Nothing seems to say Christmas like a glass of fizz (or three).
When I was first diagnosed, I attempted to research IBD and alcohol and let me tell you, there’s not much out there beyond ‘everything in moderation.’ It’s frustrating- what is ‘moderation’ anyway? How does alcohol truly affect my body? Is a glass of wine better than a shot of vodka? Is that churning stomach I feel the next morning inflammation, my disease or just a hangover like everybody else on the planet experiences?
So at first, it seemed simple to just avoid it all together. After all, I’d certainly experienced all sorts of horrible symptoms after drinking too much pre-diagnosis, surely now I had a chronic disease, I’d be making it worse for myself?
However, as years went on, I began to realise something; yes I undeniably had a chronic illness but I also had a life. And, I missed drinking occasionally. Not binge drinking and tequila shots you understand, I’m now 32 and that just wasn’t my scene. But I did miss the odd glass of wine in front of the fire on a cozy Friday evening or a glass of prosecco when celebrating an occasion.
So, I began to experiment…
And that’s what I’ve kept doing with no real certainty in the answers I’ve found. Given IBD is so personal, my answers may very well be different to yours but I thought I’d share what I did discover nevertheless.
I’ve learnt that beer is an absolute no-go for me:
No surprise really as I avoid gluten as I personally feel it makes things worse. I’ve also learnt than prosecco seems to be ok as long as it’s no more than a glass or two and when it comes to spirits, I tend to do much better with clearer ones (like gin) than I do with darker ones (like whisky). It’s thought that dark liquids have a higher concentration of congeners; a chemical substance that results in hangover symptoms-whether that extends to my digestion though, I’m not entirely sure.
Wine is a bit more of a mixed bag
Sometimes I can drink a glass with no issues and other times I’m sure to pay for it. I’ve recently been reading about organic and low sulphite wine (suphites are found in lots of preserved food and drink and some think they can sometimes irritate our guts) and it’s something I am thinking of trying over the festive period.
However, what I’ve also noticed is what I do before and after alcohol is almost just as important as the quantity and quality. A substantial healthy meal with a cup of bone broth (my go-to for stomach distress) and plenty of water before and afterwards means I can ‘get away with it’ but if a glass or two of wine leads me to the eat late and rush around the next day, I’m far more likely to feel the impact. If I am planning to drink, I’ll always make sure my next day is alcohol-free, with plenty of easy to digest meals, bone broth and rest.
I’ve had IBD for five years now and I’m slowly learning that I need to adapt and work with my body each day rather than oppose blanket rules. So if you’re reading this article, I’d encourage you to work with your body too and slowly experiment to see what (if any) you can tolerate. Of course, chronic illness or not, alcohol daily is not great for any of us. But it’s important that we also try to live our lives and not beat ourselves up about our decisions and indulging occasionally (I mean, I’ve already given up cheese for god’s sake!!)
Of course, I should add as a final note, working with yourself is great but working with your doctor is just as important. With some of the medications we take, we must make sure no alcohol passes our lips at all. And, if we are in a flare, than any kind of alcohol is likely to make it worse.
I’d love to hear your experiences with IBD and drinking.
Have you managed to find a solution that works for you or have you just given it up altogether? Is it just me who finds some types of alcohol can impact me much more than others? And finally, does anyone else just really miss wine? Do let me know below!