Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects around 10 to 15 percent of adults in the United States, estimates the American College of Gastroenterology. IBS is a group of intestinal symptoms that occur together. Symptoms can include:

  • cramping
  • gas
  • bloating
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain

Although different triggers affect different people, a range of factors can cause symptoms, including alcohol.

There doesn’t appear to be a definite answer to the specific effects alcohol has on IBS symptoms. Rather, it’s a question that can only be answered individually.

A 2013 study suggests the reason for this inconsistency may be that alcohol’s effects on IBS simply differ according to the person’s pattern of alcohol use.

Researchers also noted alcohol decreases absorption and movement of carbohydrates, like FODMAPs. This can increase their side effects and thus IBS symptoms, such as bloating, gas, and stomach pain.

FODMAP is an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed by some people. They’ve been linked to digestive symptoms such as:

Experts note following a low-FODMAP diet can help relieve symptoms for many people who have IBS.

You can even choose alcoholic beverages that might have less of an impact on your IBS.

The IBS Network notes low-FODMAP alcoholic drinks include:

  • beer (although carbonation and gluten may be an issue for some)
  • red or white wine (although sugar may be an issue for some)
  • whiskey
  • vodka
  • gin

High-FODMAP alcoholic drinks to avoid include:

  • cider
  • rum
  • sherry
  • port
  • sweet dessert wine

You can also use the low-FODMAP diet to choose mixers. For example, while many fruit juices are high in FODMAPs, tomato juice and cranberry juice (without high fructose corn syrup) can be low-FODMAP choices. Seltzer is also a low-FODMAP beverage for mixing cocktails.

If you decide to drink alcohol, pay attention to your consumption to help you determine whether the type and amount of alcohol affects your IBS, and if so, how.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • If you notice an increase in your IBS symptoms when you drink, consider abstaining from alcohol.
  • Be sure to drink water when you’re drinking alcohol. Staying hydrated might help dilute the alcohol, making it less irritating.
  • Eat when you drink. Food in your stomach can help protect it from irritation. Of course, choose your food wisely. Avoid foods that trigger your IBS symptoms.
  • Maintain a slow intake to give your digestive system time to process the alcohol.
  • Consider limiting consumption to one drink per day.

When it comes to drinking alcohol, moderation is key. Also take note what triggers your IBS symptoms, and work to manage those triggers in the future.

For some people, completely avoiding alcohol may be the best solution. And aside from preventing IBS triggers, not drinking alcohol at all is typically good for your overall health.