Diarrhea After Drinking - Causes and Treatment

Diarrhea after drinking alcohol is something which is not often talked about but it is something which can affect people who drink regularly or who binge occasionally. It can come on the next morning as part of a hangover or in a few people it can happen quickly, as soon as they start drinking.

Diarrhea After Drinking - Drinks at Sunset

Why Do I Get Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol ?

The last thing you want to happen when you are out enjoying yourself and having a few drinks is to have to rush to the bathroom with a sudden bout of diarrhea but unfortunately this does happen to some people.

If you drink heavily and regularly then this can bring on chronic diarrhea.

If you suffer from diarrhea after drinking alcohol then there are a few reasons why this may happen.

1. The first thing to know is that alcohol is an irritant and it causes                   inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. In fact it can cause problems right the way from the mouth down to the back passage. 


2. Alcohol can cause the stomach to produce more acid than normal causing even more irritation and inflammation. Weirdly, this is more likely with drinks that have a relatively low alcohol content like beer and wine. Spirits do not have this effect.


3. Alcohol inhibits the absorption of water from the large intestine and can cause an outpouring of fluid as well which means that your stools become much more liquid.


4. Alcohol affects the motility in the large intestine. This means that the passage of your stools speeds up. This has been particularly seen in the end part of the colon (the sigmoid colon) and the rectum (the back passage).


5. Alcohol causes a decrease in digestive enzymes which interferes with normal digestion.

Who is at Risk of Diarrhea After Drinking ?

Certain groups of people are more at risk of suffering diarrhea after drinking.

If you drink a lot of alcohol regularly then it will gradually damage your gut which will not work as efficiently as it did and you will be more prone to diarrhea.

For example regular drinking can eventually cause the tops of the villi - the little projections which stick out from the intestinal lining - to wear off.  

Binge drinking will mean a large dose of alcohol will suddenly reach your gut so diarrhea will be more likely.

If you suffer from an intestinal disorder like Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis or irritable bowel syndrome then your gut is already extra sensitive and you are more likely to succumb to diarrhea.

People with food intolerances and allergies.

Is it the Alcohol?

In most cases if you have diarrhea after drinking then it will be caused by the alcohol but there could be exceptions. Alcoholic drinks have other ingredients which could be to blame.

You may be intolerant or allergic to a food on which the drink is based, like wheat or barley if you have diarrhea after drinking beer or grapes if you have diarrhea after drinking wine.

Other problem ingredients may be gluten, yeasts, sulphites, additives and histamine.

See here for a list of gluten free drinks.

Diarrhea After Drinking - Beer in Geneva

Bad Food Choices

We've all done it haven't we. We have one too many and then it seems like a really good idea to have that extra spicy pizza, vindaloo curry, or just one more kebab and then follow it up with a chilli eating contest! Think back and try and remember what you have been eating, perhaps it isn't the drink.

What Can I Do About It?

Unfortunately the most obvious thing you can do is to cut down on or stop drinking. If your gut has become damaged and sensitive to alcohol then this should help. It has been shown that some effects like increased motility (speed) of the large intestine start to reverse when drinking is stopped.

If you drink heavily and regularly do not stop drinking without medical supervision. Going cold turkey can be dangerous and even fatal.

I am not trying to tell anyone that they should not drink, as drinking does have an up side but you may be able to cut down and improve things.

Experiment with different drinks as some people find that they react to say beer but not spirits.

Wine is high in sulphites so if this is your problem switching might help. Red wine seems to be more of a problem than white for some people.

White spirits, especially vodka have fewer ingredients than other drinks and so  some people find them less troublesome.

Drink more slowly and try alternating soft drinks with alcoholic ones.

The irritating effects of alcohol may be mitigated by eating a carbohydrate meal before drinking. It is never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach, so carb-up as my daughter calls it. Pasta, quinoa, egg on toast or mashed avocado on toast are good options. Eating is not cheating!

If you have diarrhea and especially if you are vomiting too then it is important to replace fluids with drinks that have the right balance of salts and sugars.

You can buy oral replacement fluids from the pharmacy but sports drinks like Gatorade and Lucozade Sport are good in this situation.

If you do not have access to any of these then you can top up with drinks of water and nibble on salty snacks like pretzels. Look at this page about dehydration for more information.

Jo Cooper author of diarrheanurse.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk and amazon.ca. Amazon links Advertising Policy

What Can I Drink Now?

So if you have decided to cut down on or cut out the alcohol you are left with the question of what to drink instead.

If you have been suffering from diarrhea after drinking you know that you should do something but many people will worry about what to order when they are out with friends or what to drink when they invite people round.

We know that we should just brave it out and not give into peer pressure but in reality we do not want to be seen drinking a 'kids drink'.

Of course alcoholic free or low alcohol beers and wines do exist and some people get along with them but some of us find them a poor substitute. Although my cousin swears by Becks Blue often it is better to switch entirely and try something new.

Good alternatives include:

  • Virgin Collins (A Tom Collins without the Gin): Fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup or cordial and club soda (soda water)
  • Iced Coffee: You will still get a little hit from the caffeine
  • Shirley Temple: Ginger ale and grenadine
  • Angostura bitters and lemonade or soda: Angostura is alcoholic but a couple of dashes will not affect you
  • Cordial and soda: My favorites are soda and lime (without the vodka) and soda and elderflower
  • Virgin Mojito: Crushed mint, sugar, lime juice and ice topped up with club soda, sprite or ginger ale
  • Tonic water with a twist of lemon: Hold the gin
  • Half apple juice, half fizzy water: It looks like beer and it will fool people who decide they need to give you a hard time for not drinking

If you are planning a party, have guests coming round or are just bored with the same old drinks then learn how to make virgin cocktails. Head over to Amazon and buy one of their fabulous mocktail recipe books.

Medication

Loperamide (often known as Imodium) is a standard treatment for diarrhea and can be bought over the counter in most countries and also from Amazon. It works by slowing down the muscle contractions in the large intestine. There are no known interactions with alcohol so it is safe to take and can stop diarrhea dead in it its tracks if taken according to the instructions on the packet.

Your intestinal system is not happy with the amount or type of alcohol you are drinking and so taking Loperamide will not have any long term benefits but it is a good short term solution.

For more information see this page about treatment.

How Do I Help My Recovery?

If you have suffered from diarrhea after drinking alcohol more than once then the microflora (friendly bacteria) in your bowel will very likely be unhappy.  This means that they will not be able to do their job properly of keeping things in order and fighting off any unwelcome bad bacteria.

You need to get them back on an even keel to help in your fight against the diarrhea. The best way to do this is to take a course of probiotics. Pick one with a wide spectrum of different strains.

Complications

If you are suffering from diarrhea after drinking alcohol then this is a distressing and difficult thing to cope with, ruining your evening out or your morning at work but there are in fact even more problematic things to think about if alcohol is starting to affect your gut.

It is a good idea to ease back or stop drinking because it is known that regular consumption of alcohol means that you are more likely to develop complications such as cancer of the colon, duodenal and gastric ulcers, pancreatitis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (even in moderate drinkers), gastric reflux, bleeding from the gullet (esophageal varices), malnutrition and other gastrointestinal problems.

Some of these complications like cancer, ulcers and varices could cause you to have blood in your diarrhea; either bright red blood if the bleeding is coming from low down in the gastrointestinal tract or black diarrhea (melena) if the blood is from higher up.

As most people know the excessive drinking of alcohol long term can lead to cirrhosis or scarring of the liver. One of the symptoms of cirrhosis is diarrhea, sometimes with blood.

I am sorry to have given you a horror list of things that might happen but your diarrhea is a warning sign that your gut is not happy. Of course I am not saying you will get these complications but you will be at a higher risk.

Diarrhea After Drinking - Conclusion

Diarrhea After Drinking - Wine and Coffee in Barcelona

It is miserable if you can't go for a drink with your friends after work or toast your daughter at her wedding. It is also embarrassing if you have to suddenly leave the room and are worried that you won't make it to the bathroom in time.

DiarrheaNurse hopes that by cutting back and maybe having some time off from the drinking or switching drinks you can get your diarrhea after drinking under control. It is hard sometimes to choose the coffee instead of the wine but we are lucky that many modern restaurants and bars give us the choice.

Please browse this site for more information about diarrhea, like diarrhea treatment, dehydration symptoms and black stool.

Black Diarrhea - Should I Go To ER?

Black diarrhea is usually very dangerous. Find out here what you should do.

Go to Black Diarrhea - Should I Go to ER?

Blood in Poop - Don't Panic!

Sometimes we see red blood when we have a bowel movement. Read about what can cause this here.

Go to Blood in Poop - Don't Panic

If you have diarrhea after drinking water or your diarrhea starts after coming into contact with outdoor water then please see this article.

Contaminated Water and Diarrhea; Best Avoidance Measures

Coming into contact with contaminated water in places like lakes, swimming pools and water fountains can cause diarrhea. Find out here how to keep safe.

Go to Contaminated Water and Diarrhea; Best Avoidance Measures


Return to Causes of Diarrhea from Diarrhea After Drinking


Return to DiarrheaNurse Homepage


Back to Top


The materials on this website are provided strictly for general information/educational purposes only please see the disclaimer policy for more information.