Can Drinking Too Much Red Wine Cause Internal Damage and Rectal Bleeding?

A glass of wine a day can be beneficial to your health. Though a glass of wine a day is widely acknowledged to be safe for the majority of people, there is a risk of damage to the gastrointestinal tract for a subset of the population. In some instances, red wine consumption may lead to internal damage or rectal bleeding.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Risk of Wine vs. Other Alcohol

Americans drink about 1 1/2 liters of wine per person annually, compared to about 4 1/2 liters of beer and just over 2 1/2 liters of spirits or liquor. A 5 oz. glass of wine has the same amount of alcohol as a 12 oz. glass of beer and a 1.5 oz. shot glass of liquor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers these three types of alcohol to be of equal risk. In other words, a glass of red wine poses no more risk to your gastrointestinal tract, or GI tract, than either beer or liquor taken in moderate doses, according to current research.

Alcohol and Your GI Tract

Drinking a lot, termed excessive alcohol use, is associated with chronic conditions such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, various cancers such as those of the liver, mouth, throat, larynx, and esophagus, and high blood pressure and psychological disorders, according to CDC. What is less understood in the scientific and public health community are the effects of alcohol in moderate to low alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption can damage the mucosa, or mucous membrane layer, of the stomach and intestines. Some people seem to be more susceptible to this damage than others, experiencing inflammation and lesions much faster after consuming alcohol than other people. These lesions and inflammation can produce bleeding, which can appear in the rectum.

Current Research

A recent review of the research concerning alcohol use and the GI tract, published in the 2005 "Digestive Diseases" found that there is a dose-response risk relationship between alcohol use and digestive disease risk. Dose-response merely means the more you take, the more at risk you are. The researchers concluded that drinking no alcohol posed the least risk, but that moderate alcohol consumption, defined by the CDC as one drink a day for women and two for men, didn't pose a substantial increased risk.


It may be that if you experience bleeding after consuming alcohol, ceasing to drink or lowering the amount you drink could solve the problem. However, intestinal damage and rectal bleeding can be signs of serious health problems, not just a momentary reaction to your glass of red wine. Considering the symptoms, you may be reluctant to speak with a health care provider due to embarrassment or a feeling that your doctor will simply tell you to stop all drinking. However, the only way to truly know either your personal risks of alcohol consumption or reasons for any internal damage or bleeding is to see a doctor.