For those suffering with IBS, dining out with friends and family can be tricky and sometimes stressful-especially when you are still unsure of your main triggers. Alcohol is a common trigger for nearly all those with IBS, causing pain/bloating, urgency and diarrhoea. Not so good when you just want to have a few drinks with your friends on a special occasion, right? We know, it’s not fair!
Whether you have just been newly diagnosed or have been trying to understand your triggers for a while, ensure to download The FODMAP Food List, which is a great source of information of the most common triggers.
When it comes to foodstuffs, people’s IBS symptoms can vary from person to person. Some may have adverse effects to items that other people can tolerate well and vice versa. However, alcohol is a particularly common trigger.
So to help, we’ve pulled together some information about alcohol and your IBS, including the best drinks to have…
…and those to avoid.
So, Why Does Alcohol Trigger Your IBS?
Simply put, alcohol is a toxin.
Research into the effects alcohol has on the body is well documented and vast, from low-mood and anxiety to liver problems[i].
For those with IBS the most important thing to know is that alcohol acts as an irritant on the gastrointestinal tract, that can cause increased acid secretion in the gut and upset your gut microflora if consumed in large amounts[ii].
Even for non-sufferers, alcohol can cause bloating and sickness, so for those with IBS, your intake of alcohol and the type of alcohol you are drinking is something to be mindful of. Especially for those who experience diarrhoea or frequent bowel movements.
What To Avoid
Carbonated beverages will naturally add gas and air into the digestive system by their very nature. This can cause gut spasms and distention (swelling of the abdomen).
So, if bloating and pain is a common symptom for you, try to avoid fizzy drinks altogether.
Examples include; fizzy mixers, ciders and sparkling wine (tear).
High Fructose Beverages
Fructose, which is the sugar found in fruit, is a simple sugar that is poorly digested by the body (i.e. a FODMAP). In 2008, a study found that almost one third of IBS patients within the study were fructose intolerant.
As fructose passes through our gut, it is poorly digested and so passes mostly straight through to our colon, where it ferments. This again, can lead to pain and bloating. A study has shown that those following a lower fructose diet improves symptoms in some patients.[iii]
- Fruit-based beverages (i.e. cider), mixers and cocktails. Watermelon, cherry, mango, apples and pear are the worst offenders
- Sweet wines, such as dessert wines, port and sparkling wine
- Beverages that include high-fructose corn syrup
Be sure to check out the ingredients list to find out if it includes high amounts of fructose of any with high-fructose corn syrup (especially if travelling in the US, this is less common in Australia).
Artificial sweeteners, usually found in diet drinks contain polyols, which are FODMAPs that can trigger gastrointestinal distress. Try to avoid drinks containing artificial sweeteners ending in –ol such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and maltitol.
Check the ingredients list to make sure you are avoiding these drinks.
So, after that list you may be saying to yourself…’well, what can I drink?’.
What to Try
Wine is made from grapes, which is a well-tolerated fruit from a FODMAP diet perspective, usually 1-2 glasses is tolerable to most.
As a guide try to choose wines with less than 6g sugar/litre where possible as this would be classified as low in sugar. 12g/litre would be classified as high.
Spirits such as vodka, gin and whiskey are low in FODMAPs and are fine for those with IBS, in small quantities. Make sure to pick ‘unflavoured’ varieties as the others may have sweeteners.
Try mixing them with soda water & lime. Cranberry juice may be appropriate, as the only fruit juice that is low in FODMAPs. However, check the label on your shop-bought carton to make sure it does not contain high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.
Beer & Prosecco
Although beer and prosecco are carbonated, they are actually low in FODMAPs. So, if you can tolerate drinks with gas then either of these two beverages should be fine. Usually one can of beer or one glass of prosecco is advised.
IBS is not about restricting what you can do or enjoy but it is about what is finding the best for you. It just may take some time to figure this out!
Always be responsible when drinking alcohol and ensure to stay hydrated and eat prior to ensure to keep your symptoms at bay and to get the best out of your day.
By Rachael Matthews
Image sourced from Pintrest.
[i] Lieber, C. S. (2003). Relationships between nutrition, alcohol use, and liver disease. Alcohol Research and Health, 27, 220-231. Accessed 24 February 2016. Available at:
[ii]Phillip A. Engen; Stefan J. Green, Ph.D.; Robin M. Voigt, Ph.D.; Christopher B. Forsyth, Ph.D.; and Ali Keshavarzian, M.D. The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota.
[iii] DiNicolantonio, James J. and Sean C. Lucan. “Is Fructose Malabsorption a Cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”. N.p., 2017. Print.