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Updated on September 15, 2023
10 min read

Alcohol and Diarrhea

Kelly Brown
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
12 Sources Cited
Kelly Brown
Written by 
12 Sources Cited

Can Alcohol Consumption Cause Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is a side effect of drinking alcoholic beverages. The risk of it occurring after drinking increases based on the type and amount of alcohol consumed.

For most people, experiencing diarrhea after drinking is merely an unpleasant side effect of drinking too much alcohol. However, it can be dangerous if it leads to dehydration or is recurrent enough to damage the digestive system.


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How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Digestive System

Alcohol can disrupt gastrointestinal function, leading to reduced nutrient absorption and an increased likelihood of overeating, which can contribute to weight gain over time.

For most people, even a small amount of alcohol can trigger:

  • Inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • Increased production of gastric acid
  • The inability of the large intestine to properly absorb water needed for hydration
  • Faster digestion due to an increase in colon contractions
  • Bacterial imbalance due to alcohol killing off healthy bacteria in the gut

An excessive amount of alcohol changes the composition of the gut by killing healthy bacteria and allowing unhealthy bacteria to grow.

Alcohol also negatively impacts the central nervous system by interfering with neurotransmitter signaling and impairing cognitive function. It contributes to poor decision-making and increased caloric intake.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Diarrhea?

There are a few reasons why you experience diarrhea after you drink alcohol:

1. Alcohol Gets Absorbed Easily by Your Body’s Tissues

Alcohol enters the bloodstream moments after you take a sip. You’ll be able to feel its effects within minutes.

Most alcohol absorption occurs during digestion, irritating the stomach and intestines and increasing acid production.

The effects worsen if you drink on an empty stomach, so you get intoxicated much faster if you haven't eaten before drinking.

2. Alcohol Is High in Sugar

Sugar triggers an osmotic effect in the gut, increasing water and electrolyte secretion and resulting in loose bowel movements.

Studies show that most people who consume 40 to 80 grams or more of sugar daily develop diarrhea.

3. Alcohol Triggers Inflammation

Even a healthy person who consumes alcohol moderately can experience diarrhea after drinking because alcohol negatively impacts the digestive system.

Inflammation causes the stomach to produce more acid, which results in diarrhea. It speeds up the digestion process and damages the gut’s healthy bacteria.

4. Many Types of Alcohol Contain Gluten

Gluten-related allergic reactions can be triggered by particular alcohol. If a gluten-sensitive person consumes alcohol containing gluten, it will trigger a response that can result in diarrhea.

5. Alcohol Affects Gut Bacteria

Alcohol adversely affects the gut microbiota by disrupting the equilibrium between beneficial and harmful bacteria, resulting in gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea.

Additionally, certain types of alcohol and excessive consumption can induce water retention in the gut, leading to loose stools and complications in fermentation processes. This worsens the already present negative effects on gut health and digestion.


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Dangers of Diarrhea After Drinking

Usually, diarrhea after drinking is not an alarming issue. A few days of self-care resolves most cases. However, if diarrhea persists, it can lead to serious problems, especially dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Extreme thirst
  • Infrequent, decreased, or no urine
  • Dark-colored or dark-yellow urine
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Lack of energy
  • Fuzzy thinking

Untreated dehydration can become a life-threatening condition that can lead to liver problems. 

Together with unchecked alcohol consumption, other liver conditions may develop, such as alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and alcoholic cirrhosis.


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How Long Does Alcohol-Induced Diarrhea Last?

After drinking alcohol, most people experience alcohol-induced diarrhea with a more sensitive digestive tract for 1 to 3 days. Should you experience persistent symptoms for more than that, the safest thing to do is consult your doctor.

If you binge drink or suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD), you may be at higher risk of experiencing chronic diarrhea.

What Increases the Risk of Alcohol-Induced Diarrhea?

You have an increased risk of experiencing alcohol-related diarrhea due to the following risk factors:

1. Poor Lifestyle Choices

Binge drinking, drinking on an empty stomach, irregular sleep schedules, and an unhealthy diet all put you at risk of developing diarrhea.

Regular heavy drinking is also associated with a higher risk of gastrointestinal cancer, such as stomach and esophageal cancer.

2. Alcohol Intolerance

Alcohol intolerance occurs when the body has difficulty processing alcohol. This difficulty can occur when they have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH).

Diarrhea is an immediate consequence of alcohol intolerance, likely related to the body’s response to the toxic acetaldehyde buildup.

3. Gastrointestinal or Bladder Diseases

You will likely develop diarrhea after drinking if you have a pre-existing gastrointestinal or bladder health issue.

This is especially true for people with sensitive digestive systems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, or Crohn’s disease.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a chronic digestive disorder caused by an immune reaction to gliadin. Gliadin is a gluten protein in wheat, rye, barley, and some oats.

Oats are often contaminated with gluten if processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, and barley.

Someone with celiac disease who consumes alcohol or other triggering foods will experience bloating, inflammation, and the small intestine's lining destruction.

It makes their bodies less capable of absorbing nutrients and minerals. One of the symptoms of celiac disease is diarrhea.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract.  It may affect all parts of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus, but it commonly affects the small intestine.

In addition to diarrhea due to alcohol intake, someone with Crohn’s can have a higher risk of developing ulcers.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder. Most people do not experience severe complications from IBS, but it is a recurring cause of discomfort and inconvenience.

It’s possible to manage the symptoms of this condition, and avoiding alcohol is one of its main solutions.

What to Avoid When Recovering From Alcohol-Induced Diarrhea

If you have alcohol-induced diarrhea, avoid drinking or eating anything that could upset your stomach until your digestion returns to normal.

Your diarrhea should clear up in a few days if you abstain from consuming the following food and drinks:

  • Any alcoholic beverages
  • High-FODMAP mixers such as tonic water, colas, and fruit juices containing high fructose corn syrup
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Food with spices or lots of seasoning
  • Food containing a lot of fat, like butter, cheese, and beef
  • Dairy products, including milk and cream (plain yogurt can be an exception, depending on how your body reacts to it)

Do Certain Drinks Cause Diarrhea More Than Others?

Different alcoholic beverages have an increased risk of causing diarrhea. The more concentrated the drink, the more likely it is to cause loose or watery stool.

Here are a few examples:

  • Whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Vodka

The composition of the drink can also be a factor. Drinks like beer and sugary cocktails can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Prevention and Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Diarrhea

The best way to prevent alcohol-related diarrhea is not to consume alcohol. If you prefer not to abstain completely, you can reduce your risk by drinking slowly and only consuming moderate amounts.

Here are some more tips to prevent and treat alcohol-related diarrhea:

1. Avoid Drinking on an Empty Stomach

It’s important to never drink on an empty stomach. Food in your stomach slows the absorption of alcohol and provides a barrier, so alcohol is not as irritating to your digestive tract.

2. Add Digestible Foods to Your Diet

Eating before consuming alcoholic drinks isn’t the only thing you should do. If you have diarrhea, you should eat simple foods that are easy to digest, such as:

  • Rice
  • Bananas
  • Bread/toast
  • Saltines
  • Eggs
  • Chicken

In addition, you should avoid high-fat foods, as they impair fat absorption and allow undigested fat to travel to the colon. When this occurs, it causes osmotic diarrhea, leading to loose stool.

Certain fatty foods can also increase gastric acid production, irritating the stomach.

3. Stay Hydrated

People who get diarrhea after drinking will lose a lot of fluids and electrolytes. Drink plenty of clear fluids to replace the water you lost. These liquids include water, broth, tea, and juice.

4. Take Soluble Fiber Supplements

One way to help prevent alcohol-related diarrhea is by taking fiber supplements. A soluble fiber supplement absorbs water in the bowels and helps your stool firm up before passing.

5. Switch to Clear Spirits

Clear spirits like vodka, gin, and white rum are more easily digestible than other alcoholic beverages, as they contain fewer congeners and additives. This reduces their likelihood of triggering gastrointestinal symptoms.

These clear spirits may be preferable for individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). However, it's essential to note that even these options should be consumed in moderation.

6. Restore Electrolyte Balance with Sodium

You can offset the effects of alcohol and diarrhea by replenishing your body’s sodium supply. If you wake up after a night of drinking with a hangover and an unsettled stomach, consider drinking high-sodium drinks such as Gatorade, V8, or Pedialyte to rebalance your body’s electrolyte balance.

7. Take Probiotics

Probiotics can help manage diarrhea by restoring the balance of gut microbiota, particularly strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii.

After alcohol consumption, probiotics containing strains like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have shown potential benefits in restoring gut health. These benefits include:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved gut barrier function
  • Alleviated gastrointestinal symptoms

You can buy probiotic supplements over the counter and take them orally. You can also add natural probiotics to your diet through fermented foods like yogurt with live cultures, kefir, and sauerkraut.

If you are considering taking probiotics in supplement form, speak with your doctor to determine your dosage.

8. Take OTC Diarrhea Medication

If necessary, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) antidiarrheal medications. These include Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) and Imodium (loperamide).

Follow the instructions on the box carefully, and do not take more than the recommended dosage.

Quitting Drinking and Diarrhea Improvement

Although alcohol irritates the bowels, quitting alcohol abruptly can still affect your digestive system due to your body in withdrawal.

During alcohol withdrawal, the sudden cessation of alcohol removes the inhibitory effects alcohol has on the central nervous system. This can lead to increased activity in the gastrointestinal tract, affecting gut motility and function.

Some factors of alcohol withdrawal that can cause diarrhea include the following:

  • Changes in gut function and motility
  • Increased nervous system activity
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Fluid and electrolyte imbalance

If you experience alcohol-related diarrhea due to staying sober, you may need medical advice to help manage your symptoms during withdrawal. 

When to See a Doctor for Alcohol-Induced Diarrhea

Most cases of diarrhea will resolve in a few days, especially if you use the above home treatments. 

If you have symptoms of dehydration and any of the following, see a doctor immediately:

  • Black or bloody stool
  • Diarrhea for over two days with no signs of recovery
  • Intense rectal or abdominal pain
  • Fever exceeding 102˚F (39˚C)

If you consistently experience diarrhea after alcohol consumption, you should reconsider your drinking habits and contact a healthcare professional. 


Alcohol-induced diarrhea is typically harmless and subsides after 1 to 3 days. Knowing how much alcohol you can handle can help you drink in moderation.

However, people are more at risk of alcohol-related diarrhea if they engage in binge drinking, have alcohol intolerance, or have gastrointestinal and bladder diseases.

Reducing your risk of alcohol-induced diarrhea is possible by simply avoiding alcohol consumption, drinking in moderation, or taking OTC and home remedies.

If you have difficulties abstaining from alcohol due to alcohol abuse, contact your healthcare provider to discover which treatment programs can help you stay sober.

Updated on September 15, 2023
12 sources cited
Updated on September 15, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
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  4. Diarrhea after Drinking Alcohol: Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 2017.

  5. Shiotani et al. “Impact of Diarrhea after Drinking on Colorectal Tumor Risk: A Case Control Study.” Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention: APJCP, 2019.

  6. Grad et al. “The Effect of Alcohol on Gastrointestinal Motility.” Reviews on recent clinical trials, 2016.

  7. Emily et al. “Alcohol Hangover: Underlying Biochemical, Inflammatory and Neurochemical Mechanisms.” Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), 2019.

  8. Acute Alcohol Intoxication.” Mount Holyoke College, 2020.

  9. Engen et al. “The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota.” Alcohol research: Current Reviews, 2015.

  10. Bishehsari et. al. "Alcohol and gut-derived inflammation." Alcohol Research: Current Reviews,  2017.

  11. Tong et al. “Acute diarrhea-induced shock during alcohol withdrawal: a case study” 2021.

  12. Alcohol Metabolism, Alcohol Intolerance, and Alcoholism.” Google Books. 2023.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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