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What Causes Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol and How To Prevent It?

Consuming Alcohol is quite common even though the ill effects of alcohol consumption are very well known to everyone. Among the various side effects that binging on alcohol can cause, diarrhea is the most common. Diarrhea can cause an extremely uncomfortable feeling and also commonly is associated with other symptoms as well. It has also been observed that certain specific types of alcohol have the tendency to cause diarrhea more than others.[2]

Speaking of mechanism that is involved with alcohol, researchers believe that the way alcohol affects the central nervous system, in the same way it also affects the enteric nervous system. This in turn impairs the way the food moves through the stomach and the intestine.[1]

Delayed gastric emptying and esophageal dysmotility are some of the conditions that are commonly seen in chronic alcoholics. Small bowel motility also gets affected in people who are chronic alcoholics. All these changes increase the chances of a person binging on alcohol having frequent episodes of diarrhea.[1] The various causes of diarrhea after drinking alcohol and ways to prevent it have been discussed in the article below.

What Causes Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol?

The moment alcohol enters the body it starts to get mixed with the blood. The body tissues also easily absorb alcohol. Some of the absorption of alcohol also occurs in the stomach. However, if the individual has eaten something then the rate of absorption is quite slow. This is the reason why the effects of alcohol are felt quickly on an empty stomach than when there is food in the stomach.[2]

The amount of alcohol that remains unabsorbed by the stomach goes into the small intestine where maximum of it is absorbed. If any alcohol is left it goes to the large intestine and is eliminated from the body in the form of stool and urine.[2]

Alcohol has deleterious effects on the normal digestive system of the body right from the time it enters the body. These changes are not evident in people who are occasional drinkers; however, people who are chronic alcoholics it is these changes in the digestive system that cause episodes of diarrhea after drinking alcohol. These changes in the digestive system include:[2]

  • Inflammation: Chronic alcohol consumption irritates and inflames the GI tract. It also causes excess production of stomach acids which further aggravates the inflammation. This ultimately leads to diarrhea after drinking alcohol.[2]
  • Water Absorption: During normal digestion process, the water present in the food and liquids that is ingested is completely absorbed by the large intestine before the undigested food is passed out in the form of stool. However, when drinking alcohol, the large intestine does not function normally and hence the individual has loose and watery stools and diarrhea.[2]
  • Quicker Digestion: Alcohol irritates and inflames the intestines and as a result they are not able to function normally. This causes food to be not properly digested and passed off quickly through the intestines resulting in diarrhea after drinking alcohol.[2]
  • Bacterial Imbalance: The stomach has a variety of good bacteria that eliminate any harmful pathogens that enter the body through food. Chronic alcohol drinking kills off these good bacteria and promotes growth of bad bacteria. This bacterial imbalance causes the intestines to not function properly causing diarrhea.[2]

Now that the causes of diarrhea after drinking alcohol is known it is also important to have knowledge of which forms of alcohol have greater tendency to cause diarrhea. Out of all alcoholic beverages beer is the primary source of diarrhea after drinking. This is because beer has plenty of carbohydrates. The body finds it tough to break down these carbohydrates causing diarrhea.[2]

Wine is yet another drink that causes diarrhea is consumed in excess. Wines contain tannins and if someone is allergic to it then they may experience diarrhea along with nausea and headaches. Cocktails or mixed drinks also have a tendency to cause diarrhea. This is because of the excess sugar that these mixed drinks contain which push the content of the intestines out of the body quicker.[2]

How Can Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent diarrhea caused by drinking alcohol is by having knowledge and control over how much to drink. Drinking in moderation and not binging on alcohol is a very effective way of avoiding any excess stress on the digestive tract. If an individual has diarrhea with a specific alcoholic beverage then it is best to replace it with another type of beverage.[2]

Another way to avoid getting diarrhea after drinking alcohol is to avoid drinking on an empty stomach and eat something as this will slow down the rate of absorption of alcohol and thus reduce the risk of diarrhea. Experts also recommend avoiding mixing alcohol with caffeine as it speeds up the digestive process leading to diarrhea. In case if an individual has diarrhea after drinking alcohol then it is recommended to eat rice and other foods that are easily digested so as to prevent the digestive process to be further strained.[2]

It should be noted that diarrhea after drinking alcohol lasts for a maximum of a day or two when the alcohol gets flushed out of the body and regular diet is resumed with adequate water intake. However, while the symptoms last it is best to eat rice or toast to keep the stomach full and allow the digestive process to get back to normal. Avoiding dairy products, fatty and high fiber foods are also recommended so that the digestive process gets back to normal quickly.[2]

Dehydration is quite commonly associated with diarrhea after drinking alcohol. This is the reason why it is important to keep the body hydrated and drink plenty of fluids in the form of juices or even plain water. In situations where diarrhea is persistent for more than two days then there are various antidiarrheal medications available over the counter that are effective in treating the condition. Probiotics are also extremely effective in treating diarrhea after drinking alcohol.[2]

However, a physician consultation is recommended if diarrhea lasts for more than two days, the individual has dry mouth, complaints of continuous thirst, lack of adequate urine output despite adequate fluid intake, urine that is dark in color, weakness, and lightheadedness. It should be noted that dehydration at times can be potentially serious and if the symptoms do not resolve within 48 hours then consulting a physician or going to an emergency room is a necessity. Otherwise, it is quite common to have diarrhea after drinking alcohol and the episodes stop once normal diet routine resumes.[2]


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 9, 2022

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