohol can cause constipation.

  • First, alcohol can act as a diuretic, which can cause dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your body pulls water from your intestines, making your stool hard and dry.
  • Secondly, alcohol can also slow down the movement of food through your digestive system, which can lead to constipation.
  • Finally, alcohol can irritate your intestines and cause inflammation. This can make it difficult for your intestines to absorb water, which also leads to constipation.
A constipated woman sits on the toilet in visible pain
alcohol and constipation

Can Alcohol Aggravate IBS?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits.

Alcohol can aggravate IBS symptoms for many people, but the research on alcohol and IBS specifically is not definitive. However, many people with IBS avoid alcohol because it is a known irritant for the gut writ large.

A study found that patterns of alcohol intake, particularly binge drinking, were associated with gastrointestinal symptoms among women with IBS. Alcohol can also speed up peristalsis, which further increases the risk, severity, or frequency of diarrhea – something IBS sufferers especially need to avoid.

In short, people with IBS should probably skip drinking, especially heavy drinking.

3 Ways Alcohol Causes Inflammation in the Gut

A few things can happen when the small and large intestines metabolize alcohol, particularly in large quantities.

Bacterial Overgrowth

Alcohol disrupts the balance of good and harmful bacteria in the gut, leading to bacterial overgrowth. This, in turn, leads to inflammation.

The reason alcohol causes bacterial overgrowth is one of two things. Either the alcohol itself causes the problem, or it is the byproduct of poor digestive and intestinal function caused by alcohol consumption.

Either way, alcohol is the culprit.

Bacterial Dysbiosis

Bacterial dysbiosis is another way that alcohol consumption can cause gut inflammation. This is when the gut’s ratio of good to bad bacteria is out of balance. This can happen for various reasons, but drinking alcohol is one of them.

When this happens, it creates an environment ripe for inflammation. The body reacts to the imbalance by mounting an immune response, leading to inflammation.

A 2023 study from the University of California examined the connection between gut dysbiosis and alcohol-related liver diseases (ALD).

They found that excessive drinking leads to a unique imbalance in gut bacteria, which plays a crucial role in the progression of liver diseases. This imbalance is linked to direct damage to liver cells and the gut lining, increasing the risk of severe liver conditions.

The research also shows that alcohol changes the types of bacteria in the gut and affects the production of certain harmful substances by these bacteria. These findings highlight the significant impact of alcohol on gut health and its connection to liver disease.

Leaky Gut Syndrome

Alcohol can also contribute to leaky gut, a condition where gaps in the intestinal wall allow bacteria and toxins to enter the bloodstream.

That’s because excessive alcohol consumption disrupts the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, leading to an increase in bacteria that cause inflammation and irritation while decreasing those that aid in digestion.

This imbalance can lead to a “leaky gut,” where alcohol causes cracks in the intestinal wall, allowing bacteria and toxins to pass through. Alcohol can also decrease gut absorption and increase the production of bile in the liver, which can further contribute to leaky gut and lead to diarrhea.

Sadly, there’s more. Alcohol also impairs the function of prostaglandins, which help limit inflammation, and damages the cells in the small intestine responsible for absorbing nutrients into the bloodstream, leading to nutritional deficits and exacerbating the symptoms of leaky gut syndrome.

Treating Alcohol-Induced Constipation

If you’re struggling with constipation, you can do a few things to ease your symptoms.

  • Drink plenty of water. Alcohol is a diuretic which will only make your symptoms worse. This will help keep you hydrated and prevent dehydration, which can worsen constipation.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet. Fiber helps add bulk to your stool and makes it easier to pass. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Good nutrition is key for repairing gut health, especially if you were or are a heavy drinker.
  • Reduce or eliminate alcohol. I realize that may be easier said than done, but if your digestive issues and alcohol-related constipation are bad, it may be time to take an extended break from alcohol or quit drinking altogether. If you need help doing that, we have plenty of resources to help.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise helps stimulate your digestive system and can make it easier to have a bowel movement.
  • Add probiotics to your diet. Probiotics can help restore the balance of good bacteria in the gut, which alcohol consumption might have disrupted. Probiotics are found in supplements (like these) and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
  • Avoid constipation-inducing foods: Some foods can exacerbate constipation. Limiting or avoiding processed foods, excessive dairy products, and red meats, which are harder to digest, can be beneficial. If you’re eating this kind of food while drinking, you’re hitting your body with a double whammy.

If you’re struggling with constipation, talk to your doctor. They can help you find a treatment plan that’s right for you.

If you’re struggling right now, feel stuck, or don’t know what to do next, talk therapy can help. Getting started with BetterHelp is easy!

  • Answer a few questions.
  • Get matched with a licensed therapist.
  • Schedule your sessions.

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Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp.

FAQs and Alcohol and Constipation

Which alcohol is easiest on the stomach?

First, let’s preface this answer by acknowledging that all alcohol has the ability to damage gut health and cause a host of digestive issues.

The type of alcohol is not exclusively the issue. You also have to consider things like quantity consumed, weight, gender, metabolism, and severity of gut issues.

For people with IBS who do want to drink, medical experts recommend consuming alcohol that is considered low FODMAP. Examples include:

  • Beer (although be mindful of the carbonation and gluten)
  • Red wine
  • White wine
  • Whiskey
  • Vodka
  • Gin

Can quitting alcohol cause constipation?

When you suddenly stop drinking alcohol after chronic use, it can cause constipation. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes your body to lose fluids. When you stop drinking, your body retains fluid, and

How do I know if my constipation is caused by alcohol?

It’s not always easy to know if alcohol is the cause. To test the theory, you can try eliminating alcohol from your diet for a while and see if your symptoms improve.

If they do, alcohol was likely the cause.

You can also talk to your doctor. They can help you rule out other potential causes of constipation and make a

Bottom Line on Alcohol Causing Constipation

Constipation is a common digestive issue caused by many things, including alcohol consumption.

If you’re struggling with constipation, it’s important to find the underlying cause so you can treat it effectively. In some cases, quitting alcohol may be the best solution.

Being constipated sucks, we get it. Please know that it takes some time, but with consistency, things will improve.

  • Stay hydrated
  • Eat fiber
  • Get exercise
  • Eliminate gut irritants from your diet
  • Reach out to a doctor

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