“Is it ok to drink alcohol?” is a question I hear frequently. The answer is essentially “Yes, maybe, sometimes”. Wait, what?
My first answer, the most general one, is Yes. It’s ok to try anything when you have SIBO because we know that while food consumption may cause symptoms, unless you have a severe intolerance, food won’t cause SIBO or make your SIBO worse in the long run. It’s also important to try/test new foods to see what you tolerate at any given time.
The maybe comes into play when we talk about your specific health and symptoms. If you are highly symptomatic and sensitive, it might be best to wait until you’re in a more neutral state so it’s easier to ascertain your reaction to alcohol. There’s nothing wrong with sipping a little water with a lime in a fancy cup at parties to avoid any unwanted questions.
And lastly – sometimes. Since alcohol is an intestinal irritant, I recommend that most people drink infrequently, in small amounts. When I had SIBO, I liked to order a mixed drink and sip it but I rarely finished it. I also found that if I took some clover honey simple syrup with me to a bar, many bartenders would kindly use it in a drink. These days, you might not even need to bring your own as many nicer bars feature some cocktails made with honey instead of sugar. That said, sugar is low FODMAP in small amounts so if you tolerate it, it’s the easier option. Wine was more of an issue with me. It gave me a stomach ache and made me feel nauseous. Unfortunately, that never really went away even after my SIBO symptoms did and many of my friends also complain of not being able to tolerate wine any more. Fortunately, I recently found Dry Farm Wines (I’m not affiliated with them), a company out of California that sells low glycemic, low sulfite, gluten free, mold free wine. I’m now able to enjoy a glass of their wine without any side effects. At the SIBO Symposium in June, Dr. Allison Siebecker also showed many of us a product called “The Wand” (I’m not affiliated with them either). It’s a single use wand that you put into a glass of wine to remove histamines and sulfites. I haven’t tried it yet but Dr. Siebecker swears it works and I love the convenience of it.
So when it comes to alcohol, there are options. It’s not a “No, never!” It’s important to socialize, unwind and be out with friends, colleagues or family. Of course it’s not necessary, but sometimes it feels nice to order a drink before or with dinner. Be aware of your symptoms and your current state, and then once you’ve made a decision, relax and enjoy!