Last Updated on January 13, 2022
As gross or unpleasant as it may be to talk about, the truth is many people experience diarrhea after drinking too much alcohol. Below, we’ll discuss why your stomach may be tied up in knots the morning after, and what you can do about it.
Can Drinking Too Much Alcohol Cause Diarrhea?
To begin with, yes. If you’ve ever woken up after a night of drinking unable to stop going back and forth to the toilet, you know what we’re talking about. While one or two drinks may not wreak havoc on your digestive system, a heavy bout of drinking can definitely mess with your intestines.
Alcohol is ingested and transported through your GI (gastrointestinal) tract, and can have a significant impact on your gut health. If you already have a GI tract disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), alcohol can also worsen your symptoms
Drinking causes multiple changes to your GI tract that can result in diarrhea, including:
- GI tract inflammation, leading to more frequent bowel movements
- Disrupted gut bacteria and gastric acid content
- Damaged mucous lining in your GI tract, increasing the permeability of your intestines (which can cause “leaky gut” syndrome).
- Acetaldehyde buildup in the colon (a toxin released during alcohol breakdown).
Not to mention that you might make worse dietary choices while drinking, making the situation even worse.
Why Do I Get Diarrhea After Drinking Beer and Wine?
The type of alcohol you drink can increase the chances that you’ll get diarrhea. Beer and wine pose a higher risk than hard liquors like vodka and whiskey.
Beverages with lower alcohol concentration, like beer and wine, speed up GI tract activity. This increases the chances of diarrhea and other stomach issues. Such drinks also increase the production of gastric acid, which can irritate your stomach. Some people may also be allergic to certain compounds in wine, which can increase the risk of intestinal issues.
Can Vodka and Whiskey Give You Diarrhea?
Drinks that have a higher alcohol concentration, like vodka, whiskey, and other types of liquor, slow down GI tract activity. They also have less impact on gastric acid production. This makes these beverages an improvement over wine and beer. However, the alcohol itself can still disrupt your digestive process. It’s still possible to get diarrhea from too much vodka or whiskey.
On top of this, sugary mixers which are often combined with these liquors can have their own laxative effect. So despite some advantages, if you drink vodka or whiskey you’re not 100 percent in the clear.
Can Alcohol Cause Diarrhea for Days?
It is normal for your digestive tract to take a few days to return to normal after an episode of heavy drinking. However, if your diarrhea lasts longer than this, you should see a doctor. Prolonged diarrhea can lead to other health problems, such as malnutrition, dehydration, and weight loss.
If you are a heavy drinker, you may have diarrhea more frequently and for prolonged periods of time. This can be a sign of ongoing damage to your GI tract from heavy alcohol use. Liver damage can also throw your gut health out of balance, and diarrhea is a symptom of liver cirrhosis.
If you drink often, and consistently have diarrhea, it may be a good idea to check with your doctor about the cause and find a way to quit or cut back.
How to Stop Diarrhea After Drinking
There are a couple of things you can do to reduce the risk of getting diarrhea when you drink alcohol:
- Hydrate and eat simple foods before you start drinking. Do not drink on an empty stomach.
- Drink in moderation. One episode of moderate social drinking—two or three drinks total—is unlikely to cause major stomach issues
There are also several things you can do to feel better if you get diarrhea after drinking too much alcohol:
- Stop drinking alcohol until your symptoms improve.
- Avoid foods that can irritate the GI tract, such as dairy products, fatty foods, and high-fiber foods.
- Take over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicine, such as Imodium or Pepto-Bismol.
- Drink plenty of water and electrolytes. Alcohol is a diuretic, causing dehydration, and diarrhea can make dehydration worse.
Can Quitting Drinking Give You Diarrhea?
Although alcohol withdrawal can cause diarrhea, in the long run you’ll likely see an improvement. Often, heavy drinkers can reverse at least some of the GI tract damage caused by alcohol, and restore good gut bacteria after quitting.
If you are finding it difficult to reduce your alcohol consumption, and side effects of alcohol—like diarrhea—are having a negative impact on your life, Ria’s online program may be able to help.
Ria Health offers comprehensive support to reduce or quit drinking, all from an app on your smartphone. Choose moderation or abstinence. Set your own goals, and get a plan customized to your unique needs.
Learn more about how it works, or speak with a member of our team today.
- Bishehsari F et al. Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation. Alcohol Res. 2017; 38(2): 163–171. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- National Institutes of Health. Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- Grad S et al. The Effect of Alcohol on Gastrointestinal Motility. Rev Recent Clin Trials. 2016; 11(3): 191-5. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- Wigand P et al. Prevalence of Wine Intolerance. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2012 Jun; 109(25): 437–444. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- Yale New Haven Health. Sugar Alcohol. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- Kalaitzakis E. Gastrointestinal dysfunction in liver cirrhosis. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Oct 28; 20(40): 14686–14695. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- Reddy N K et al. (PDF) Alcohol-Related Diarrhea. Diarrhea. 2010 Oct: 379-392. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & Causes of Diarrhea. Accessed January 28, 2021.