Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) occurs when someone who drinks heavily suddenly stops ingesting alcohol. Symptoms can be both physical and psychological in nature and may be life-threatening.
The first symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may occur a few hours after a person has their last drink. These symptoms typically start with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
How Alcohol Withdrawal May Cause Diarrhea
Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it slows the body’s normal function. After prolonged alcohol abuse, the brain will stop producing certain chemicals and solely rely on alcohol, which eventually leads to dependence.
When a person who drinks heavily stops drinking, it will take time before normal bodily function resumes. During this recalibration period, symptoms such as diarrhea are common.
Factors That Impact Diarrhea Caused By Alcohol
There are several factors that contribute to the severity of alcohol withdrawal diarrhea including the amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis, diet, and the nature of detox.
Amount Of Alcohol Consumed
According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended limit for alcohol that should be consumed on a weekly basis is 14 drinks for men and seven for women.
Anything above this amount may lead to heavy drinking and a higher risk of developing withdrawal symptoms such as diarrhea.
Attempting To Detox Cold Turkey
One of the biggest risk factors for developing diarrhea is attempting to detox cold turkey. It’s much more advisable to slowly taper alcohol consumption over time to avoid uncomfortable side effects.
Another option is beginning the detox process at a treatment center that offers evidence-based services for alcohol abuse.
Eating a healthy, fiber-heavy diet may help alleviate diarrhea. Oftentimes, people going through detox will not feel like eating due to side effects such as nausea or vomiting.
Timeline Of Alcohol Withdrawal Diarrhea Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin between four to six hours after the last alcoholic drink is ingested.
The total time for alcohol withdrawal will vary depending on the severity of alcohol addiction, underlying health conditions, and more.
Diarrhea is one of the first symptoms that a person in detox will experience, typically starting within the first 12 hours and lasting up to 48 hours.
How To Relieve Diarrhea During Alcohol Withdrawal
There are several ways that alcohol withdrawal diarrhea may be treated during detox. These treatments include diet choices, over-the-counter medications, and hydration.
Making sure you’re drinking enough water and replenishing electrolytes is one of the most beneficial things you can do to alleviate diarrhea.
If you can’t keep fluids down, IV (intravenous) fluids may be given along with vitamin and mineral supplementation to keep the body healthy.
Another useful tactic is taking store-bought medications such as Pepto-Bismol, Imodium, or clonidine to help stop diarrhea. These drugs assist in slowing down the gastrointestinal system.
Probiotics found in supplements or foods such as yogurt provide the intestines with microflora. These are “good” bacteria that help the gut function effectively.
Research has shown that probiotic supplementation during alcohol detox helps speed up recovery from diarrhea, and may lessen withdrawal symptoms.
Proper nutrition during alcohol withdrawal can help ease unpleasant symptoms. BRAT is an acronym that stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. This bland diet has sufficient fiber and high carbohydrates to make stool firmer and all are easily digestible in the body.
Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse
Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be potentially life-threatening if left untreated by medical professionals. Evidence-based treatment facilities for substance use disorder can help.
Alcohol withdrawal treatment programs may include:
- medical detoxification for alcohol
- support groups
- medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health issues
- outpatient treatment
- residential programs
Severe withdrawal symptoms may include high blood pressure, mood swings, fast heart rate, disorientation, auditory hallucinations, and drastic changes in body temperature.
To avoid a medical emergency, it’s highly advised to seek a substance abuse treatment center for appropriate medical care and supervision.
Find Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information about our inpatient treatment program for alcohol use disorder.
Our team can help with the management of alcohol withdrawal and give you the medical attention you need to reach a full recovery from alcohol dependence.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/61-66.pdf
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa54.htm
- National Institute of Health (NIH) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482134/