Alcohol and inflammatory bowel disease

Alcohol and inflammatory bowel disease

What are the health impacts of drinking alcohol?

The recommended limit for all adults is 14 units per week (six x 175 ml glasses of wine or six pints of 4% beer) which should be spread across three or more days. This is not completely without risk as there is no completely safe level of alcohol consumption, but this is considered ‘low-risk’ consumption.1

Infographic showing the recommended alcohol limits for men and women. 14 units a week. 6 pints of 4% strength beer, or 7 glasses of 11.5% strength wine.

People with Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) can drink about as much as people without. However, alcohol can trigger IBD symptoms in some people because it damages the gut barrier, inhibits the immune system and can cause diarrhoea and dehydration.1,2

Drinking alcohol with IBD

What types of alcohol can I drink?

The high sugar content of some drinks, such as beer or alcopops, can contribute to diarrhoea, so you may need to choose drinks containing less sugar, such as wine.2  Alcohol can also make some IBD treatments ineffective or less effective.3 Your doctor will be able to advise on whether it is likely that your medication will be affected by drinking alcohol. Ultimately, whether you choose to drink is your own decision.

Even if you find that drinking alcohol has little or no effect on your IBD, you should still drink in moderation as part of a general healthy living strategy.2 

How can I find out if alcohol is making my IBD worse?

It can help to track your food and drink intake in a food diary to help you identify things which are worsening your condition or triggering flares. If you find that drinking alcohol is worsening your symptoms of IBD, you may need to stop or significantly reduce your consumption.

Download our food diary and begin to track your food and drink intake.

Stopping drinking alcohol may seem like a small lifestyle change, but some people may worry that it will make it difficult for them to socialise with friends and that they will have to explain their condition to more people. However, by drinking, many people with IBD do experience worsening of their symptoms which prevents them from engaging in social activities.

If you are not sure how alcohol is affecting you, or need help changing your drinking habits, please speak to your doctor. You could also read the NHS Better Health guidance on ways and reasons to drink less – find it here.

Read more here for some useful tips on talking about your IBD here.

You can also find out more on different lifestyle changes below
Read about the benefits of exercise for IBD
Find out about the effect of smoking on IBD
Read about nutrition and IBD


IBD = Inflammatory bowel disease.
*IBDrelief patient survey data from 167 respondents with IBD in the UK.4

  1. Swanson GR, et al. Pattern of alcohol consumption and its effect on gastrointestinal symptoms in inflammatory bowel disease. Alcohol 2010;44(3):223–28.
  2. White BA, et al. The impact of alcohol in inflammatory bowel diseases. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2022;28(3):466–73.
  3. IBDrelief. Impact of IBD on physical and emotional health: Findings from an IBDrelief survey. Available at Accessed October 2023. 
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