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Drinking Habits

How Long Does Bloating From Alcohol Last?

June 30, 2023
21 min read
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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.
June 30, 2023
21 min read
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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.
June 30, 2023
21 min read
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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.
June 30, 2023
21 min read
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Reframe Content Team
June 30, 2023
21 min read

That bloated sensation that made you feel like a hot air balloon after that last drinking spree? We’ve all been there! You're out with friends, downing a few rounds of your favorite drinks. The evening is a riot, but come morning, your belly feels enormous — even if you didn’t eat much last night and have yet to dig into your morning cereal.

Unfortunately, alcohol has a pesky habit of causing bloating. Will it go away? Yes, but not immediately. Let’s explore the science behind this rather “inflated” issue and look for answers to the most important question: how long does bloating from alcohol last? And what are some tips on how to get rid of bloating from alcohol more quickly? Let’s find out!

Bloating Basics

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Bloating is the sensation of increased pressure in the abdomen that often comes with the visible enlargement or distention of the belly. This sensation is usually caused by the buildup of gas in the digestive system, but it can also result from water retention.

While we often equate bloating with weight gain, it's crucial to understand that these are two different things. Bloating is temporary, and it’s often a result of digestive disturbances or lifestyle choices (like chugging soda or that late-night taco binge). In contrast, weight gain is a more gradual process influenced by factors like diet, exercise, and metabolism. So just because your jeans feel a tad tighter after a hearty meal doesn't mean you've suddenly gained a few pounds. It’s probably just your body telling you, "Hey, take it easy with the refills!"

There are many possible culprits: overeating, eating too quickly, consuming gas-producing foods (hello, beans and broccoli!), drinking carbonated beverages, or swallowing excess air (perhaps from sipping through a straw). And, yes, alcohol is also on the list.

The good news? Bloating isn’t permanent, and with some knowledge and a bit of self-care, we can mitigate its effects or even prevent it.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Bloated?

In the case of alcohol, bloating begins with our liver. This workaholic organ breaks down the alcohol we consume, but the process creates certain byproducts — acetaldehyde and acetate. These substances can trigger inflammation and upset our digestive system, leading to a rather unpleasant bloating sensation.

While our liver is occupied with breaking down alcohol, other processes — like efficiently digesting our food — take a backseat. With food not being digested efficiently, gas builds up in the stomach, leading to a belly that feels ready to burst.

Sweet and Salty

Moreover, alcoholic beverages often have high sugar and salt content, which can cause water retention and — yes, that’s right! — more bloating.

Alcohol, by its very nature, is often paired with sugars to enhance its flavor and make it more palatable. Think about the fruity mixers, sugary syrups, and sodas often mixed with liquors. While they certainly tickle our taste buds, there's a downside.

When we consume high amounts of sugar, our bodies have to balance out the osmotic pressure by causing fluids to be drawn into the bloodstream — a process that leads to water retention. The body holds on to excess water, leading to that puffy bloated feeling.

Salt has a similar effect. Alcohol itself doesn’t always contain high salt levels, but the mixers and chasers we use, or the salty snacks we munch on while drinking, often do. Just as with sugar, excess salt can lead to water retention, making us feel swollen and, yes, bloated.

Bloating From Alcohol: What’s in Your Glass

It's not just the amount, but also the type of alcohol we consume that matters. Research has been pretty clear on this: not all alcoholic beverages are created equal when it comes to bloating. Those high in carbohydrates, such as certain craft beers with dense grains or sweet liqueurs filled with sugary additives, are more likely to cause it. Does wine make you bloated? Yes, especially if it’s sweet!

Alcohol, Bloating, and Time: The Breakdown

So, back to the big question: how long does this bloating last?

The duration of alcohol bloating can vary based on many factors. For most of us, bloating subsides within a day or two as our body returns to its normal metabolic processes. So no, you won't look like you swallowed a watermelon forever. But the more alcohol we gulp down, the longer the body has to play catch up.

Here’s an approximate timeline:

  • Immediate reaction (0-3 hours after drinking). Shortly after consuming alcohol, many people experience a feeling of fullness and bloating. This is because alcohol can cause our stomach to produce more acid, leading to inflammation and an immediate swollen sensation. Besides bloating, some might experience a mild stomach ache or discomfort, often a result of this inflammation. It feels like that tightness around the midsection or feeling like we’ve just had a big meal, even if we haven't eaten much.
  • The day after (24 hours post-drinking). If you've ever felt “puffy” the day after a night out, it's not just in your head. As the body processes the alcohol, the bloating persists.

    The body is now in full recovery mode: the liver is working overtime to metabolize the alcohol. At this time, we may still experience water retention from both the alcohol's diuretic effects and its sugar content, making us feel puffy or swollen. While much of the bloating subsides as the body starts processing the alcohol, some lingering effects might remain due to slowed digestion.

    For most of us, the bloating starts to diminish within this 24-hour window. Remember, though, everyone is unique. Some might bounce back faster, while others may take a bit longer.
  • The recovery phase (24-48 hours). The body's healing mechanisms are in full swing: the liver continues to break down any remaining alcohol in the system, and bloating generally begins to subside. As toxins are expelled, the retained water is flushed out, leading to reduced bloating. Digestion gradually returns to its regular pace, further alleviating feelings of fullness or discomfort.

    For many, this is when things finally fall back into place again. The body starts to feel lighter, and the heavy sensation begins to lift. Phew! We’re not doomed to feel like we’ve swallowed a watermelon for eternity.
  • Extended bloating (beyond 48 hours). Now, if we’ve had a particularly heavy session or had more to drink than usual, it might take a bit longer for the bloating to go away. This extended period is when the body is still working hard to restore balance and process lingering toxins. Digestive processes might still be a tad slower, especially if we accompanied our drinking with rich, greasy foods. While the pronounced bloated sensation should have diminished significantly, there might be slight lingering feelings of discomfort or fullness, especially if other factors like diet and hydration aren't quite where they should be.

A Note on Alcohol Bloating and Consistent Overindulgence

While occasionally overdoing the booze might lead to temporary bloating, frequent and heavy drinking is a whole different ballgame. Regularly overindulging can lead to chronic bloating and a host of other health issues. Here's why:

  • Slow digestion. Research indicates that continued, heavy alcohol consumption can slow down digestion in a way that becomes chronic, making bloating even worse. The body's ability to bounce back slows, and the bloating lingers. So instead of breaking down that delicious pizza, the body is wrestling with the excessive alcohol content. And, as we know, slow digestion equals prolonged bloating.
  • Gut microbiota imbalance. Our gut is home to a host of good bacteria that aid in digestion. Regular heavy drinking can disturb this balance, leading to — you guessed it! — more bloating and digestive discomfort.
  • Delayed recovery. When alcohol consumption becomes too frequent, the body's overall resilience diminishes. Instead of bouncing back in a day or two, the bloating and other side effects might linger.
Beat the Bloat

Beat the Bloat: How To Get Rid of Bloating From Alcohol

If you’re feeling bloated, don’t worry! Here are some science-backed strategies to bring your belly back down to size. Let’s explore how to get rid of bloating from alcohol.

  • Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water can help fight off the dehydration caused by alcohol, reducing the chances of water retention and bloating. It might sound counterintuitive, but not drinking enough water can actually lead to bloating. When the body senses that it's not getting enough water, it retains fluid as a defense mechanism. And, as we already know, water retention can cause puffiness and bloating.

    Moreover, water is a vital component in the digestion process. It helps break down food, ensure the smooth movement of food through the intestines, and dissolve waste particles. This facilitates regular bowel movements, preventing constipation and the bloating associated with it.

    So alternate your drinks with water, and make it a point to hydrate before and after your night out. Also, incorporate foods like cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, and strawberries into your diet. These can boost hydration and offer other health benefits.
  • Balance your intake. Try to limit your alcohol consumption. We know — that’s easier said than done, especially when those tequila shots look appealing. But remember, moderation is key. Your body will thank you!

    Also, sticking to one type of drink might help reduce the chance of bloating compared to mixing different alcohols throughout the night.
  • Eat before drinking. If you do choose to drink, don’t do it on an empty stomach, since that can exacerbate bloating. Eating a balanced meal with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates before drinking can help offset the effects.
  • Slow down. Sipping your drink slowly can reduce the amount of air swallowed, consequently reducing bloating. It's not a race!
  • Choose wisely. Opt for drinks that are low in carbonation and sugar, as both can contribute to bloating. Sorry to say, but that means your beloved beer and favorite mixers might not be the best choices.
  • Watch out for allergens. Some people might be allergic or intolerant to ingredients in certain alcoholic beverages, like grains in beer or sulfites in wine. Being aware of these and choosing alternatives can help avoid bloating.
  • Probiotics for gut health. Probiotics — beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion — can be the key to dealing with frequent bloating. Natural sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and fermented pickles. Incorporating these into your diet can be a delicious way to boost your probiotic intake.

    Probiotic supplements available in capsules, tablets, and powders offer a concentrated dose of specific probiotic strains. Choose a reputable brand and consult a healthcare professional for recommendations tailored to your needs.

    Finally, prebiotics — non-digestible fibers that act as food for probiotics found in onions, garlic, bananas, and asparagus — can provide extra support by nourishing those hard-working gut microbes.
  • Stay active. Regular exercise helps maintain a healthy digestive system and prevent bloating. Physical movement — especially aerobic exercise — can increase blood flow to the organs, including the gut. This enhances the motility and efficiency of the digestive system, helping move gas and stool through the intestines and alleviating bloating. Certain postures and movements — particularly twisting motions in yoga or stretching exercises — can help release gas trapped in the digestive tract, offering immediate relief from bloating. Regular exercise enhances the strength and efficiency of the digestive muscles over time, reducing the chances of food stagnation and gas buildup.

    Moreover, exercise — especially pilates and yoga — often emphasizes deep breathing, which helps oxygenate the blood, aids in relaxation, and relieves the tension associated with bloating. Plus, working out is a great natural stress relief. Win-win, right?

Listen to Your Gut

Let's zoom out a bit. We've delved deep into the world of alcohol bloating, and while it can be uncomfortable, the good news is that it’s temporary. Does alcohol make you bloated? Yes. But it's our body's way of communicating with us, signaling that things might be a bit off-balance. Understanding these signals is vital. Just like any machine, our body gives us feedback on how it’s operating. Alcohol bloating is one such feedback mechanism, a nudge that says, "Hey, let's take a pause and figure things out."

Being informed about alcohol’s effects means we're better equipped to respond to these nudges and make decisions that serve our well-being. Every small step we take towards healthier choices makes a big difference. It's not about perfection, but about awareness and intention. By knowing our body's reactions and needs, we can foster a more harmonious relationship with it and ultimately lead happier lives.

Summary FAQ

1. How long does alcohol-induced bloating typically last?

For most people, bloating subsides within a day or two as the body returns to its normal metabolic processes. However, heavy or frequent alcohol consumption can prolong bloating and lead to other health issues.

2. Why does alcohol cause bloating?

Alcohol can increase stomach acid production, leading to inflammation. Additionally, the liver prioritizes breaking down alcohol, causing other digestive processes to slow down. This delay can result in gas build-up and bloating. Alcohol can also irritate the stomach lining and disrupt the balance of the gut microbiota.

3. How do sugary and salty alcoholic beverages affect bloating?

Alcoholic drinks high in sugar and salt can cause water retention, leading to more bloating. Beverages rich in carbohydrates, like some beers and sweet liquors, can exacerbate bloating.

4. How does exercise help reduce bloating?

Exercise stimulates the gastrointestinal tract, improves blood flow to organs, aids in releasing trapped gas, and promotes regular bowel movements. Over time, consistent exercise can enhance digestive efficiency and reduce the occurrence of bloating.

5. What role do probiotics play in reducing bloating?

Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, help balance the gut microbiota, aid in digestion, reduce inflammation in the gut, strengthen the gut barrier, and regulate bowel movements. Incorporating them can alleviate bloating and support overall gut health.

6. How can I prevent or reduce alcohol-induced bloating?

Drink in moderation, stay hydrated, eat before drinking, limit carbonated and sugary mixers, choose non-bloating alcoholic beverages, opt for herbal teas, avoid mixing different alcohols, and consider taking probiotics or digestive enzymes.

7. Are there specific exercises that can help with bloating?

Cardio exercises such as walking and jogging, as well as stretches and yoga (especially poses that involve twists) can help relieve bloating by promoting gas release and stimulating digestion.

Beat the Bloat 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! 

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