Ulcerative colitis (UC) is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can cause the lining of the large intestine and rectum to become inflamed. There may be a connection between ulcerative colitis and alcohol, which also affects the gut.

In the past, some studies have shown both the harmful and beneficial effects of alcohol in ulcerative colitis. Newer studies suggest no correlation or a negative correlation between alcohol and ulcerative colitis.

The general recommendation is to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. Alcohol irritates the digestive tract in similar ways to UC, and combining the two may worsen symptoms.

While some people with UC may be able to consume alcohol, others should avoid it altogether.

Studies have examined the positive and negative aspects of drinking alcohol with UC. Read on to learn more.

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Alcohol may adversely affect UC.

Increasing inflammation

As a 2018 review notes, alcohol causes inflammation and harms the gut barrier function.

These factors are important for people with UC, as the condition also causes inflammation and affects how well the body can absorb nutrients. It also increases the risk of bacteria invasion.

Risk of relapse

The researchers also noted that alcohol consumption might provoke symptoms or a relapse in a person who has inflammatory bowel disease.

The 2018 review also noted that there was a link between higher alcohol intake and higher rates of relapse in people with UC.

Drinks containing sulfites

There may also be a link between the sulfites in alcoholic beverages and UC. A 2021 report noted that various research findings suggest that people with UC who drank wine and beer containing sulfites had a higher risk of disease activity or relapse.

Monitoring symptoms

UC presents differently in different people, and what affects one person may not affect another as much.

Anyone who has UC and chooses to drink alcohol must pay attention to any new symptoms and take action to prevent complications.

There are few high quality, contemporary studies into the positive effects of alcohol on UC. More research is necessary.

An extensive study from 1989 studied 304,000 people on a specific healthcare plan. Their research found that people who drank alcohol and never smoked had associations with a decreased risk of UC.

A 2017 systematic review compiled information about the link between UC and alcohol. After comparing 16 studies, the research found no significant link between drinking alcohol and the risk of UC.

Some research indicates that the anti-inflammatory properties of red wine may help control inflammation. However, it can cause an increase in gut permeability, which can increase intestinal inflammation over time.

Drinking alcohol may affect some UC treatments.

Alcohol may interfere with the metabolism of IBD medications. These can include:

  • antibiotics
  • 5-aminosalicylates
  • immunosuppressants
  • biologics

If alcohol affects the delivery of medication to the body, the medication may not work correctly. This, in turn, may hinder a person’s ability to manage or reduce their symptoms.

Drinking alcohol can increase the likelihood of diarrhea. Following a specific diet to manage diarrhea and other symptoms of UC might include avoiding alcohol.

It is best for a person to contact their doctor for advice before drinking alcohol. Their doctor can advise on whether it is safe to do so or if there is a risk of the alcohol interacting with their current treatment plan.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about alcohol and UC.

How much alcohol can you drink with ulcerative colitis?

It is best for a person with UC to avoid drinking alcohol, as it can worsen symptoms and increase the risk of relapse.

What is the safest alcohol to drink with ulcerative colitis?

Some research indicates that the anti-inflammatory properties of red wine may benefit inflammation management. However, it can cause more inflammation over time due to increased gut permeability. It is also best for a person with UC to avoid drinks containing sulfites, which includes wine and beer.

While it is uncertain if light drinking has long-term effects on people with UC, the current recommendation is for people with UC to avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol causes inflammation and harms the gut barrier, which may worsen symptoms of UC.

However, UC affects each person differently, and some people may be able to consume some alcohol without affecting their symptoms.

It is best to contact a doctor for advice before consuming alcohol. The doctor can recommend whether a person can consume alcohol without affecting their treatment.