Alcohol is a common trigger for Crohn’s disease, so some people may need to avoid or at least restrict their intake.

Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract but most commonly affects the small and large intestines.

Crohn’s disease symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time. There is no cure for the condition.

Treatment focuses on getting the condition into remission. This is when a person experiences very limited symptoms, if any.

Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between Crohn’s disease and alcohol.

Person holding a wine glassShare on Pinterest
Lisa Schaetzle/Getty Images

Alcohol can affect the immune system, prompting changes to chemicals that cause inflammation in the gut. This can trigger or worsen symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

These chemical changes can disrupt gut function. People with Crohn’s disease are particularly susceptible to this type of intestinal damage.

Because each person with Crohn’s disease has a different experience, there is no simple rule about handling alcohol. Alcohol may cause no symptoms in one person but severe reactions in another. Those who experience symptoms relating to alcohol use may wish to limit or avoid drinking it.

Additionally, people with Crohn’s disease can react differently to different types of alcohol. For example, hard liquor may be easy to tolerate, while beer is a strong trigger for symptoms.

Anyone with Crohn’s disease needs to speak with their healthcare professional about symptoms and how they evolve.

Avoiding alcohol for a while and slowly reintroducing it can help someone get a better idea of how their body responds.

Read about other Crohn’s disease triggers.

Few studies have examined alcohol use among people with specific types of IBD, such as Crohn’s disease.

An older study from 2010 found that drinking alcohol may worsen Crohn’s disease symptoms. However, it only looked at 90 people with IBD, 52 of whom had Crohn’s disease, and 32 who had actively consumed alcohol. The study also relied on responses to a questionnaire.

A 2021 study also showed that heavy alcohol consumption may promote inflammation and worsen the symptoms of IBD. It also stated that alcohol use may decrease the effectiveness of certain medications and increase the toxicity of others.

The study authors acknowledge that more research is necessary before they can reach a definitive conclusion.

One large review from 2018 looked at results from 12 studies that investigated the effects of alcohol in people with an IBD.

Most of those studies also concluded that Crohn’s disease symptoms worsened with alcohol consumption. The authors likewise noted that confirming the findings will require further research.

Learn more about Crohn’s disease.

The most suitable drinks are those that do not cause symptoms to flare up.

It may be helpful to stay away from alcohol for a while until the condition is in remission. A person could then try small amounts of one type of drink and pay close attention to how their body reacts to it.

An older study from 2007 looked at the effects of five alcoholic drinks on people with Crohn’s disease. These included red wine, white wine, a bottled mixed drink with vodka, a brand of beer, and pure ethanol.

The researchers found that the participants absorbed these drinks similarly but that the bottled cocktail and the beer led to more abdominal pain than the other three types of drink. The research team attributed this reaction to the higher sugar content in the mixed drink and beer.

Another older study from 2011 looked specifically at red wine consumed during IBD remission. The authors found that drinking even moderate amounts of red wine can cause increased permeability, or leakiness, in the intestines, which could lead to flare-ups and aggravated symptoms.

Learn about other factors that may cause a flare-up.

A flare-up is a period of increased inflammation in the tissue that Crohn’s disease affects. This can lead to various other symptoms, including:

Some people also experience symptoms in other parts of the body. These can include:

  • joint pain
  • a rash
  • sores in or on the mouth
  • fatigue
  • a loss of appetite
  • weight loss

Learn more about Crohn’s disease flare-ups.

IBD resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Was this helpful?

Anyone with Crohn’s disease can discuss ways of managing flare-ups with a healthcare professional. If they have identified a trigger, it is a suitable idea for them to avoid consuming it.

A person should ensure they take all medications exactly as a doctor has prescribed, even if symptoms are in remission. It is important not to miss a dose because this can increase the risk of a flare-up.

It is also a suitable idea to keep certain items around that can help manage a flare-up. For some people, this means:

  • pain relievers
  • a heating pad
  • hygienic wipes
  • anti-diarrheal medication
  • mild soap to clean irritated or sensitive anal tissue
  • medicated mouthwash for sores
  • barrier ointment

Individuals can speak with a healthcare professional if flare-ups occur frequently or are difficult to manage.

Read about how to recognize and manage flare-ups.

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease. It primarily affects the intestinal tract and can cause serious discomfort during flare-ups.

Alcohol is a possible trigger for symptoms of Crohn’s disease. However, this may not mean that someone with the condition needs to eliminate alcohol from their diet.

Crohn’s disease affects people differently, and individuals can have different reactions to various alcoholic drinks and other triggers.

Working with a healthcare professional can help someone understand what triggers their symptoms and how to approach alcohol best.

Read this article in Spanish.