Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

Group of people cheersing with cocktails, Is alcohol a trigger for IBS

Is Alcohol a Trigger for IBS?

With the holiday season upon us, the influence of alcohol in our lives only continues to grow. But does alcohol sit well with your IBS, or is that glass going to send you running to the toilet?

There’s not a whole lot of research done yet on the effect or link between alcohol and irritable bowel syndrome, but anecdotally around 1/3 of IBS-sufferers self-report that they are triggered by it (myself included).

And when I polled my Instagram community, this number was far higher!

However, since alcohol is often served along with food (and often more indulgent dishes) it can be tricky to differentiate any symptoms from your drinks versus your food.


The effect of alcohol on your digestion

Alcohol can be an irritant to the gut and can cause inflammation. It can reduce your absorption of vitamins and minerals from your food.

By potentially reducing the frequency and strength of certain muscle contraction in the gut, alcohol can also disrupt the digestion of carbohydrates in the small intestine, resulting in more poorly absorbed carbs coming into the large intestine.

Cue bloating, gas, and change in bowel movements. This is the same effect that FODMAPs can have on your digestion.

It also can mean an increased transit time (a.k.a. the time it takes for your food to move from one end to the other), which can result in diarrhea.

Alcohol can also interfere with the working of some digestive enzymes – one of which is lactase. Lactase is the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose, the milk sugar.

This means when drinking you could find yourself sensitive to lactose-containing dairy products even if you would normally do OK with some of them.

The pattern of alcohol consumption has been studied in terms of its impact on IBS.

While the study didn’t find an association between light or moderate alcohol consumption and next-day IBS symptoms, it did find an association between binge drinking (4+ drinks on one occasion) and next-day IBS symptoms.

Green cocktail in a martini glass, is alcohol a trigger for IBS

Alcohol and FODMAPs

While alcohol can function similarly to FODMAPs in the digestive system, they aren’t one and the same.

However, some alcohol can also contain FODMAPs (so possibly a double whammy on your gut) and warrant some additional focus. 

According to Monash University, the following are high-FODMAP containing alcohols / alcoholic drinks:

  • Cider
  • Rum
  • Sherry
  • Port
  • Sweet dessert wine

Conversely, the following are considered low-FODMAP:

  • Beer (but watch out for gluten if you’re gluten intolerant)
  • Red, sparkling, sweet, white and dry white wine
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whisky

If you’re consuming a cocktail, don’t forget to take the additional elements into account as well for FODMAP content. (Check out the recipe at the bottom of the post for my favourite, festive cocktail!)


Drinking responsibly

In general, any potential benefits from alcohol don’t really outweigh the possible negative consequences. That being said, drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and it’s so interwoven into our social life that it’s understandable if you don’t want to abstain completely!

Just remember to enjoy it responsibly. While your country’s guidelines of alcohol consumption may vary, here in Belgium we recommend (for adults over the age of 18) a maximum of 10 units of alcohol per week, and several days with no alcohol.

One unit of alcohol is equal to:

  • 10g / 12.7mL pure alcohol
  • 250mL standard beer
  • 100mL wine
  • 50mL aperitif alcohol (sherry, port, etc.)
  • 35mL strong liquor (gin, vodka, etc.)

And, of course, remember the general recommendations: avoid alcohol when driving or operating machinery, if you’re pregnant, if you’re under 18 (and/or under the legal age in your country), when doing heavy physical activity, and talk to your doctor if you’re on any medications.


Practical tips for alcohol consumption 

  • Watch out for what you are mixing it with (pop, fruit juice, etc. could all contain FODMAPs or other triggers for you)
  • Abstaining might be the best option for you If you notice an increase in symptoms when drinking alcohol
  • Drink plenty of water: alternate each alcoholic drink with at least one glass of water
  • Consume food along with alcohol (but be sure to consider your food triggers)
  • Space out your drinks over a longer time frame
  • Swap in some non-alcoholic mocktails; no one has to know!
  • Avoid binge-drinking
IBS friendly cocktail mocktail, red cocktail in a glass surrounded by fresh cranberries and rosemary

IBS-friendly festive holiday gin & tonic:

Serves one

  • Ice
  • 35mL non-alcoholic gin
  • 35mL cranberry juice (check the ingredients list for any high-FODMAP additives)
  • Tonic water
  • Fresh rosemary and/or cranberries for garnish

Fill your glass with ice. Add in the cocktail ingredients in the order listed. Top off with your garnishes and enjoy!


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Curious about one-on-one coaching?

Ready to understand what is triggering your IBS symptoms, start feeling comfortable in your body again, and say goodbye to bloating, anxiety, pain, and cramps?

Let's create a concrete plan for reducing your IBS symptoms that works with your lifestyle and your goals in mind.

Get started by booking your Breakthrough Session.

8 Tips for Happy, Healthy Holidays with IBS

8 Tips for Happy, Healthy Holidays with IBS

View of a Christmas tree from above surrounded by presents, how to have a healthy holiday season with IBS

8 Tips for Happy, Healthy Holidays with IBS

The holiday season can be a challenging and stressful time of year – even without taking your irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) into account.

And while this year may look a bit different for you depending on the situation where you live, by keeping some tips in mind you’ll be more prepared than ever to navigate this time of year in a more healthy and less stressful way.

Check out the video below for all my healthy holiday tips!

This is an edited version of the monthly Facebook live of November in my free private community, IBSuccess. (Want to join? Click here!). It was a casual chat, so apologies for the overuse of “um”!

8 Tips for a Healthy Holiday Season:

✨Meal plan & prep ahead on the weekend.

While I go on about meal planning a lot, I don’t necessarily do it every week. But it is KEY for surviving these busy periods!⁠ Not only will you save money on your grocery bill by being as efficient as possible and minimizing take-away and convenience foods, but you’ll also be getting more more nutritious meals that will keep you full and fuelled for longer. Not to mention the precious weeknight time you’ll save on preparing dinner.

✨ Bring a homemade packed lunch.

Not only will you probably save money and cut down on food waste, but you’ll be making sure to get a nutrient-dense lunch in before any evening activities.⁠

✨ Front-load your nutrition. 

Focus on getting lots of veggies & protein in early in the day, since these will likely be lacking if you’re out for dinner.⁠ That way you can roll with whatever comes in the evening, knowing that you got some solid nutrition in already!

✨ Don’t deny yourself some indulgences! 

If you’re out at a party, start off with the “healthier” fare, but definitely still go for those cravings as well. The healthier options will fill you up first, helping to ensure you can still have those indulgences mindfully. This way you’re less likely to go overboard.

Decorative snowmen sitting in a row, how to have a healthy holiday season with IBS

✨ Swap out a couple alcoholic drinks for some non-alcoholic cocktails. 

Keep your alcohol consumption in moderation by, at the least, alternating with a non-alcoholic alternative. There are loads of fancy mocktail possibilities, and I bet most people won’t notice! You’ll definitely thank yourself in the morning when you sleep better and minimize the chance of a hangover.

✨ Prioritize sleep.

Sleep is key for recovering and building resiliency to stress. Not to mention this time of year kicks off cold and flu season, so your immune system could do with the boost. Even if sleep comes at the expense of something like exercise, this is a period of the year where this swap is worth it.⁠

✨ Know your non-negotiables for managing stress.

This will ensure you keep up with some form of self-care.⁠ While you might need to cut down on your self-care time to properly balance your schedule, make sure you’re not cutting it out completely! That time to yourself will help you recharge and have more energy to give to everything else that is going on.

✨ Practise saying no when needed. 

Recognize your limits or propose alternatives when certain requests are just too much.⁠ Everyone is busy at this time of year, so most people will understand if you turn down an invitation. Or think of alternative activities that won’t take all of your energy. Did a friend invite you to a holiday party that you know will be exhausting? Propose meeting for a lunch instead so you still get that time to connect. Or, maybe you want to throw a party of your own to see all your friends in one go, rather than attend a million different functions.

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Curious about one-on-one coaching?

Ready to understand what is triggering your IBS symptoms, start feeling comfortable in your body again, and say goodbye to bloating, anxiety, pain, and cramps?

Let's create a concrete plan for reducing your IBS symptoms that works with your lifestyle and your goals in mind.

Get started by booking your Breakthrough Session.

5 Tips to use Food Journaling for IBS Success

5 Tips to use Food Journaling for IBS Success

Woman writing in notebook, how to keep a food journal for IBS symptoms

5 Tips to use Food Journaling for IBS Success


Figuring out what is triggering your IBS symptoms is a bit like playing detective.

Since everyone’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome tends to be different, what might be triggering you is likely very different than what is triggering someone else.

It can be a frustrating task to try and sort it all out, but luckily if you know how to keep an effective food journal, you’re much more likely to be able to make sense of it all!


Tip #1: Every bite counts when it comes to IBS

Now remember, the purpose of this journal isn’t about tracking how much food you’re eating or your macro split or whatever blah blah is on trend for the moment.

It’s a no judgement zone.

You’re only collecting information to help you get to the bottom of this mystery called IBS.

But in order to do that, it’s helpful to be sure you’re really writing down everything you eat.

Even those two bites of mac n’ cheese you ate from the kids’ pot before you served them their dinner.

For many people, such a small amount might not be so relevant and might not cause IBS symptoms to be triggered. But for some it may be. And perhaps it’s just a couple bites of something that on top of the other foods you eat just manages to push you over the edge in terms of “trigger foods” consumed.


Tip #2: Don’t forget the liquids

Making sure our body is properly hydrated is so important, and if we aren’t doing well on this it’s just extra stress on the system. And extra stress = higher chance of symptoms being triggered. (Want to learn more about how much water you should be drinking? Head over to this blog post.)

And it’s not only the amount of water that you’re drinking that you should be noting. Any and all coffee, tea, sodas, juices, alcohol, etc. should also be making it into your food journal. This is all important data that could help you spot patterns in your symptoms.

Woman on bed writing in a journal, How to keep a food journal for IBS symptoms

Tip #3: What’s your mood like?

This step is too often skipped! How we’re feeling and what emotions are going on can play a big role in determining how we are going to digest our food. Worried, anxious, stressed? These emotions are probably increasing the likelihood of symptoms being triggered (sometime regardless of what you’re eating).

Studies have shown that when people are stressed their guts behave differently (IBS or not). Since the gut-brain connection is thought to be dysfunctional in many people with IBS, this could mean when your brain communicates with your gut about emotions and thoughts, it’s actually being over-interpreted.


Tip #4: Keep track of those BMs!

Noting down what’s going on for you digestively is a great extra piece of information to add into your food journal. When did you have a bowel movement? What was it on the Bristol Stool Chart? Did you experience pain, cramps, etc.

This is the kind of information you’ll likely forget or incorrectly recall if you look back on your food journal days or weeks later. You might remember having some symptoms pop up, but depending on how you felt at the time, you’re likely going to downplay or intensify what it was like. Make sure to always give some sort of rating (like a scale of 1-5 for discomfort / intensity) in order to have something concrete to refer back to.


Tip #5: Be realistic in what you can keep up with

Can you recall what you had for lunch a week ago today?

Most people can’t, or it takes them awhile to get there. Imagine you’re trying to recall an entire day or week of food at one time – probably you’re going to forget some details. Whether it’s a snack, a side dish, etc. the accuracy of your journaling will decrease if you don’t do it regularly.

While the more detail the better, you need to balance this with what you can realistically keep up with on a daily basis. Know you won’t have time to properly journal? Take photos of what you’re eating on your phone to refer back to and use the Notes app to jot down how you’re feeling and what’s going on with your digestion.

Picture of Healthfully Heather IBS Nutrition
Curious about one-on-one coaching?

Ready to understand what is triggering your IBS symptoms, start feeling comfortable in your body again, and say goodbye to bloating, anxiety, pain, and cramps?

Let's create a concrete plan for reducing your IBS symptoms that works with your lifestyle and your goals in mind.

Get started by booking your Breakthrough Session.

3 reasons why you’re holding yourself back

3 reasons why you’re holding yourself back

What's Holding You Back?

Have you found yourself talking time and time again about how you wish things were different?

You don’t want to feel bloated anymore.

You want to go on vacation without the fear of feeling miserable the whole time from cramps and pain.

You want to buy an article of clothing that doesn’t come with a stretchy waistband!

It’s one thing to want those things, but it’s another to actively work towards making that your reality.

I tend to see three big aspects holding people back from doing the work and realizing their goals.

1/ Only focusing on the roadblocks

All your mental energy is going into thinking about how hard the journey is going to be. You become overwhelmed in determining the steps you need to take and your anxiety and internal resistance just continues to build.

You’ve forgotten what the end goal looks like. You’re focusing on the challenges and not on the opportunity you have. It’s time to reframe your mindset and stop getting bogged down by the details.

2/ A lack of accountability

For some, it can be extremely hard to hold yourself accountable for making personal changes. Stop beating yourself up for “a lack of willpower” and instead harness the potential of an accountability partner! Whether this is a friend, family member, colleague, or coach, (or even strangers on the internet!), sometimes you just need someone to report in to to keep you moving forward.

3/ An identity crisis

Sometimes the hardships we go through can become, consciously or no, a part of our identity. You might not be aware of it, but you could be “identifying” with your symptoms or disorder. The idea of suddenly becoming symptom-free may actually be causing you to question your identity, and this transition can cause a lot of anxiety. It’s only by releasing this identity that you’ll be able to ultimately move on.

Check out this week’s video below to dive deeper into these three roadblocks!

Healthy Living & IBS

Healthy Living & IBS

Healthy Living & IBS

You are what you eat – right?

Well… partly – but there’s so much more to it than that!

When it comes to healthy living (IBS or not), I like to focus on 5 key foundational elements with my clients.

And (shock, horror) only one of them is nutrition!

While nutrition is often the biggest piece of the puzzle, there are other areas that you absolutely need to look at as well, otherwise you’re probably undermining all your efforts in the kitchen.

By taking positive action in each of these five foundational areas, the halo effect on the rest of your life can really be profound.

These are the places where one change can easily blossom effortlessly in to more change, and before you know it your entire lifestyle has been overhauled for the better!


What is IBS?

What is IBS?

What is IBS?

Do you have IBS?

Odds are, even if you don’t, then you know someone who does. There are estimates that up to even 1 in 5 people may suffer from it!

It’s also highly likely that if someone you know has IBS they just aren’t talking about it. The symptoms are really something people like to discuss about openly and can make sufferers feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. 

Irritable bowel syndrome can greatly impact the person’s daily activities and quality of life. There’s a lot of stress and uncertainty around where and when they may experience a flare-up of symptoms. 

So they definitely need an extra dose of understanding and empathy!



Healthfully Heather

Oordegemstraat 8, 9520 Vlierzele

VAT: 0694867319


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