Rum, whiskey, vodka, beer, an 1886 Château Latour – poisons of choice come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and potencies. But when it comes to alcohol and health, the reality is that alcohol is a toxin. Sure, a glass of red wine every other night is supposed to be good for your heart, but it’s certainly possible to have ‘too much of a good thing’. And for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) sufferers, too much alcohol can be a very bad thing indeed.
Cutting down on even moderate alcohol consumption can have significant health benefits. Ditching the booze can help you sleep better, improve your liver function, reduce your risk of some cancers, improve the appearance of your skin and enhance your general wellbeing.
As sufferers of autoimmune conditions (such as Crohn’s) know all too well when your health is fragile or volatile, it’s essential to keep a good baseline of health and wellbeing to reduce the risk and severity of symptom flares. Too much alcohol definitely affects your overall wellbeing and, like excessive fatty or sugary foods, should be avoided. Alcohol also irritates the digestive lining, which is bad news if you already suffer from gastro inflammation.
IBD cases vary enormously from person to person. The diet your fellow IBD-buddy swears by could send you into a downward spiral of acute flares. Conversely, eating the foods that trigger your mate’s condition could instead keep you on an even keel. With alcohol, some people can cope with it in moderate amounts, however for others it can be a culprit that aggravates their symptoms.
You should probably also think twice about that glass of merlot if you’re on any medication. Alcohol can interact with many drugs, causing or exacerbating the known negative side effects.
As with all things related to your IBD diet and lifestyle, you need to find out what works for you, what doesn’t and always discuss any diet or lifestyle changes or concerns with your doctor.
For better or worse, alcohol is part of our society and it’s likely that you will be in situations where drinking is encouraged or expected at times – celebratory events like weddings, birthdays, or even just 5pm on a regular old Friday. Navigating these social situations without a bevvy, especially if you’re abstaining from the booze because of a medical condition, can be tough. And, considering most people are diagnosed with IBD when they’re in their partying prime (teens and young adults), the pressure to partake can sometimes be great.
If you find yourself in a boozy situation, just stick to your guns. When alcohol is off the cards because of your condition or your medication, it can help to prep your friends, family and work mates before social events. Have a quick chat about why you’re ditching the booze and how good it makes you feel.
Part of managing your condition is turning your network into allies and supporters of your IBD journey, not dissenters, tempters and bad influences. And, if all else fails just volunteer to be the designated driver – everyone will love you and the lemonades will be on the house all night.