A common side-effect of drinking that people often notice is bloating. The term “beer belly” is a common term used to describe the weight gain that often accompanies heavy or regular drinking.
However, the stomach is hardly the only part of the body where bloating can commonly occur as a result of drinking. Many people also tend to notice weight gain or bloating from drinking in their faces as well.
In this blog, we will take a look at alcohol bloating, how it occurs, ways it can be prevented, and answer the question, “How long does alcohol bloating last?”
What Is Alcohol Bloating?
Alcohol bloating is one of the many side effects or results of heavy or prolonged drinking. Someone suffering from alcohol bloating may experience bloating in the stomach and facial areas. Alcohol bloating can be the result of a night of heavy drinking or it can also be a sign that there is a larger issue such as alcohol abuse, dependency, or addiction.
What Causes Alcohol Bloating?
Most alcohol tends to be high in calories and, depending on the alcohol itself or what it is being mixed with, high in sugar as well. Large amounts of empty calories and sugar can lead to weight gain.
Drinking alcohol can also cause irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, commonly known as gastritis. Acute gastritis comes on quickly and often will go away in a few days. This is the type of gastritis that is most commonly associated with drinking.
However, as you continue to do more and more damage to your gastrointestinal tract as a result of heavy, repeated drinking, acute gastritis can turn into chronic gastritis. The effects of chronic gastritis may have more of a delayed reaction and can last for months or even years before subsiding.
Gastritis can lead to swelling not just in the stomach but in other parts of the body as well, including the face. It can also result in:
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in appetite
Additionally, certain things we mix with alcohol can also increase the bloating that we experience after a night of drinking. Mixing alcohol with sugary or carbonated liquids can increase the risk of bloating, gassiness, and general discomfort.
Why Does Bloating Happen?
In order for the body to function normally when we ingest something the stomach must work properly in order for whatever we have eaten or drank to be digested properly. When something prevents that from happening, such as alcohol, discomfort can occur such as cramps, pain, indigestion, and bloating.
Additionally, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. This means that when we drink it slows down our entire system internally. This can lead to a variety of problems both significant and insignificant, one of which is bloating.
When Does Alcohol Bloating Typically Begin To Occur?
According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines, it is recommended that adult men have no more than 2 drinks per day and women have no more than 1 drink a day. A drink is defined as the following:
- 12 oz of beer (5% ABV)
- 8 oz of malt liquor (7% ABV)
- 5 oz of wine (12% ABV)
- 5 oz of liquor (80-proof or 40% ABV)
Drinking more than recommended can increase the risk that you experience bloating as a result of drinking. Since the body can only metabolize a certain amount of alcohol every hour, the more you drink, the more strain that is put on your body which can result in increased bloating and weight gain.
Can Alcohol Cause Bloating in Places Other Than Your Stomach?
Alcohol is inflammatory, so while stomach bloating typically gets most of the attention, alcohol can cause swelling and bloating throughout the body. In addition to the stomach, another common location for alcohol-related bloating and swelling to occur is the face.
Drinking alcohol causes dehydration. When the body is dehydrated it forces the organs to pull water from other areas. When this happens, it can lead to greater water retention as the body tries to counteract the dehydration. This can cause the face to get puffy or swollen as the excess water is stored in the tissues.
How Long Can Alcohol Bloating Last?
The length of time that alcohol-related bloating can last can vary based on a variety of factors.
While the average person may experience alcohol-related bloating for a few days, the timeline can vary based on:
- Overall health
- Drinking habits
- Height and weight
Even after the bloating subsides, the weight gain brought on by the calories and sugar in the alcohol and mixers can last for weeks or longer if not properly addressed.
If you are someone that drinks heavily, regularly, you may notice that over time the bloating last longer and it is harder to shed the pounds brought on by drinking. You may also start to experience more extreme health complications such as more severe gastritis and damage to the liver and other vital organs.
How Can I Avoid Alcohol Bloating?
While the easiest way to avoid alcohol bloating is to avoid alcohol altogether, sometimes that is easier said than done. If removing alcohol from your diet and life entirely isn’t a realistic option, below are some things that you can do to cut down on the amount of alcohol-related bloating you may experience as well as the length of time that the bloating occurs:
- Drink plenty of water – drinking water can not only keep you from getting dehydrated and feeling hungover the next day, it can also slow down or even prevent stomach and facial bloating. Drinking water before, during, and after drinking alcohol can help counter the inflammatory effects on the body that alcohol produces.
- Avoid carbonated beverages – Soda water is a very common mixer when drinking liquor. While it might seem like a “healthier” mixer alternative since it has no sugar or carbs, the carbonation can help cause added bloating. In fact, carbonated drinks as a whole can lead to increased bloating because of all the carbonation and carbon dioxide in the stomach.
- Try and avoid activities that cause you to suck in a lot of air – Many people may do things like chew gum, eat candy, or even smoke cigarettes while they drink. All of these activities are actively causing more bloating to occur because you are sucking more air in than normal in the process. Sucking in more air can lead to an increase in bloating
- Eat slowly – If you are having a couple of drinks while eating, make sure that you take your time and eat slowly. Not only can eating slowly reduce the amount of air that you are swallowing, but it can also help the body break down and process the food easier.
- Exercise – Physical activity is known to not only reduce bloating but in some cases even prevent it. Exercising regularly can decrease the chances that you will experience bloating after drinking. Even if you aren’t a regular exerciser, working out or doing some type of physical activity the next day after drinking can help speed up the process of flushing out your system, including getting rid of the bloating.
- Use probiotics – Whether it’s to address the bloating after the fact, or as a preventative measure before drinking, digestive enzymes and probiotics can help keep the body regular and promote healthy gut bacteria which can help break down food and alcohol better, leaving less of an opportunity for bloating.
What is the Duration of Alcohol Bloating?
Alcohol bloating can vary from person to person. Someone who rarely drinks may never experience any alcohol bloating while someone who drinks heavily, regularly may experience bloating on almost a daily basis.
While alcohol-related bloating doesn’t always equate to a drinking problem, experiencing regular bloating that lingers for long periods of time may be a sign that you are suffering from alcohol abuse or addiction.
At Northern Illinois Recovery Center we understand that the line between “healthy” and unhealthy alcohol use can be a fine line and can sometimes be tough to spot. If you or someone you know is struggling with their drinking, or are experiencing health complications as a result of their drinking, it might be time to get them help.
We offer a variety of treatment options for those suffering from not just alcohol addiction, but from a wide range of other substances of abuse as well including:
- Prescription drugs
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you with your struggles and how we can work with you as you begin your journey on the road to recovery.