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Diarrhea After Drinking: Exploring the Causes and Remedies

Diarrhea After Drinking: Exploring the Causes and Remedies

Alcohol intake can cause many gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea; however, preventive measures can reduce its chances.

Many people can experience diarrhea after drinking because of several changes in the gastrointestinal tract, such as inflammation in the gut, imbalance of bacteria, and disturbance in water resorption. Alcohol-related diarrhea mainly depends on the type and quantity of alcohol consumed. Unfortunately, alcohol-related diarrhea can lead to potentially life-threatening complications like shock, severe dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. However, you may prevent alcohol-related diarrhea by avoiding alcohol intake on an empty stomach, drinking plenty of water, and consuming alcohol in moderation. If you are suffering from other gut problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease, alcohol can worsen the symptoms.

Confidant Health is an online platform that offers Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) involving behavioral therapy and medications to help you cope with problems related to alcohol misuse. Furthermore, this platform offers a virtual alcohol rehabilitation program, providing you an opportunity to discuss your challenges related to alcohol dependence with an expert.

What causes diarrhea after drinking alcohol?

Alcohol can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms by the following mechanisms.

  1. Gut motility refers to the muscle movement of the gastrointestinal tract required to move food from the mouth toward the anal opening. Increased motility can result in diarrhea and watery stools. Alcohol, particularly low-dose wine and beer, can increase esophageal, gastric, and intestinal motility. 
  2. The human intestine has more than 500 bacterial species, most of which are good for gut health as they play a beneficial role in digestion. Alcohol consumption can disrupt the gut's bacterial balance, promoting the growth of bad bacteria. This change in bacterial balance can result in diarrhea-related problems.
  3. Mucosa is the internal lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and it provides protection against harmful pathogens and toxins. Alcohol produces local inflammation in the gut, decreasing the immunity of mucosa. As a result, the gut becomes susceptible to intestinal pathogens, including diarrhea-causing bacteria and parasites. 
  4. Alcohol interrupts the absorption of nutrients in the stomach, including fats, vitamins A, E, folic acid, and vitamin B12. Less absorption of fats results in an increased amount of fats in the gut, resulting in diarrhea. Just like fats, water is also not appropriately absorbed back into the body, increasing the water content of stools.

Is there any role of type and amount of alcohol in causing alcohol-related diarrhea?

The brand or type of alcohol plays a vital role in causing diarrhea. For example, beer and wine increase the chances of diarrhea more than vodka and whiskey. This is because beer and wine have less pure alcohol content than the latter ones. A low dose of pure alcohol can increase gut motility and stomach acid secretions relatively in higher amounts than high alcohol content drinks. Similarly, chronic alcohol consumption can cause inflammation and irritation of gastric mucosa, leading to diarrhea.

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What are the risk factors for getting diarrhea after drinking alcohol?

Following are some risk factors that increase the risk for alcohol-related diarrhea.

Binge drinking

Binge drinking refers to the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol (5 or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women) on an occasion. In binge drinking, a large dose of alcohol suddenly reaches the gut, increasing the likelihood of diarrhea.

Eating heavy foods

Consuming heavy foods like fatty meats, heavy sauces, and butter can also increase the risk of diarrhea in people taking alcohol. It is because alcohol may decrease the digestive enzymes needed to break down heavy foods. Hence, food malabsorption can occur if one misuses alcohol while eating heavy foods, leading to loose, watery stools.

Underlying gut conditions

People suffering from gut-related diseases are most likely to get diarrhea after drinking alcohol. Common gut conditions that increase the risk for alcohol-related diarrhea include the following.

  1. Celiac disease 
  2. Irritable bowel syndrome
  3. Crohn's disease 

These diseases can increase the sensitivity of the gut to alcohol, increasing the likelihood of diarrhea after drinking.

Which can be the complications of alcohol-related diarrhea?

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to prevent diarrhea after I drink alcohol?

The following are some self-help steps that can help prevent diarrhea after taking alcohol.

  1. Hydrate yourself with ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) and plain water to reduce the effects of alcohol. Moreover, an ORS contains carbohydrates, electrolytes, and water that can help compensate for the water and electrolyte loss during diarrheal episodes. 
  2. Eat something before drinking alcohol, as eating before moderate drinking can decrease the intensity of alcohol-related effects. However, avoid dairy products, caffeine, and fat-rich foods because such foods can increase the chances of alcohol-related diarrhea.
  3. Stop alcohol consumption or drink it in moderation to prevent alcohol-related diarrhea. If you’re struggling with alcohol misuse and need expert guidance, Confidant Health’s online MAT therapy can help you cope with alcohol-related issues.
  4. Take a probiotic before drinking, as it can help restore the levels of good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria act as an intestinal barrier to several toxins and pathogens, preventing the incidence of alcohol-related diarrhea.

Can alcohol cause diarrhea for days?

In most cases, alcohol-related diarrhea resolves on its own in 1-3 days. But unfortunately, alcohol can also damage the internal lining of the intestinal tract. In such a case, diarrhea may last for several days.

How long after drinking alcohol-related diarrhea stop?

Alcohol-related diarrhea typically lasts for 2-3 days after drinking alcohol. However, it may last only up to 24 hours if the antidiarrheal treatment has been started. But, if you are a heavy alcohol user or keep drinking despite loose stools, diarrhea may get prolonged.

How to treat alcohol-induced diarrhea?

In most people, alcohol-induced diarrhea gets resolved on its own without any medical help. However, medical treatment and natural remedies may help treat diarrhea if it gets prolonged or has some warning signs. 

Natural Remedies for alcohol-induced diarrhea

Home remedies that can help treat diarrhea include the following.

Medical options for alcohol-induced diarrhea

If alcohol-related diarrhea persists longer than expected, following medical management can be helpful.

  • Probiotics can restore gut bacteria, increasing the chances of gut recovery.
  • Soluble fiber supplements like Psyllium husk can improve diarrhea by slowing down and helping bulk up the stool.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) antidiarrheals, such as Imodium or Peptio-Bismol, can decrease the frequency and improve the consistency of stools. These medications are available both in pill or liquid forms.
  • In severe cases, intravenous (IV) therapy with IV fluids, antidiarrheals, and antibiotics may be required.

However, one needs to understand that the primary cause of alcohol-induced diarrhea is alcohol consumption. So, stopping or moderating alcohol intake is the main line of treatment for alcohol-induced diarrhea. If one is struggling with alcohol misuse or dependence, online  Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and alcohol rehabilitation programs can be helpful.

When to see a doctor?

The following are some signs that indicate the severity of diarrhea.

Consult with Confidant Health’s Consultants

Confidant Health is a virtual platform that offers Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) and alcohol rehabilitation programs to help you overcome alcohol-related problems. In MAT therapy, a healthcare professional may prescribe medications and offer counseling sessions to help you cope with the alcohol use disorder. Similarly, alcohol rehab programs involve discussions and talk sessions with an expert to resolve the challenges associated with alcohol dependence and misuse. You can download Confidant Health’s app here to start your journey toward a healthy alcohol-free lifestyle.

This article has been medically reviewed by
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Erin Hillers
Nurse Practitioner

Erin is a Nurse Practitioner with 8 years of experience in midwifery and women's health. She has spent the past 5 years specializing in the treatment of opioid and alcohol use disorders.

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