How to Stop Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol

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Key Takeaways

  • Drinking water helps replace fluids lost due to alcohol-related diarrhea.
  • Avoid fructose and high-fructose foods to prevent worsening diarrhea.
  • Antidiarrheal medications can reduce symptoms and discomfort.
  • Seek medical help for persistent diarrhea, worsening symptoms, or dehydration.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to a wide range of health conditions, one of which is diarrhea.

Alcohol-related diarrhea is self-limiting. This means it will stop on its own within a few days.

But if it’s severe and you want to avoid the discomfort associated with it, there are multiple antidiarrheal drugs you can use, in addition to hydration and avoiding anything sweetened with fructose.

Sometimes, the condition can become too severe and a hospital visit is necessary. Here’s how to protect your gastrointestinal tract from the effects of alcohol.

How to Stop Diarrhea After Drinking Alcohol?

Drink Plenty of Water

Drinking lots of water is important to replace the fluid lost in diarrhea and to maintain a good balance of electrolytes in the blood.

Drinks such as sports beverages or oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are pre-packed with the right amount of electrolytes and can quickly replace them in the body, so it’s a good idea to increase their intake when you drink alcohol.

Avoid Fructose

Fructose is a type of sugar naturally found in fruits.

However, it can also be consumed in excess when you eat or drink things sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.

Examples include soft drinks like sodas, cocktails, and some types of prepackaged snacks.

The problem with fructose is that it’s osmotically active, meaning it draws water into the gut and causes diarrhea.

This makes it important to avoid fructose-based foods during alcohol-induced diarrhea.  

Take Antidiarrheal Medication

There are three anti-diarrhea drugs that can put a stop to your diarrhea. These are:

Loperamide (Imodium)

Loperamide acts on the gut muscles to slow down their contractions, which reduces gut motility and helps stop diarrhea.

But the drug can also act elsewhere in the body and lead to side effects such as nausea, constipation, dry mouth, urinary retention, and abdominal cramps.

Bismuth salicylate (Pepto-Bismol)

The exact mechanism of action of bismuth salicylate is not known.

But we do know that it is broken down into certain molecules in the gut, which bind to the gut’s innermost lining and form salts.

This prevents bad bacteria from binding to the gut and stops intestinal secretion of water.

However, in high doses, this drug can cause the tongue and teeth to become black. It can also cause tremors and difficulty sleeping.

Kaolin and pectin

Kaolin and pectin absorb fluid from the stool and increase its viscosity, reducing the amount of free water in the gut.

But they can cause constipation if used in large doses daily.

How to Prevent Alcohol-Induced Diarrhea?

Once you recover from your current bout of alcohol-induced diarrhea, here’s how to prevent it from happening again.

Limit alcohol consumption

Everyone’s body reacts differently to alcohol, meaning the right number of drinks per day is individualized.

Keep track of how much alcohol consumption causes diarrhea and limit your intake below that level.

Choose the right beverage

Some alcoholic beverages are more likely to cause diarrhea. For example, white wine and champagne are more likely to disturb the gut.

On the other hand, beverages like red wine are associated with a decreased risk of diarrhea.

Drink lots of water

Drinking water before and after consuming alcohol can reduce the chances of alcohol-induced diarrhea.

Water dilutes alcohol, which limits its action on the gut.

Improve your gut health

Eating a good amount of fiber daily, increasing your intake of probiotic food, and avoiding too much sugar intake can help increase the good bacteria population in your gut biome and prevent recurrent or chronic diarrhea.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Diarrhea?

Alcohol leads to diarrhea in four ways. They are:

Gut irritation

Alcohol irritates the gut, especially when taken in large amounts or on an empty stomach.

It directly interacts with the gut lining (mucosa), causing it to become inflamed and secrete more fluid into the gut lumen.

Stimulant properties

Alcohol metabolism produces acetate and acetaldehyde molecules that stimulate gut movement.

They cause the gut to contract more frequently, which does not allow enough time for it to reabsorb all the water from digested food.

Osmotic effects

Alcohol has osmotic properties, meaning it pulls water from the blood and into the gut.

Plus, sugars in alcohol cause the gut to secrete water to dilute it, leading to diarrhea.

Intolerance

Some people are intolerant to alcohol. Their gut is more sensitive to alcohol compared to other people, which makes them more likely to experience alcohol-induced diarrhea.

    Who Is More Likely to Develop Diarrhea After Drinking?

    People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease are more likely to develop diarrhea after drinking.

    Irritable Bowel Syndrome

    IBS occurs due to changes in how the brain communicates with the gut, leading to constipation or diarrhea. In people with IBS, alcohol can induce or worsen diarrhea.

    A study that compared healthy women with women suffering from IBS found drinking alcohol was more likely to cause diarrhea, bloating, and cramps in those with the disease.

    Heavy or binge drinking had a strong association with diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and indigestion the next day.

    Crohn’s Disease

    Crohn’s disease is caused by the body’s immune cells attacking the digestive system. People with Crohn’s disease are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol.

    According to a British study, the type and duration of alcohol consumption are linked to the type of symptoms in Crohn’s disease.

    White wine is 12% more likely to cause symptoms when compared to non-drinkers. Plus, more alcohol also leads to more frequent symptoms.

    The right amount of alcohol for a patient with Crohn’s disease needs to be established depending on individual tolerance.

    Celiac Disease

    People with celiac disease are overly sensitive to gluten, which is found in bread, barley, oats, and rye.

    Some alcoholic drinks, such as beer, also contain gluten. When people with celiac disease drink gluten-containing beverages, they are likely to experience diarrhea.

    Gluten-free drinks might not be a good option for celiac disease patients, either, because all alcoholic drinks cause inflammation in the digestive tract.

    Inflammation caused by alcohol can combine with the inflammation caused by celiac disease and lead to poor outcomes.

    When Should You See a Doctor for Alcoholic Diarrhea?

    Although alcoholic diarrhea is self-limiting, there are certain “red flags” that require a visit to the doctor.

    These red flags indicate that something other than alcohol might be at play. They include:

    • Persistent diarrhea: When diarrhea persists for longer than two days, it is time to visit a doctor because alcohol-induced diarrhea usually does not last that long.
    • Worsening symptoms: If your symptoms begin to worsen, seek medical attention.
    • Excessive dehydration: Excessive dehydration needs to be treated promptly through IV fluids. This means giving fluids intravenously directly into the bloodstream, which requires a clinical setting. Symptoms of excessive dehydration include drowsiness, a racing heartbeat, and a weak pulse.
    • Blood in stool: If there is blood in the stool—or if the stool is black in color—it means that there is bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract. Bleeding from the gut is a major red flag and requires testing and immediate treatment.  

    Frequently-Asked Questions

    How Long Does Alcohol Diarrhea Last?

    Alcohol diarrhea is self-limiting and lasts for a day or two.

    What Should You Avoid Eating After Drinking?

    After drinking alcohol, avoid spicy food, carbonated drinks that contain fructose, and acidic foods, as they can further inflame the gut.  

    Have Any Alcohol-Related Issues? We’re Here to Help

    If you’ve been struggling with excessive alcohol consumption, we offer telemedicine addiction treatment services that can help you recover from the comfort of your home. Book an appointment today.

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