Thrive with the Dry July Challenge – Join Now! 🎉🙌
Click Here
A person feeling constipated
Alcohol and Health

Can Alcohol Cause Constipation?

July 27, 2023
12 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 27, 2023
12 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 27, 2023
12 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 27, 2023
12 min read
Reframe App LogoReframe App Logo
Reframe Content Team
July 27, 2023
12 min read

If you’ve ever struggled to go to the bathroom after a night of drinking, it’s probably not a coincidence. Alcohol affects many different bodily functions, including our digestive tract. In fact, the amount — and even the type — of alcohol we drink can cause problems with our bowel movements.

In this post, we’ll look at how alcohol causes constipation and what we can do to protect our digestive health. Let’s dive in!

How Alcohol Causes Constipation

Alcohol can cause constipation by affecting our digestive tract in several ways. Here are four of them:

1. Causes Dehydration

A man sitting on a bed, grimacing in pain due to stomach discomfort

One of the main ways alcohol causes constipation is through dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it promotes water loss through urine. This is why we often have to urinate more frequently while drinking alcohol. But it’s also what leads to dehydration: we’re urinating more often, but we’re not taking in adequate fluids.

Whenever we’re dehydrated, our body pulls water from our intestines, making our stool hard and dry. This can make it more difficult to have bowel movement. Our body needs enough water to be absorbed by stool, and softer stool is easier to pass.

2. Affects Peristalsis

Alcohol can also slow down peristalsis, the process of moving food through our digestive system. When movement is slowed, we can become constipated. Certain types of alcohol can slow down peristalsis more than others. For instance, drinks with an alcohol content greater than 15% — such as liquors and some wines — tend to have an inhibitory effect on peristalsis.

On the other hand, beverages with lower alcohol contents — such as beer — can increase movement and lead to bowel movements. So, if you’ve ever wondered “does beer help with constipation?”, the answer is yes. Some types of beer, especially those that are unfiltered or made with a high amount of barley or wheat, can contain small amounts of fiber. Dietary fiber can help to increase stool bulk and promote regular bowel movements. Plus, the carbonation in beer can stimulate a bowel movement for some people. The bubbles can help to move stools through the digestive tract.

However, that’s not an excuse to drink more beer! All alcohol — including beer — does a number on our digestive health, not to mention many other parts of our body. So if we’re having constipation problems, probiotics, fiber, and hydration (with water) are a better way to go!

Alcohol and Constipation

3. Irritates Gut Bacteria

Alcohol also irritates our gut, causing inflammation in our intestinal lining. This can prevent the gut from effectively absorbing nutrients, which may lead to constipation. Similarly, alcohol can cause an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria, which can lead to symptoms like bloating and constipation.

Over time, alcohol can wear down the stomach lining, leading to stomach bleeding and gastritis. These complications can damage our health if they’re not addressed.

4. Contributes to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Some research indicates that alcohol can aggravate inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. These conditions cause intestinal inflammation that leads to pain and bouts of constipation and diarrhea.

One study found daily consumption of red wine resulted in increases in compounds that could cause an IBD flare-up. In general, alcohol weakens our immune system, boosts inflammation in the body, and can harm the protective barrier in our gut — all of which contribute to symptoms of IBD. However, more research needs to be done to understand the connection between alcohol and IBD.

Similarly, alcohol can also aggravate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel movement. However, while some people feel their symptoms get worse when they drink alcohol, others don’t notice a difference. This is largely because everyone’s digestive system is different.

Can Alcohol Cause Diarrhea?

As noted above, some types of alcohol can actually trigger movement in our digestive tract and cause us to have bowel movements or loose stools. Beer, wine, and alcoholic beverages high in sugar or mixed with sugary juices can be particularly problematic, as sugar can be stimulating to our bowels.

Diarrhea is common for chronic heavy drinkers, but it can also occur when we drink too much in one sitting. This is largely because of fluid overload, as large amounts of alcohol prompt our intestines to release water.

Alcohol also agitates our intestines and causes them to react by speeding up digestion. The muscles in our colon contract more frequently, pushing stool out faster than usual. This quickening can lead to diarrhea, as the intestines don’t have time to digest nutrients properly. Needless to say, if we’re already experiencing an upset stomach or diarrhea, drinking alcohol can make our symptoms worse.

Can We Mix Alcohol and Laxatives?

Because some types of alcohol can increase movement in our digestive track and lead to bowel movements, some of us — particularly long-term, heavy drinkers — might experience constipation if we stop drinking.

How long does constipation last after quitting alcohol? Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to that, as it varies from person to person. But drinking plenty of water, eating high fiber foods, and engaging in physical exercise can all help get our bowels moving.

In some cases, a doctor might recommend a mild laxative. But wait — is it safe to take laxatives after drinking alcohol? It’s generally okay to take a mild laxative once the alcohol is out of our system. This could be several hours or longer depending on how much we drink.

But we should avoid mixing alcohol with laxatives at the same time. This is because both alcohol and laxatives are metabolized by the liver, and they can interfere with one another. If we mix the two substances, we risk experiencing the negative side effects of both at the same time, such as dizziness, dehydration, drowsiness, and nausea.

What about dulcolax and alcohol? It’s generally advised that we avoid drinking alcohol while taking dulcolax, as it can increase the risk of side effects such as dehydration and low blood pressure. Always consult a doctor to discuss whether it’s safe to consume alcohol with any type of medication or over-the-counter drugs, including laxatives.

Tips for Protecting Your Digestive Health

Cutting back on our alcohol consumption, or eliminating it entirely, is beneficial not just for our digestive tract, but for our overall health and well-being. Here are some other tips for preventing constipation and protecting our digestive health:

  • Drink water: Drinking water helps flush toxins from our body and keeps our bodily systems functioning properly. If we’re dehydrated, less water can be pulled into our digestive tract to soften stools. Aim to drink at least 6 8-oz glasses of water a day. If you do drink alcohol, be sure to consume one glass of water for each alcoholic beverage.
  • Sleep more: Sleep helps regulate the rhythmic movements of the gut known as the gastrointestinal motility. Consistent sleep patterns help maintain these rhythms, promoting regular bowel movements and reducing the risk of constipation. It also helps reduce inflammation associated with gut problems.
  • Manage stress: Stress wreaks havoc on the body, and our digestive system is no exception. Managing stress through meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques can work wonders for our gut health.
  • Exercise: Physical activity is a well-known gut stimulant, and it can reduce the effects of constipation. It increases blood flow to the muscles in our digestive system that massage our food along the digestive tract. Exercise can also help balance our gut bacteria. Even just a 10-15 minute walk is beneficial.
  • Eat fiber: High-fiber foods are particularly helpful for stimulating bowel movements. People who consume diets high in fiber have much lower rates of constipation than those whose diets are low in fiber. Some of the best high-fiber foods include prunes, apples, bananas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens. Keep in mind, however, that too much fiber may result in loose stools, bloating, or diarrhea.

Finally, if you’re struggling to cut back on our alcohol consumption, Reframe can help. We’ve helped millions of people change their relationship with alcohol and live healthier, happier lifestyles.

Enhance Your Health With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
Reframe has helped over 2 millions people to build healthier drinking habits globally
Take The Quiz
Our Editorial Standards
At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
Learn more
Updated Regularly
Our articles undergo frequent updates to present the newest scientific research and changes in expert consensus in an easily understandable and implementable manner.
Table of Contents
Call to action for signing up reframe app
Relevant Articles
No items found.
Ready to meet the BEST version of yourself?
Start Your Custom Plan
Call to action to download reframe app for ios usersCall to action to download reframe app for android users
5 Star Reviews
Downloads (as of 2023)
a bottle and a glass
Drinks Eliminated

Scan the QR code to get started!

Reframe supports you in reducing alcohol consumption and enhancing your well-being.

Ready To Meet the Best Version of Yourself?
3,250,000+ Downloads (as of 2023)
31,364 Reviews
500,000,000+ Drinks eliminated
Try Reframe for 7 Days Free! Scan to download the App