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Is There Bloating After Quitting Alcohol?

bloating after quitting alcohol

Because April is Alcohol Awareness Month, it feels like the right time to explore some of the ways in which quitting  alcohol can be rewarding and, sometimes, necessary to maintaining physical and mental health. Quitting alcohol can also be challenging, on multiple levels: physical, emotional, even spiritual. One common, though underreported, symptom that can occur during recovery from long-term alcohol abuse is an increase in gas and bloating. It is important to know the science behind bloating after quitting alcohol, along with some of the more common contributing factors and some effective ways in which to counteract what can be an uncomfortable experience.

The Science of Bloating After Quitting Alcohol

Bloating after quitting alcohol can occur for a few key scientific reasons, most of which have to do with the body re-regulating itself now that alcohol has left the body.

The first has to do with upheaval in the gut microbiome. Long-term alcohol use can negatively impact the composition of the gut microbiome, leading to an imbalance of bacteria. (This is due partly to the fact that the human body breaks alcohol down to acetaldehyde, which is toxic.) When a person stops drinking, their gut microbiome starts readjusting. This can result in temporary bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms.

It may help to imagine that your gut microbiome is like a rainforest. With long-term alcohol use, this rainforest was suffering with an infestation of alien beings. However, now that the alien beings have left, your rainforest is left to thrive once again.

The second key scientific reason for bloating after quitting alcohol is that your overall digestive system is making adjustments. After all, alcohol has a way of irritating the lining of the digestive tract, causing inflammation and disrupting normal digestive processes. Remove the alcohol, however, and the digestive system undergoes a period of recovery and restoration. Such a transition can lead to temporary bloating.

Other Contributing Factors

Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production, which can lead to dehydration. When a person stops using alcohol, their body’s water balance begins to normalize. This causes the body to retain water temporarily, which can manifest as bloating.

While it’s worth noting that bloating after quitting alcohol is a temporary and mostly manageable condition, more persistent or severe bloating could indicate a spearate health issue. If bloating persists, or is accompanied by other symptoms, one may want to consult a healthcare provider.

The Timeline of Bloating After Quitting Alcohol

While bloating after quitting alcohol is somewhat common, the timeline for this condition can vary depending on the duration and intensity of one’s alcohol consumption, dietary habits, and overall physical health.

That said, individuals generally begin experiencing bloating within a few days of quitting alcohol. This can occur due to the retention of water retention or minor digestive system adjustments. As the body adjusts to the absence of alcohol and begins restoring its gut microbiome, the bloating may persist for as long as two weeks.

In some cases, however, an underlying health issue may contribute to more prolonged bloating after quitting alcohol. Again, consultation with a healthcare provider might be a good idea in such a case.

How to Alleviate Bloating

Of course, bloating is not just some condition that one is helpless to manage or avoid. Take the following measures to alleviate or even prevent the discomfort of bloating after quitting alcohol.

Reexamine Your Diet

Most likely the best way to alleviate bloating after quitting alcohol is to look over the types of food you eat and think about what can stay and what ought to go.

First, you might want to say a temporary farewell to foods that are famous for causing gas and indigestion, including beans, lentils, onions, dairy products, and carbonated drinks. Try to incorporate more low-fiber foods like white rice, bananas, and lean proteins like fish or chicken.

You’ll also want to include plenty of fruits and vegetables (though not cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, since these can cause indigestion) as well as foods that high in antioxidants, such as blueberries, spinach, and kale. Such foods promote good liver function.

Lastly, probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria that naturally support gut health and reduce bloating.


Exercise also alleviates bloating after quitting alcohol, as it stimulates the digestive system and helps reduce inflammation in the body. A minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, such as walking, jogging, or cycling, can go a long way toward alleviating bloating after quitting alcohol.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is essential for managing bloating after quitting alcohol. Whenever you drink water, toxins are being flushed from your body and digestion is improved. Proper hydration can also help prevent constipation, which has been known to contribute to bloating.

One should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. Remember, spread this water intake evenly throughout the day, instead of downing large amounts in a small timespan.

Manage Your Stress

Stress management techniques like yoga or meditation can also help alleviate bloating, particularly bloating that is caused by anxiety or stress. After all, stress triggers the release of hormones that slow digestion, which can lead to the accumulation of gas in the stomach. Having an assortment of life coping skills, or even an activity to fall back on, when things feel overwhelming can go a long way toward alleviating the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Be Patient

Finally, it’s important to be patient with your body as it continues to adjust to life without alcohol. Bloating is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal and it can take time to resolve.

Remember, it’s essential to listen to your body and make the adjustments that work for you. And if you need further guidance or are experiencing severe or persistent bloating, it’s wise to consult your healthcare provider.

Learn the Ins and Outs of Proper Nutrition in Recovery with Northpoint Colorado

Need a nutritionist? You’ll find one at Northpoint Recovery. We’re committed to providing you with both the short- and long-term benefits of proper treatment. Just call us today at 970.699.3132 or contact us online via our brief message form.