The Impact of Alcohol in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2021 May 14;izab089. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izab089. Online ahead of print.

Bradley A White 1, Guilherme Piovezani Ramos 2, Sunanda Kane 2


Author information

  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.
  • 2Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota, USA.


Several environmental factors have been implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD); however, the evidence for alcohol is sparse, as is its implications on disease activity and overall management. Here, we examine the available evidence for the effect of alcohol on IBD, including its association with the development of IBD, role in exacerbations, and potential medication interactions. Several mechanisms have been demonstrated to mediate the effects of ethanol in the gastrointestinal tract. Alcohol has been shown to alter the gut microbiome, disrupt intestinal barrier, and increase intestinal permeability, directly and indirectly promoting immune activation. Conversely, specific alcoholic beverages, notably red wine, may have anti-inflammatory properties capable of assisting in disease control and affecting disease monitoring. Nonetheless, most alcohol-mediated effects seem to facilitate intestinal inflammation and consequently impact disease onset, recurrence, and symptom control. Furthermore, alcohol use interferes with the metabolism of several medications leading to increased side effect profiles or even loss of effect. Notably, mesalamine, azathioprine, methotrexate, and biologic medications can all be affected by concomitant alcohol intake via a variety of mechanisms.

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