Does Beer Make Diverticulitis Worse?

Diverticulitis is a complication of diverticulosis. Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula – weak spots in the lining of the large intestine – become inflamed due to trapped stool or bacteria. The exact cause of diverticular disease remains unknown; however, lack of fiber plays an important role, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus. Since alcohol can lead to constipation and dehydration, excessive amounts of beer will likely worsen your symptoms if you have diverticulitis.

Beer is a good source of folate. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Alcohol

Research has not uncovered a direct link between alcohol intake and diverticulitis. In 1995 researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a prospective study of a cohort of 47,678 American males between the ages of 40 and 75. In a four-year follow up period, 382 cases of diverticulitis occurred. The researchers did not find a significant association between subjects who ingested more than 30 g alcohol per day and diverticulitis onset, compared to the subjects who abstained from alcohol altogether. The results of this study were published in the journal “Annals of Epidemiology.”

Constipation and Dehydration

Excessive amounts of beer may nonetheless worsen the symptoms of diverticulitis because alcohol often leads to constipation and dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it increases the body’s rate of urination. Unless lost fluids are replaced, dehydration may result, which will make bowel movements harder to pass and trigger constipation. Constipation in turn creates pressure in the large intestine, which will exacerbate the symptoms of diverticulitis.

Obesity

Research associates heavy alcohol intake with weight gain, particularly in beer drinkers, and obesity increases the likelihood of diverticular bleeding. A July 2004 study conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers and published in the journal “Obesity” examined 49,324 females over an eight-year period and found that those who drank beer heavily showed a higher risk of obesity after the researchers adjusted for diet. A 2009 study conducted by Harvard and University of Washington researchers and published in the journal “Gastroenterology” examined 47,228 males over 18 years and found a high correlation between obesity and diverticular bleeding, a complication of diverticulitis that may require surgery. Thus excessive beer intake that leads to weight gain can worsen diverticulitis.

Fiber

The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommends that patients with diverticulitis increase the amount of fiber in their diet. Fiber adds bulk to the stool and assists with the movement of waste through the large intestine, which reduces the incidence of constipation. Speak to your doctor or health care provider about a safe intake of beer if you have diverticulitis.

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