Have you ever noticed puffiness in your face and your body after a long night of drinking alcohol? Bloating is one of the most common effects drinking alcohol can have on the body.
Most people are familiar with the term “beer belly,” the name for the stubborn fat that tends to form around your middle if you are a frequent drinker.
All kinds of alcohol — beer, wine, whiskey, you name it — are relatively calorie-dense, topping out at about 7 calories per gram. Add other ingredients to alcohol — like sugar — and the calorie count increases even more.
What causes alcohol bloating?
All of these calories mean that frequent drinking can lead to relatively easy weight gain. Depending on what you order or pour, just one drink might contain anywhere from fifty to several hundred calories.
Besides weight gain, alcohol can also lead to irritation of your gastrointestinal tract, which can cause bloating.
Alcohol is an inflammatory substance, meaning it tends to cause swelling in the body. This inflammation may be made much worse by the things often mixed with alcohol, such as sugary and carbonated liquids, which can result in gas, discomfort, and more bloating.
After a night out drinking, you may also notice bloating in your face, which is often accompanied by redness. This happens because alcohol dehydrates the body. When the body is dehydrated, skin and vital organs try to hold onto as much water as possible, leading to puffiness in the face and elsewhere.
How is alcohol bloating treated?
If you’ve noticed you’ve gained weight or tend to bloat when you drink alcohol, you may want to consider cutting back on your alcohol consumption.
According to the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the recommended amount of alcohol for men is up to two drinks per day and for women is up to one drink per day. A drink is defined as:
- 12 ounces of beer (at 5 percent alcohol)
- 8 ounces of malt liquor (at 7 percent alcohol)
- 5 ounces of wine (at 12 percent alcohol)
- 1.5 ounces of liquor or spirits (at 80-proof or 40 percent alcohol).
The body can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol every hour. How much alcohol you’re able to metabolize is dependent on your age, weight, sex, and other factors.
Keeping an eye on your drinking, along with eating healthfully and getting enough exercise, can help you prevent a beer belly.
Is alcohol bloating preventable?
If you’ve been drinking alcohol, you should drink water to quickly get rid of bloating in your face and stomach.
In fact, drinking water before, during, and after drinking alcohol can help prevent its inflammatory effects on the body. If you’re feeling bloated while drinking alcohol, switch over to drinking water.
Other ways to prevent bloating include:
- Eating and drinking more slowly, which can reduce the amount of air that you might swallow. Swallowing air can increase bloating.
- Staying away from carbonated drinks and beer, which release carbon dioxide gas into the body, increasing bloating.
- Avoiding gum or hard candy. These things make you suck in more air than normal.
- Quitting smoking, which also causes you to inhale and swallow air.
- Making sure your dentures fit well, as poorly fitting dentures can cause you to swallow excess air.
- Getting exercise after eating or drinking, which can help reduce bloating.
- Treating any heartburn issues. Heartburn can increase bloating.
- Removing or reducing gas-causing food from your diet, such as dairy, fatty foods, high-fiber foods, artificial sugars, beans, peas, lentils, cabbage, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, whole-grain foods, mushrooms, some fruits, beer, and carbonated drinks.
- Trying an over-the-counter gas remedy, which can reduce bloating.
- Trying digestive enzymes and/or probiotics to help you break food and drinks down, and support healthy gut bacteria, both of which may help reduce bloating
Beyond bloating, make sure you remember alcohol should be consumed in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can damage your body. It can cause brain and liver damage, and it increases your risk of cancers as well as your risk of death from car crashes, injuries, homicides, and suicide. If you’re pregnant, drinking alcohol can harm your baby.
If you find yourself consuming more alcohol than you plan, or you feel out of control when you’re drinking, seek medical help.
Alcohol abuse is a serious problem, but you can get help. See your doctor right away if you are concerned.