Updated on August 14, 2023
4 min read

Is Alcohol Safe for Those with Gilbert's Syndrome?

What is Gilbert's Syndrome?

Gilbert’s syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when the liver cannot properly process bilirubin. Bilirubin is a normal byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells (RBCs). Total bilirubin levels of 1.2 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) are standard for adults.

Excess bilirubin can be toxic. This is especially true if the body is exposed to prolonged build-up for a long time. The condition is called hyperbilirubinemia.

The body breaks down bilirubin through enzyme reactions in the liver. However, people with Gilbert's syndrome cannot complete this reaction. This is because of a genetic defect in their liver enzymes.


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What Causes Gilbert's Syndrome?

Gilbert’s syndrome is an inherited disorder caused by an abnormal UGT1A1 gene. People with this mutated gene can only produce 30% of the enzymes that properly break down bilirubin.

Without a properly functioning UGT1A1 gene, the bloodstream will contain excess bilirubin because it cannot eliminate it. Although alcohol doesn't cause Gilbert's syndrome, it can worsen symptoms.

Alcoholism tends to elevate bilirubin levels. Jaundice, a condition that causes yellowing in the skin and eyes, is a common symptom that can worsen from drinking alcohol.

Symptoms of Gilbert's Syndrome 

Symptoms of Gilbert's syndrome are typically mild and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Jaundice
  • Appetite loss
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach or abdominal pain
  • Concentration issues

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Can You Drink Alcohol with Gilbert's Syndrome?

If you have Gilbert's syndrome, you may find processing even small amounts of alcohol difficult. This is because bilirubin and alcohol are broken down in the liver.

Although you can drink with Gilbert's syndrome, you should avoid it. For some, even one drink can lead to:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • A painful digestive tract
  • Pronounced dizziness

Excess alcohol intake can significantly worsen the condition, leading to elevated bilirubin levels. The effects of alcohol may also last for an extended period. People with Gilbert’s syndrome experience hangover symptoms for several days after consuming one or two drinks. 

Are There Any Medications You Should Avoid?

Like alcohol, some drugs can interact with Gilbert's syndrome and exacerbate symptoms. If you have Gilbert's syndrome, you should avoid taking the following drugs:

  • HIV medications (atazanavir and indinavir)
  • Cholesterol medications (gemfibrozil and statins)
  • Bowel cancer medicine (irinotecan)
  • Blood cancer medicine (nilotinib)

Speak with your doctor for a complete, up-to-date list of all medications that interact with Gilbert's syndrome.

Is Gilbert’s Syndrome Dangerous?

Gilbert's syndrome is a common, lifelong condition. Most people may not have initial symptoms.

It can cause uncomfortable symptoms, especially after alcohol consumption. But it does not pose a significant health threat. It also doesn't increase the risk of liver disease.

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How is Gilbert's Syndrome Diagnosed?

Gilbert’s syndrome is often diagnosed at puberty. However, the condition can still appear later in life.

A doctor may request blood tests like liver enzymes and blood proteins to diagnose Gilbert's syndrome. Your blood test results may be normal except for your bilirubin levels.

Sometimes a genetic test is conducted to confirm the gene mutation responsible for the condition. A liver biopsy may be recommended to rule out other liver diseases if clinical findings are inaccurate.

Treatment for Gilbert’s Syndrome

In most cases, Gilbert’s syndrome does not require treatment. However, several things can lessen symptoms, including:

  • Sleeping more
  • Minimizing long, intense workouts
  • Proper hydration
  • Meditation or breathing exercises
  • Eating right
  • Avoiding alcohol consumption

How to Manage Gilbert's Syndrome

Specific Gilbert’s syndrome symptoms can usually be managed well. Acute episodes of jaundice and other uncomfortable symptoms typically pass quickly and without treatment.

Changing your diet and exercise routine will not cure the condition. It will, however, help manage it and reduce the onset of certain symptoms.

Avoiding alcohol is also beneficial in managing Gilbert’s syndrome. It is essential to seek medical advice before attempting to manage Gilbert’s Syndrome symptoms on your own. A medical professional can advise you on what you can do.

Gilbert's Syndrome Statistics

3 to 7


Of the American population has Gilbert's Syndrome.



Of people with Gilbert's Syndrome have no symptoms.



Chance of passing the gene for Gilbert's Syndrome to a child if the parents are carriers.


Gilbert’s syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when the liver cannot properly process bilirubin. Although it doesn't threaten your health, it can be very uncomfortable. It also doesn't increase the risk of liver damage or disease.

If you have Giblert's syndrome, your body will have difficulties processing alcohol. Drinking a little or too much alcohol can worsen the condition, so it's best to avoid it.

Gilbert's syndrome is a lifelong condition whose symptoms don't go away. Fortunately, there are ways to manage the condition.

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Updated on August 14, 2023

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