How Alcohol Affects Your Stool

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5 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Poop

Alcohol can take a significant toll on your health. One way that alcohol impacts your health is by affecting your digestive system.7 

Consuming alcohol can change your bowel movements and your stool. It can damage everything from your intestines to your liver function.

Here are five ways that alcohol affects your poop:

1. Alcohol irritates your insides.

Alcohol can cause stomach pain. That’s because alcohol and its metabolites affect your gastrointestinal tract (or digestive tract).

Specifically, alcohol affects the epithelial layer of your intestines. Drinking alcohol can cause inflammation in the small intestine and large intestine.2

When the intestines are irritated, they cannot absorb nutrients properly. What they can’t absorb gets expelled. In other words: You poop.

2. Alcohol alters your hormones.

Your body naturally produces vasopressin. Vasopressin is an antidiuretic hormone that serves many purposes. One is promoting proper kidney functioning, including the regulation of water retention.4

However, alcohol suppresses vasopressin secretion. People with alcoholism have decreased vasopressin levels, even during alcohol withdrawal.6

Lower vasopressin levels lowers your body’s ability to retain water. This is why you urinate more while drinking alcohol. It is also why your poop may be watery.

3. Alcohol increases gut motility.

Gut motility refers to the stretching and contracting of the gastrointestinal muscles. Peristalsis refers to the synchronized contraction of these muscles.9

Alcohol consumption increases gut motility. This means that you have faster contractions, so the waste in your colon comes out faster. Therefore, alcohol can increase the frequency of your bowel movements and the amount of waste you produce.5

You may not have normal stools when you drink alcohol. Alcohol-related diarrhea is common. This is especially true among acute binge drinkers and people who suffer from alcoholism.10

4. Alcohol can hurt your gut.

Chronic alcohol consumption can make the mucous membrane more permeable. Down the line, this can lead to leaky gut syndrome.8

Your stomach has an intestinal lining that covers more than 4,000 square feet of surface area. When it functions properly, it controls what the bloodstream absorbs.8

An unhealthy lining can have cracks or holes. If it does, bits of undigested food, toxins, and bacteria can leak in. This affects your natural gut flora, which includes normal (healthy) bacteria.8

Changes in gut flora is linked to several common chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and type-2 diabetes.8

5. Alcohol can affect your liver function.

Chronic alcohol use can cause liver complications, like liver cirrhosis. This refers to serious scarring of the liver.3

Eventually, liver cirrhosis can lead to end-stage liver disease.1 With liver disease, a transplant may be necessary. Without liver transplantation or treatment, this disease can be fatal.

Chronic alcohol consumption is also linked to liver cancer.1

If you have alcohol-induced liver damage or liver disease, you may notice changes in your stool. For example, your stool might be dark or black. You may also find blood in your stool.1

Plus, if your liver does not function properly, bile production may become irregular.

Typically, the liver releases bile salts in stool that gives it a brown color. If your liver does not produce enough bile, you may have pale stools or clay-colored poop instead.

Tips for Preventing Alcoholic Stools 

Here are some tips to prevent alcoholic stools:

  • Cut back on your alcohol intake
  • Eat food before and while you drink alcohol
  • Take vitamin supplements that support bile production
  • Maintain a healthy diet to promote a healthier biliary system
  • Seek addiction treatment if you suffer from alcohol use disorder

The number one way to prevent alcoholic stools is to abstain from drinking alcohol altogether. Improved gastrointestinal health is just one of the health benefits of quitting alcohol. 

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When are Alcohol-Induced Stools a Problem?

Typically, the alcoholic stool should pass within a day or two. They become a problem when they are persistent.

Alcoholic stool accompanied by intense symptoms also demands immediate medical attention. Contact your healthcare provider if you have extreme weakness, severe dehydration, or debilitating abdominal pain.

When to See a Doctor (+ Treatment Options)

Stool color or consistency changes do not always have an underlying cause. The changes may simply be due to your diet.

If stool changes are obviously linked to alcohol consumption, they should clear up quickly. Your body should expel alcoholic stools within 24 to 48 hours.

However, you should see a doctor if you notice persistent changes or have other symptoms that are severe.

People who have the following health issues are more prone to complications from alcohol:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Celiac disease
  • Liver disease
  • Other gastrointestinal-related health conditions

If you suffer from an underlying condition like the ones listed above, it is not safe to consume alcohol. Your healthcare provider can help you better manage the condition.

If you suffer from alcohol use disorder or alcohol addiction, you are not alone. More than 14 million people (12 years old and above) have an AUD. Many of them do not seek support—but it’s critical.11

There are different treatment options available for AUD. For example, rehab puts you in the hands of health professionals. You can choose inpatient or outpatient facilities. 

Inpatient rehabilitation is a live-in experience that is more hands-on. Outpatient rehabilitation allows you to attend treatment sessions and then return home.

Talking to a therapist can help you identify and unpack the triggers that drive you to drink. Family counseling, marital counseling, and behavioral therapies can also help.

In severe cases, medications may be used to assist in the recovery process. 

Currently, there are three medications that are approved in the United States to treat AUD:11

  1. Naltrexone helps people cut back on drinking 
  2. Acamprosate can aid in abstinence
  3. Disulfiram blocks the body’s breakdown of alcohol and causes undesirable symptoms that may discourage drinking

Alternatively, you may seek out social support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These groups can help remind you that you are not alone. They can keep you inspired and motivated to achieve sobriety.

Updated on October 17, 2021
11 sources cited
  1. Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Mount Sinai Health System.
  2. Bishehsari, Faraz, et al. “Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation.” Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2017.
  3. Cirrhosis.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Feb. 2021.
  4. Cuzzo, Brian. “Physiology, Vasopressin.” StatPearls [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Aug. 2020.
  5. DL;, Grad S;Abenavoli L;Dumitrascu. “The Effect of Alcohol on Gastrointestinal Motility.” Reviews on Recent Clinical Trials, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  6. Harper, Kathryn M, et al. “Vasopressin and Alcohol: A Multifaceted Relationship.” Psychopharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2018.
  7. IMA.” Alcohol Consumption and the Gastrointestinal Tract.
  8. Marcelo Campos, MD. “Leaky Gut: What Is It, and What Does It Mean for You?” Harvard Health, 22 Aug. 2019.
  9. Normal Movements of the Digestive Tract.” About GI Motility, 29 Mar. 2021.
  10. SF;, Chiba T;Phillips. “Alcohol-Related Diarrhea.” Addiction Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  11. Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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