‘Tis the season for socializing – and, in many cases, increased alcohol consumption. Thanks to holiday parties, friend gatherings and family dinners, there’s a good chance you’ll be passed a drink on several occasions in December. And not to be a wet blanket, but booze can really do a number on your digestive system.
Here are some ways alcohol affects the gut: It slows digestion and impacts enzyme production, which can result in abdominal discomfort, according to a 1997 study titled “Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Disorders”. What’s more, certain alcoholic drinks contain common gut irritants like fructose and gluten. And we all know drinking alcohol causes dehydration, which leads to an increased likelihood of constipation. Excess alcohol consumption can also trigger heartburn, stomach pain and diarrhea, especially for people with IBS.
But if you are going to drink, there are ways to prevent disaster. I must emphasize that you’re the most effective gauge of how you feel. If there are certain drinks you know cause trouble, avoid them! That said, here are some words of caution:
– Authors of The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet state “the most common potential problem with alcoholic beverages is their fructose load.” High-fructose beverages include sweet, sparkling and dessert wines, rum, cider, coolers and drinks mixed with sugary pop and juice.
– For the gluten-sensitive, beer is a problem; however, there are a few gluten-free beers on the market, and Budweiser has stated its beer is brewed without wheat (though not completely gluten-free).
– Cream-based liqueurs have the no-no combo of sugar, fat and dairy.
– Some people are sensitive to wines high in sulphites, alcohol aged in casks (e.g. scotch) and quinine, found in tonic water.
What’s left, you ask? Most spirits are considered on the safer side when combined with a non-sweet mixer, as are dry white wines and lower-alcohol red wines. Then there are the increasingly popular “digestifs” like cynar, with herbal ingredients purported to actually help people digest heavy meals (I prefer herbal tea). Again, you’re the best judge of what your stomach can handle and moderation is always key.
If you’re going to drink booze, it’s important to remember popular hangover prevention tips also help prevent digestive meltdowns. Don’t consume too much, stay hydrated and try not to drink on an empty stomach. Trust me – your gut will thank you.
Always consult your physician before starting or changing a new diet or exercise program.