An alcohol bottle with an engraved label has a seal that is an image of a colon and a question mark.

Drinking Alcohol vs. Ulcerative Colitis

"Ohhh... my gut!"

My adult son was visiting one weekend. He made this exclamation after waking from our evening spent catching up while drinking a few alcoholic beverages.

"I think I might have that belly problem like you," he moaned in pain.

After I questioned him about his symptoms, he made another statement that got me thinking: "I don’t think beer and my gut get along with each other."

Is alcohol an ulcerative colitis trigger?

As a 30-year sufferer of ulcerative colitis, I understand the reality of certain foods and drinks not agreeing with the body. I’ve lived most of my life like this. Watching what hurts and doesn’t hurt my colon. Avoiding all "trigger foods."

But what about drinking? Does drinking alcohol make UC symptoms worse?

I began mulling over these questions as I handed my son some Imodium.

At the simplest level, my brain says that alcohol would just irritate an already inflamed colon. But is that the case for everyone?

Alcohol's burn + a colitis colon

As I’ve also learned over the years, everyone’s body is different. So, the foods and drinks that aggravate my IBD may not necessarily hurt another’s. And based on the little research I’ve read, it seems there’s no significant link between drinking alcohol and ulcerative colitis.

On the other hand, I do know that alcohol shouldn’t be consumed if a person is taking certain medications. That could spell disaster on so many levels. Also, it causes inflammation in the body overall, which UC sufferers already experience.

So, why would anyone want to exacerbate an already "sensitive" region of the body?

In my wild imagination, I envision my inflamed colon screaming upon swallowing a gulp of beer. Yelling to stop flooding it with a firestorm of liquor. "Stop dousing gasoline on me! Your bum is headed for a fire!" rings in my sensible mind.

Not drinking is easier said than done...

But we’re not always so "sensible" – especially during evenings spent catching up with loved ones.

Personally, I haven’t experienced any direct negative effects or UC symptoms from alcohol consumption. Not that I’m stumbling around the streets with an empty wine bottle in hand singing off-key show tunes. I’m not one of those people. Nor am I talking about that kind of drinking.

When I have chosen to unwind with a sweet glass of wine or some exotic potion like a "Hoochie" or "Bahama Mama" cocktail, I haven’t experienced any flares or bouts of intestinal pain. Truly, I haven’t felt the "fire below."

But that’s MY body.

Everyone's UC triggers are different

For others, alcohol consumption might provoke that "ring of fire" or relapse into a UC flare. Sulfites found in alcoholic beverages could compound the gut permeability and create a higher risk of intestinal pain and bouts of diarrhea.

With this stated, no two cases of UC or Crohn’s are the same. I think if you find drinking causes you pain or elicits any other negative symptoms, then just avoid it. Just say "No" to "firewater" or "giggle juice." It’s not suited to your body.

And life’s too short to wake up the next day in pain.

You know your body (and your UC) best

As I told my son when he downed the Imodium, "You know your body best." That is the BEST lesson I’ve learned over the years as one battling UC. If drinking and your gut just don’t get along, then keep them away from one another.

Because in the end, no one wants to fall into that "burning ring of fire." It just "burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire. The ring of fire..."

And of course, I'm no doctor... So always consult a medical professional about consuming alcohol when prescribed any medications.

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