Because of the way our bodies react to alcohol, some people may experience stronger reactions than others and even if you find you don’t have any FODMAP triggers, you may still experience symptoms after drinking. There is more to consider than just FODMAPs when it comes to alcohol and IBS. Your gut is a very sophisticated system and you have to learn to work with it for best results.
Since realizing that my plan to hack my gut not only wasn’t working, but was actually making my symptoms worse I’ve learned some dos and don’ts about drinking with IBS.
- Choose your alcohol carefully: Whether you’re on the low FODMAP diet or not, you should know what you’re drinking and how it impacts your gut.
- Be a pest about what’s in the mixer: If you’re thinking about getting a mixed drink, ask what the ingredients are or even if you can see the bottle so you can check for sneaky FODMAPs/other triggers, or better track what you’re consuming if you’re still trying to sort out your triggers. It may be that the liquor doesn’t bother you as much as the mixer does and being informed is the only way to learn what your body tolerates. If you can’t know for sure what’s in it, try a different drink.
- Continue to drink water: This will help dilute the alcohol and keep you hydrated. It will also help keep you from getting drunk and potentially making other bad gut choices like eating too much or eating trigger foods.
- Drink in moderation: Have a plan beforehand for how much you’ll drink so that choice has already been made before you start drinking and your inhibitions are lowered. Learn your limits!
- Pay attention to what you’re eating and drinking and how you feel the next morning. This will help you determine if alcohol is a trigger for you and to what extent.
- Be afraid to ask about ingredients: Seriously, know exactly what you’re drinking so that you can avoid anything that will trigger symptoms.
- Assume something simple is going to be safe: My go-to drink of choice is a classic gin and tonic. I was delighted to learn that these are low FODMAP (details below) and went to make one at home during the elimination phase only to discover that my tonic water had high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it! Lesson learned: always read the label.
- Drink on an empty stomach: This is good advice generally because having food in your system will help absorb some of the alcohol so your body doesn’t have to.
If you enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage, but you’re on the low FODMAP diet, take heart my friends. Below is the latest from Monash about the FODMAP content of several alcohols, but remember to always check your mixers carefully!
Low FODMAP alcohols
- Gin (1 ounce/30 ml)
- Vodka (1 ounce/30 ml)
- Whiskey (1 ounce/30 ml)
- Red, White, and Sparkling Wine (5 ounces/150 ml)
- Pay attention to sparkling wine and how your body reacts because carbonation by itself may trigger symptoms.
- Beer (12 ounces/375 ml)
- Beer is low FODMAP but NOT gluten free unless it says so specifically so if you know you have gluten issues, watch out for that.
High FODMAP alcohols
- Rum (fructose)
- Sticky wine: sherry, port and ice wine (fructose)
Tequila has not yet been tested by Monash so it’s recommended to avoid it during the elimination and reintroduction phases. Tequila is made from the agave plant (agave syrup is known to be high FODMAP) but in processing the agave into alcohol, the FODMAP content may change. If you’re past the elimination and reintroduction phases, you can start by trying about 1 ounce/30 ml and see how your body tolerates tequila. Make sure that you only have foods/drinks that you know won’t trigger you and that you don’t have symptoms leading up to testing so that you’ll know it’s only the tequila you’re reacting to.
The failure of this little experiment was actually the catalyst for making the doctor’s appointment that would lead to my diagnosis. Let this story be your catalyst to reach out to someone who can help you. Make an appointment with a health professional to get on the right track for your body.