Updated on March 10, 2023
4 min read

Gilbert's Syndrome and Alcohol Consumption

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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Causes of 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
  • Jaundice
  • Appetite loss
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach or abdominal pain
  • Concentration issues

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Can You Drink Alcohol with Gilbert's Syndrome?

Although drinking with Gilbert's syndrome is possible, avoid it. For some, even one drink can lead to:

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

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.

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. 

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 Syndrom Diagnosed?

Gilbert’s syndrome is often diagnosed at the onset of puberty. It can also present later in life. Routine blood test results that reveal high bilirubin levels may prompt further genetic tests to rule it out.

A doctor may request blood tests like liver enzymes and blood proteins to diagnose Gilbert's syndrome. In Gilbert's syndrome, these results may be normal except for bilirubin levels, which will be slightly elevated.

Treatment for Gilbert’s Syndrome

In most cases, Gilbert’s syndrome does not require treatment. However, there are several things that 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. Some people are more affected by alcohol than others. 

It is essential to seek medical advice before attempting to manage Gilbert’s Syndrome symptoms on your own. A medical professional will be able to give you advice and guidelines 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: Questions and Answers

What medications should be avoided with Gilbert's syndrome?

Some drugs you should avoid taking if you have Gilbert's syndrome include HIV medications (atazanavir and indinavir), cholesterol medications (gemfibrozil and statins), bowel cancer medicine (irinotecan), and blood cancer medicine (nilotinib).

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

Does Gilbert's syndrome make you tired?

Fatigue, dizziness, and tiredness are common symptoms of Gilbert's syndrome. However, jaundice (yellowing of the skin) is the most common symptom.

Can Gilbert's cause liver damage?

No, Gilbert's syndrome does not increase your liver damage or liver disease risk. The condition is lifelong but does not pose any significant threats to your health.

Can Gilbert's syndrome cause anxiety?

It can. People with Gilbert's syndrome may experience symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.

Does Gilbert's syndrome go away?

Gilbert's syndrome does not go away. It is a minor, lifelong condition that doesn't require treatment.

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Updated on March 10, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on March 10, 2023
  1. O'Malley, Stephanie S et al. “Acute alcohol consumption elevates serum bilirubin: an endogenous antioxidant.” Drug and alcohol dependence vol. 149 : 87-92. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.01.023 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540054/
  2. National Institute of Health. “Gilbert Syndrome.” NIH https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/gilbert-syndrome#genes
  3. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. “Gilbert Syndrome.” GARD https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6507/gilbert-syndrome#:~:text=Most%20people%20with%20Gilbert%20syndrome,weakness%2C%20nausea%2C%20or%20diarrhea.
  4. “Gilbert Syndrome.” NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders), 1 Aug. 2016, rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/gilbert-syndrome/.
  5. “Gilbert Syndrome: MedlinePlus Genetics.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Aug. 2020, medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/gilbert-syndrome/.
  6. Shiels, Ryan G, et al. “Diagnostic Criteria and Contributors to Gilbert's Syndrome.” Taylor & Francis, Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences , 12 Jan. 2018, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408363.2018.1428526.

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