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How Long Does Alcohol Bloating Last? Timeline + Tips

Have you ever gone out drinking and woken up the next day feeling puffy and swollen? Your stomach feels distended. You’re bloated, and more than just a little bit miserable. 

Alcohol bloating is a common problem that many people face after drinking. 

The severity and duration of alcohol bloating can vary depending on factors like how much you drank, what you drank, and your overall health.

What is Alcohol Bloating?

Alcohol bloating is a condition where you feel swollen, full, or tight in the stomach after drinking alcohol. Some people also experience swelling and bloating in their face.

In addition to feeling swollen and full, you may also experience nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain. 

In some cases, alcohol bloating can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as gastritis or peptic ulcers, both of which are common in people who drink a lot. 

But how long does it last and should you be worried about it?

Why Does Alcohol Cause Bloating?

Alcohol can cause bloating (an uncomfortable, swollen or tight feeling in the stomach) for several reasons.

Close up of a woman clutching her alcohol bloated stomach in pain
Understanding Alcohol Bloating

1. Dehydration: 

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urine production and promotes dehydration. This can lead to water retention and bloating as your body tries to hold on to as much water as possible.

2. Irritation of the gastrointestinal tract: 

Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines. This can result in inflammation, increased gas production, and slowed digestion, all of which can contribute to bloating.

3. Disruption of gut bacteria: 

Alcohol can disrupt the balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria in your gut (the gut microbiota). This imbalance can lead to bloating, especially if harmful bacteria start to outnumber beneficial ones. These bacteria can produce gas, leading to a bloated feeling.

4. Consuming sugary mixers: 

If you mix alcohol with sugary mixers, you may experience more bloating. That’s because sugar can cause gas and fluid retention.

5. Overeating: 

People tend to eat more when they drink, and overeating can also cause bloating.

6. Histamine release: 

Some types of alcohol, especially red wine and beer, contain histamines which can cause inflammation in the stomach and result in bloating. If you’re someone with a high histamine sensitivity, this might also be a factor. 

There are multiple ways you can end up bloated after a night of drinking, but some people are more susceptible to alcohol bloating than others. 

Factors that Affect Alcohol Bloating

Let’s break down the different factors that determine if and how severely you become bloated from alcohol. 

A pink balloon
How long does alcohol bloating last?

1. Amount of Alcohol Consumed

The amount of alcohol you consume can have a significant impact on how bloated you feel. The more you drink, the more likely you are to experience bloating. 

2. Type of Alcohol Consumed

The type of alcohol you consume can also affect how bloated you feel. Carbonated drinks, such as beer and champagne, can cause bloating because they contain gas that can get trapped in your stomach.

On the other hand, spirits like vodka or gin, which are not carbonated, may cause less bloating, so long as you aren’t consuming an excessive amount. 

3. Individual Tolerance

Individual tolerance to alcohol can also play a role in how bloated you feel. Some people are more sensitive to alcohol and may experience bloating after just a small amount, while others may be able to consume larger amounts without feeling bloated. 

4. Gut Health: 

People with existing gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastritis, celiac disease, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) might experience more severe bloating when they consume alcohol.

5. Diet and Eating Habits: 

Consuming alcohol with a large meal or certain types of food, especially fatty or greasy food, can exacerbate bloating. Also, if your diet is generally poor, you might be more likely to experience bloating and other digestive issues when you drink. 

The irony is that heavy drinking makes us crave fatty, greasy food and interferes with the part of our brain that would direct us to make better food choices. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle in that way. 

6. Hydration Status: 

As alcohol can dehydrate you, if you’re already dehydrated or fail to drink enough water while consuming alcohol, you might experience more bloating.

7. Physical Activity Levels: 

Regular physical activity can help maintain a healthy digestive system, which might make you less likely to experience bloating when you consume alcohol. The inverse is also true. If you lead a fairly sedentary life, you may be more susceptible to alcohol-related bloating. 

It’s important to note that alcohol bloating can vary from person to person, and may be influenced by other factors, such as diet, hydration, and stress levels. If you experience frequent or severe alcohol bloating, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition and you should consult with your healthcare provider.

How Long Does Alcohol Bloat Last?

Alcohol bloating can be painful and uncomfortable. The good news is that it’s usually a temporary condition that will go away on its own. But exactly how long will it take?

Acute alcohol bloating can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days after drinking, depending on the underlying causes of the irritation. Chronic gastritis from drinking, on the other hand, can last up to a few years. 

The duration of alcohol bloating can vary depending on a few different factors.

Short-Term Bloating

Short-term alcohol bloating typically occurs within a few hours of drinking and can last for up to 24 hours. 

During this time, you may experience discomfort, pressure, and a feeling of fullness in your abdomen. This is because alcohol can irritate the lining of your stomach, causing it to produce more acid than usual. The excess acid can then cause your stomach to expand, leading to bloating.

Long-Term Bloating

Long-term alcohol bloating is a more serious condition that can occur in people who drink heavily over a long period of time. 

Chronic alcohol consumption can damage the lining of your stomach, leading to inflammation and scarring. This can cause your stomach to become distended and bloated, even when you’re not drinking.

(Oh, hello beer belly!)

It’s important to note that long-term bloating is serious and a sign it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship with drinking and book an appointment with your doctor. 

They may recommend lifestyle changes, such as reducing your alcohol intake (or quitting drinking altogether) and eating a healthy diet, to help reduce inflammation and promote healing. In severe cases, medication or surgery may be necessary to repair the damage to your digestive system.

The longer you let alcohol bloating go untreated, the more difficult the path to recovery. 

Tips to Reduce Alcohol Bloating

Now that we’ve discussed how and why alcohol causes bloating, is there anything you can do to manage it? 

The most obvious solution is to not drink alcohol. 

Even quitting alcohol temporarily can have positive benefits on your overall gut health. 

If that’s not something you’re willing to do or you want additional strategies for managing your bloat, you can also consider the following. 

1. Stay Hydrated

One of the main reasons why alcohol can cause bloating is because it dehydrates your body. When your body is dehydrated, it tries to retain as much water as possible, which can lead to a bloated, puffy appearance.

To combat this, make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after drinking alcohol. This will help keep your body hydrated and reduce the likelihood of bloating.

2. Avoid Carbonated Drinks

Drinks that are carbonated, such as beer and soda, can also contribute to bloating. This is because the carbonation can cause gas to build up in your stomach, leading to discomfort and bloating. If you’re looking to reduce bloating, try to avoid carbonated drinks and opt for non-carbonated alternatives instead.

3. Eat Foods that are High in Fiber

Foods that are high in fiber can also help reduce bloating caused by alcohol. 

This is because fiber helps keep your digestive system moving, which can prevent gas from building up in your stomach. Some examples of high-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Including these foods in your diet can help reduce bloating and improve your overall digestive health.

Try eating a balanced meal before you imbibe and see if that helps. 

4. Avoid Salty Snacks 

Salty snacks can lead to water retention, which can worsen bloating. Try to opt for healthier snacks or limit your intake of salty foods when drinking.

5. Get Moving 

Physical activity can help reduce bloating and help your body process alcohol. Even a short walk can be beneficial. 

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Final Thoughts on Alcohol Bloating

To sum it up, alcohol bloating isn’t just unsightly and painful – it can indicate some serious underlying issues with your digestive system. By identifying the primary culprits and making some positive lifestyle changes, you can mitigate the impact. 

Of course, the best move is to quit drinking altogether and give your body time to repair some of the damage left by drinking. 

But if you’re not there yet, taking steps to moderate your drinking and be more selective about the type of alcohol you drink is a place to start. 

If you’re curious about your drinking, I’ve included a quiz to assess your risk of alcohol dependence as well as additional resources if you’re curious about what it’s like to live an alcohol-free life. 

You’re also welcome to join us in the private Soberish Facebook group if you want to connect with other people on this journey, or just need additional support! 

AUDIT Survey

The following is a copy of the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). This is a screening tool used by medical professionals to assess a person’s alcohol dependence risk. It’s not a substitute for medical advice or an official diagnosis. Make sure you book an appointment with your doctor once you get your results.

Welcome to your Alcohol Use (AUDIT) quiz

1. 
1. How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?

2. 
How many units of alcohol do you drink on a typical day when you are drinking?

A unit of alcohol is one standard drink. Examples of one standard drink include:

  • 12 oz can of beer with about 5% alcohol
  • 5 fl oz of wine (roughly 12% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fl oz shot of spirits like vodka, rum, or whiskey (about 40% alcohol)

3. 
How often have you had 6 or more units if female, or 8 or more if male, on a single occasion in the last year?

4. 
How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?

5. 
How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?

6. 
How often during the last year have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session?

7. 
How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

8. 
How often during the last year have you been unable to remember what happened the night before because you had been drinking?

9. 
Have you or someone else been injured as a result of your drinking?

10. 
Has a relative or friend or a doctor or another health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested you cut down?

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