Although more research is needed on how alcohol affects IBS, drinking in moderation may help avoid making symptoms worse.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects around 10 to 15% of adults in the United States, according to the American College of Gastroenterology.

Although different triggers affect different people, a range of factors can cause IBS symptoms, including drinking alcohol. Alcohol may stimulate the digestive tract, leading to IBS symptoms.

IBS is a group of intestinal symptoms that occur together. It’s a functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID) condition, meaning that it’s related to problems with how your brain and gut interact.

Symptoms of IBS may include:

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.

Research suggests that drinking a large amount of alcohol over a short time period may worsen the IBS symptom of diarrhea. However, drinking light to moderate amounts of alcohol may not increase IBS symptoms.

Based on studies and dietary guidelines, researchers recommend that people with IBS drink safe amounts of alcohol, with 2 alcohol-free days a week.

A safe amount is considered no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men. The drink may be:

  • 5 oz. of wine that is 12% alcohol
  • 12 oz. of 5% alcohol beer
  • 1.5 oz. of 80-proof liquor (40% alcohol)

The researchers also noted that alcohol decreases the 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 the digestive symptoms associated with IBS.

Experts note that following a low-FODMAP diet may 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.

According to the IBS Network, 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 affect 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 the recommended one or two drinks per day, with 2 alcohol-free days each week.

When it comes to drinking alcohol, moderation is key. Also, be aware of 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.