Can Alcohol Cause Ulcerative Colitis (UC)?

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It can be overwhelming when you receive a diagnosis of a chronic illness. However, learning about your condition and understanding what can help or hurt the symptoms can help you feel more prepared and empowered. What is Ulcerative Colitis? It is a chronic illness that causes inflammation of the large intestine. The colon’s lining becomes inflamed, and sores develop, known as ulcers. This condition occurs from an overreactive immune system response to triggers that can result in flare-ups of symptoms. 

You may wonder what causes this disease and what you can do to improve your health. According to research, alcohol does not cause Ulcerative Colitis; however, alcohol can harm the body, impacting one’s symptoms and making healing from a flare-up more difficult. 

In this article, we will learn more about Ulcerative Colitis, what happens when you mix alcohol use and UC, and how you can improve your overall health and wellness. 

Are you worried about your health and recognize alcohol use’s impact on your body? Taking steps to recover from addiction can improve more than your physical health. Many people find that everything in life is better when they seek addiction treatment. People report fewer symptoms of illness, better sleep, increased energy, emotional stability, and deeper connections with loved ones. 

Finding a treatment center that takes a holistic approach toward wellness is essential when you are experiencing significant health issues like Ulcerative Colitis and alcohol-use disorder. We at Guardian Recovery believe everyone deserves quality care in treating addiction, no matter where you may be in your recovery. When you contact Guardian Recovery, you will work with a compassionate staff member ready to answer questions and provide you with individualized treatment options. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for more information. 

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What is Ulcerative Colitis?

Ulcerative Colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that impacts the colon. Ulcers develop, forming pus, creating pain in the abdomen and the need to empty your colon. It is not well understood what causes Ulcerative Colitis, but several factors have been identified. It is believed that UC is developed initially from a bacterial or viral infection in the colon, triggering an immune response. It is usual for most people to experience some inflammation after an illness has occurred. However, in patients with UC, the inflammation stays well after the immune response has been triggered. 

Ulcerative Colitis can occur at any age, but most people are diagnosed in their 30s. People may confuse UC and Crohn’s Disease because they impact the gastrointestinal tract. However, the difference is that UC only targets the large intestine of the colon and rectum, whereas Crohn’s can target any portion of the GI tract.  

Common Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis:

  • Loose and urgent bowel movements.
  • Blood in stool.
  • Abdominal pain or cramping.
  • Persistent diarrhea.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Nausea.
  • Fever.
  • Fatigue.
  • Anemia.
  • Delayed growth in children. 

The main goal in treating UC is managing one’s immune system. Although there is no cure for UC, people can live a rewarding life by recognizing triggers for flare-ups, maintaining medication, and watching diet and nutrition. 

Doctors can prescribe medications to help reduce inflammation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In addition to medication, diet and nutrition are essential in limiting flare-ups from occurring. Typically a bland diet and avoiding items such as spicy foods or alcohol can help to reduce inflammation from occurring. Although diet and alcohol do not cause UC, they can aggravate symptoms or flare-ups. 

For more severe cases, people may require surgery to remove the colon. Depending on age, overall health, and disease severity, doctors can determine the level of care needed to help treat the condition.

Alcohol Use and Colitis

Although research indicated that alcohol use could not cause UC, it has been determined that alcohol can be a potential trigger for an ulcerative colitis flare-up. This research article looked at UC in mice and gave them alcohol to see the effects alcohol had on the body with the disease. It was found that alcohol consumption correlated with weight loss and colon shorting, both well-known for UC flare-ups. 

It is also well-known how alcohol negatively impairs the immune system. Alcohol is known to lower immunity by increasing inflammation, destroying good bacteria in the intestines, and allowing cytokines to increase. This disruption to the immune system will create an Ulcerative Colitis flare-up. 

Additionally, we have also seen how alcohol damages the liver. As each person responds to alcohol differently, drinking alcohol with a chronic autoimmune disease has a higher risk of experiencing liver damage or even liver failure. 

As with other complications alcohol has been known to have, it once again makes the symptoms worse. People with UC and alcohol may experience the subsequent worsening of symptoms. 

Alcohol Use and Ulcerative Colitis Worsening Symptoms:

  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Upper gastrointestinal bleeding.
  • Diarrhea. 

Finally, we have seen that alcohol can have adverse outcomes when combined with various medications. What has been identified in previous articles is alcohol can cause problems when taking medication. Alcohol can worsen side effects, impair the immune system, increase the time to heal from an infection, and put more strain on the liver. For these reasons, you should always consult your doctor about using alcohol with any medication you take. 

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Effects of Drinking Alcohol With UC

Not only does alcohol increase the likelihood of a flare-up of Ulcerative Colitis but alcohol is also known to damage the gastrointestinal tract. Alcohol increases the acidity in the GI tract, which can lead to acid reflux, ulcers, and intestinal bleeding. 

Gastrointestinal Symptoms & Alcohol Use:

  • Chronic diarrhea. 
  • Damage to the lining of the intestines.
  • Impaired functioning of intestines.
  • Decreased nutrient absorption. 
  • Gastroparesis. 

These symptoms are common to what people may experience with UC. Chronic alcohol use not only masks the disease you may already have with Ulcerative Colitis, but it may also worsen the progression of the disease as symptoms are exacerbated. 

Alcohol and Infection Risk

As discussed, alcohol increases strain on the liver, increases inflammatory properties in the body, impairs the immune system, slows healing, and intensifies disease symptoms. Research has also concluded that alcohol specifically causes inflammation in the gut, increasing the risk of inflammation in the GI tract. 

Not only do these symptoms impact the gastrointestinal system, but they can lead to multisystem damage and failure. The inflammation may start specifically in GI with a leaky gut, but pathogens expand further, leading to bacterial infections, cancer, liver disease, and neurological pathologies. 

Alcohol and Trigger Flares

As noted earlier, alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods trigger Ulcerative Colitis flare-ups. This research article indicated that 75% of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and 43% of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome reported worsening GI symptoms with alcohol consumption. 

You may feel hopeless living with a disease like Ulcerative Colitis. You may feel powerless to have symptoms suddenly, and eating certain foods or drinking alcohol may make your ability to cope with the condition much worse. 

The more you can work with your doctor on treatment, managing symptoms and preventing flare-ups can help. Knowing how to manage your health and what you can do to live without the symptoms of UC is possible. 

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If you are struggling with Ulcerative Colitis and need help treating your alcohol addiction, please contact us today. At Guardian Recovery, our mission is to provide comprehensive treatment for anyone in need. Not only will we take the time to assess what treatment is most beneficial for you, but we will also provide compassionate, well-informed care to help guide you in your journey toward wellness. Our caring clinical professionals have decades of combined experience providing effective alcohol-use disorder treatment. We also can provide a no-obligation insurance benefit check at your convenience. We are ready to help you heal, so please get in touch with us today. 

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28120853/
  2. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-ulcerative-colitis/overview
  3. https://grantome.com/grant/NIH/F31-AA025536-01
  4. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh21-1/76.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513683/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708696/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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