The pink liquid or pink pill of bismuth subsalicylate (commonly known by the brand name Pepto-Bismol) can relieve symptoms like upset stomach and diarrhea. So when you’ve overdone it on the alcohol, it may sound like a great plan for easing your stomach woes.
However, there are some reasons why Pepto-Bismol and alcohol may not mix as well as a Jack and Coke did the night before. Keep reading for some considerations before reaching for the Pepto when your stomach hurts.
Pepto’s active ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate, has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the irritation that can cause diarrhea and upset stomach.
The medicine also coats the stomach lining, which acts as a barrier between the stomach lining and the substances that could irritate the stomach, such as stomach acid.
Pepto also has antimicrobial effects. For this reason, doctors prescribe it to treat H. pyloriinfections that can cause acid reflux and upset stomach.
Alcohol can irritate the stomach lining and cause a symptom known as gastritis. The condition can cause symptoms such as:
- food regurgitation
- upper abdominal pain
Periodic gastritis from a night of overindulging usually isn’t that bad. However, those who have alcohol use disorder or often binge drink can experience damage due to chronic inflammation in the stomach lining. This can result in ulcers and gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding.
The main reason why Pepto and alcohol don’t mix well is that the liver is (at least in part) responsible for metabolizing both alcohol and Pepto-Bismol. While the gastrointestinal tract is mostly responsible for absorbing the active ingredients in Pepto-Bismol, it’s believed the liver breaks some down as well.
The potential problem with this is if the liver is too busy breaking down one drug, it may not break the other down as effectively. This can potentially damage the liver and also extend the amount of time both Pepto-Bismol and alcohol are present in the body.
Doctors also worry about the use of Pepto-Bismol and alcohol if a person has ulcers. These are areas of the stomach that aren’t protected by the stomach’s lining, and can result in pain and bleeding. The combination of alcohol and Pepto-Bismol can increase the risks for GI bleeding.
One sign to look for
If you do use Pepto to try and relieve your upset stomach while drinking or after drinking, watch your stool for symptoms of GI bleeding. This can include bright or dark red blood in your stool.
Pepto can turn your stool black, so this change in color doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem.
Biggest concerns of combining both
- both staying in your body longer and/or taking longer to process
- overworking the liver and possible liver damage
- increased chance of GI bleeding
A lot of the potential interactions between Pepto-Bismol and alcohol are theoretical. There aren’t a lot of medical reports from people who’ve been harmed by the alcohol-and-Pepto combo. But there also aren’t any studies in the past few decades that show taking Pepto after drinking is beneficial or safe.
There are a few studies from the 1990s that didn’t report side effects from using Pepto and drinking. One from 1990 published in the Journal of International Medical Research studied 132 volunteers who drank to excess and took either Pepto or a placebo.
At the end of the study, they didn’t find any side effects from taking the medicine and drinking. The participants who took Pepto did report better symptom relief. Again, this is an older study and one of the few that looked at Pepto and alcohol.
A hangover is the combination of dehydration, irritation to your stomach and your body’s efforts to clear the alcohol from your system. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do other than let time pass and your body clear the alcohol from your system.
Doctors haven’t proven any definitive methods for curing or speeding up a hangover’s symptoms — this even includes studies on giving intravenous (IV) fluids and taking a pain reliever before bed.
You can drink water or other electrolyte-containing beverages in an attempt to re-hydrate. But drinking plenty of fluids is a healthy idea whether you have a hangover or not.
Until you feel better, you can also eat bland foods that aren’t likely to upset your stomach further. These include:
- plain crackers
Get checked after a day
If you don’t feel better after about 24 hours, you may want to see your doctor in case your symptoms may be related to another medical condition.
Pepto-Bismol and alcohol have some potential interactions that make most doctors warn against using them at the same time. While you may be able to use both at the same time, Pepto probably won’t help you feel better after drinking or prevent later hangover symptoms. As a result, it’s probably better skipped.