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Red Wine and Diarrhea – A Cause of This Nasty Condition?

Is it true that red wine can cause diarrhea?

Maybe this is a conclusion you have come to on your own after having a few glasses and experiencing such or maybe it is just something you heard from someone else.... it doesn't really matter. 

What does matter is whether or not red wine and diarrhea are linked. 

I bet you are reading this saying PLEASE.... LET THE ANSWER BE NOOO... because of course you don't want to give up your red wine. Then what would you do?

Well... hopefully the answer isn't as bad as you may think. Red wine can indeed cause diarrhea but recent studies also show that it can help as well. Confusing.. I know... but you'll see what we mean.

Let's face it... diarrhea is a big pain that no on wants to deal with.

  • Bloating
  • Upset stomach
  • Time wasted on the toilet
  • Day plans messed up from all the bathroom visits

... if you have diarrhea it is likely being accompanied by downsides like these.

And... as mentioned... there are a number of ways that red wine can lead to all of this.

8 Ways Wine Can Cause Diarrhea

When you drink wine it starts getting absorbed as soon as you drink it. It doesn't have to go through the whole digestion process. Some is absorbed right in the stomach and then it makes it's way to the bloodstream, which is why you can feel effects so fast, depending on how empty your stomach is or course.

The alcohol then moves on to the small intestine and what isn't absorbed there moves to the large intestine.

Through this process there are a number of ways that diarrhea can result... here are 8...

*Note: Some of these are not specific to wine but rather alcohol in general, while other are specific to wine.

  1. Too Much Water - The large intestine pulls water out of the stool before the waste exits your body. With alcohol consumption, your large intestine might not function at full efficiency and this could lead to loose and watery bowel movements.
  2. Inflammation - Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause inflammation, in the digestive tract as well as throughout the whole body. The increased inflammation in the digestive tract is likely due to increased acid production in the stomach that can be the result of drinking. 
  3. Irritation - By means of inflammation and other ways, alcohol can irritate the intestines and impair their function. This can speed up digestion which means your foods aren't being processed properly and can lead to diarrhea.
  4. Gut Bacteria - You've probably heard that pouring alcohol on an open wound can stop infection. This is true and ethanol (the alcohol in wine, vodka, etc) is actually used in medical wipes, hand sanitizers, etc. The problem is that it can disrupt your gut bacteria balance and this plays a big role in proper digestion.
  5. Lots of Tannins - Diarrhea could also be caused by the tannins in wine. These are the bitter-tasting substances that gives it that dry taste, and are also known to have the potential to cause an upset stomach. They are abundant in the skins of grapes in which most wine is made from.
  6. Histamine Intolerance - Histamine is important for many bodily functions, and plays an important role in the communication of your brain to your digestive system. But... you can have too much of it. An intolerance to this means that you have developed too much histamine and this can cause stomach issues and diarrhea. Red wine is particularly high in histamine and can lead to such complications.
  7. Sulfite Allergies - Sulfites occur naturally in the process of wine-making and are important for preservation. However, they can cause allergic-like reactions that cause rashes, hives, nausea, vomiting and of course diarrhea.
  8. Fructose Content - While this isn't likely to cause diarrhea because wine generally has very low amounts, it is worth mentioning. Fructose is difficult to digest and large amounts of this sugar can cause issues, like that of you running to the toilet more frequently than normal. Sweeter wines contain more fructose and those that suffer from fructose malabsorption should avoid them.

Often times people likely experience diarrhea after drinking wine due to a combination of those listed above.

But... Wine Might Actually Be Good for Your Gut!

That's right!

This is what you have been wanting to hear... wine is actually good as well.

More recent studies have been conducted and show that wine, particularly red wine, has a prebiotic effect. This just means that it promotes the growth of good gut bacteria.

Red wine made from grapes is high in bio-active compounds called polyphenols, which besides promoting good gut bacteria, also lead to increased antimicrobial activity against bad bacteria.

Six separate studies came to this same conclusion... that red wine polyphenols benefit gut bacteria according to a review in the Food Research International journal.

One of the studies that was mentioned in the review came from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In this particular study there were 10 healthy volunteers that consumed red wine on a daily basis. After consumption for 4 weeks there were significant changes in gut microbiota found. Seven different types of bacteria showed large increases and along with this they also fount decreases in blood pressure, triglyceride levels, cholesterol.

Why This Is So Important

Gut bacteria plays a very important role in digestion. Without a healthy gut microbiota your digestion would seriously suffer and diarrhea as well as constipation would be much more frequent.

But besides that... a healthy gut microbiota is important for overall health. It also effects other bodily systems such as the immune system, which in-turn impacts a lot more.

There is "good" gut bacteria that is associated with positive health changes and there is "bad" gut bacteria that is associated with negative health changes. Red wine is shown to increase the "good".

So What Should You Do...Stop Drinking or Drink More?

Our bodies all differ in the way we react to certain substances. Some people may experience mild diarrhea while others have more severe experiences... and most people won't have any negative experiences at all.

If you do believe red wine is causing diarrhea a good way to make sure of this would be to do an elimination diet, which is basically when you eliminate foods/beverages from your diet and reintroduce them back in, all the while keeping a close eye on your symptoms. You can read more about how to do this here.

If you are positive that it is the cause then you are either going to want to discontinue drinking or try other varieties, preferably ones that are less sweet. It may also be beneficial to change other parts of your diet and eat foods that are less likely to cause diarrhea.

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Starting his writing career in 2015, Kyle is a leading contributor here at GutAdvisor, and for good reason. Having a passion for health and the awareness that proper digestion plays a key role one's overall well-being, he regularly keeps the community informed with valuable information regarding gut health.

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  1. Thank you. Very very helpful. I am a dry red wine (mostly Spanish) addict…so there you go. I am trying elimination and symptoms are better. I keep a clean diet ..at first I thought it was dairy or sugar but realize it’s likely red wine tannins (I believe)? Question: is this an irreversible condition? 🙁
    I take probiotics faithfully.
    Thanks very much.

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