Can You Drink Alcohol If You Have Crohn's Disease?

When you have Crohn's disease, the tissues in the digestive tract become inflamed, which can lead to a host of uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pain, weight loss, and diarrhea. Over time, the condition can lead to such complications as bowel obstruction, ulcers, and, in some cases, colon cancer. The disease is caused primarily by an immune response in the intestinal tract and can be triggered by certain foods. Spicy or greasy foods, for example, can intensify the feelings of bloating, gain pains, and cramping. 

In addition to minding what you eat when you live with Crohn's disease, you also have to be careful regarding what you drink. A 2019 study published in Medicine suggested that soft drinks and carbonated beverages were associated with an increase in symptoms of both Crohn's and irritable bowel syndrome. This is partially due to the high sugar content in soft drinks, as sugar has been shown to be associated with inflammation in the gut. Given that certain foods and beverages can exacerbate symptoms of Crohn's, people who are afflicted with the condition will want to know what they should — or shouldn't — consume. Additionally, they may want to know whether or not they can enjoy an alcoholic beverage from time to time.

There is no clear-cut answer for what triggers symptoms

Crohn's disease is a condition that affects people in different ways. A certain food or drink that may be a trigger for one person might pass through another person with little effect. A person who is wondering whether or not they can have a drink may have to go through some trial and error to determine which alcoholic beverages, if any, set off their symptoms. While one person may have a harder time with beer over liquor, another person with the same condition may find that the reverse is true for them.

There is some research that shows a link between alcohol and Crohn's symptoms, such as a 2018 study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology. According to that study, people who consumed alcohol found that their Crohn's symptoms worsened. A 2010 study published in Alcohol also indicated that inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's, were potentially triggered by alcohol use. Of the patients profiled, 75% of those with inflammatory bowel disease reported that drinking alcohol made their symptoms worse. 

Some drinks may be worse than others

In addition to triggering or worsening Crohn's symptoms, My Crohn's and Colitis Team reports that drinking alcohol can also make treatment of Crohn's more difficult. If you are on certain antibiotics for Crohn's, such as metronidazole, alcohol can cause cramps, vomiting, and nausea. It's important to talk to your doctor while taking these medications to determine what you should avoid while undergoing treatment. In addition, some drinks may have more of an impact than others. Red wine, for example, can cause intestinal flareups and a condition known as leaky intestines. This means that the intestines become permeable, allowing more than water or nutrients to enter the bloodstream. 

If you know what your Crohn's symptom triggers are, you should remove them from your diet immediately. In addition, talk to your doctor about identifying triggers. Together, you can come up with a strategy and treatment plan for your symptoms to keep them under control. You may not have to eliminate alcohol completely from your diet, so having the advice and counsel of a medical professional will help you determine whether you can enjoy the occasional cocktail.