How Alcohol Affects Gut Health

How Alcohol Affects Gut Health

by Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian
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Whether it’s the sunnier weather and the kick-off of patio season, or the influx of backyard BBQs that leads to more drinking, chances are that on at least one occasion, having one too many cans of beer or sangrias has left you reeling with the head-pounding, stomach-churning, cotton-mouth effects of a hangover.

This, of course, doesn’t feel good, yet when the negative impacts of alcohol are discussed, the focus is often on dehydration and the toll that alcohol takes on the liver as the body detoxifies from the previous night. What is often overlooked though, and should be addressed, is the effects of alcohol and your gut bacteria. Continue reading to learn more about gut health and alcohol?

 

How Does Alcohol Affect Our Gut Health?

Many studies have looked into chronic alcohol consumption and the impact that it has on the gut. Those who regularly have a high alcohol intake have higher rates of alcohol-induced oxidative stress and intestinal dysbiosis which leads to 

Leaky gut syndrome is a condition of the digestive system wherein bacteria, toxins, undigested food, and other unwanted particles are able to pass through the interior intestinal wall and manifest as a variety of undesirable symptoms. These symptoms, which may include fatigue, food sensitivities, joint pain, skin conditions, digestive problems and psychological impairments, amongst other problems, are directly tied to excessive alcohol consumption. This is due to increased inflammation in the organs, as well as the propagation of the growth of certain types of negative intestinal bacteria.

This all sounds quite undesirable and it can be hard to imagine that drinking alcohol on occasions could have such an impact on the gut microbiome. Yet, the truth is that even though you may not consider yourself a ‘binge’ drinker, by definition, anyone who consumes more than four drinks per event falls into this category. In fact, it’s the most common form of drinking worldwide.2

One study aimed to investigate the effects that this type of drinking had on the gut bacteria of healthy individuals and found that such binge drinking resulted in a rapid increase in serum endotoxins (i.e. bacteria toxins located in the cell), showing that bacteria were moving from the gut into the body. Elevated markers of gut inflammation, meaning one night of heavy drinking, is enough to rile up the immune response.2

This finding is relevant because throwing off the balance of bacteria in the microbiome sets the stage for dysbiosis, the imbalance of good to bad bacteria. Unfortunately, dysbiosis may trigger or support the development of Leaky Gut Syndrome, along with a host of health concerns connected to compromised gut microbiota.

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Prepping the Immune System for Alcohol Consumption

Part of responsible drinking involves understanding the risks involved, including the fact that consuming alcohol can affect the gut microbiome, and ultimately the immune system. That said, if you decide to partake, protecting the gut bacteria and supporting the immune system is a good way to help to stay shielded against the negative effects of alcohol.

 Probiotics

Taking a daily dose of a high-quality probiotic such as Bio-K+ is a great way to maintain optimal digestive health and promote a diverse gut microbiota, which can help bring back the balance after a night of drinking. As a bonus, certain gut bacteria also produce certain B-vitamins, which quickly become depleted when alcohol is consumed.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which helps support the immune system, and has liver protective effects. Drinking alcohol depletes vitamin C stores, so it’s best to consume this nutrient before, and after drinking.

 Fiber

Alcohol is readily absorbed throughout the entire GI tract. The amount of food in the body determines the rate at which that happens. To slow the absorption of alcohol, never drink on an empty stomach, but rather fill the plate with slow digesting carbs like veggies, sweet potatoes, brown rice, sourdough bread, as well as lean protein and healthy fats. Gut bacteria love fiber, so not only will it help lessen the effects of alcohol, it’ll keep a good balance in your gut.

Of course, it is best to consume alcohol in moderation!

If you have additional questions on gut health, let us know in the comments below! For more healthy inspirations, join our community. To stock up on Bio-K+ find a store near you. Contact us or find us on Facebook and Instagram.

 

 References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26695747
  2. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0096864

Jef L’Ecuyer
About the author
Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian
After her nutrition training at McGill University, Jef specialized in gastrointestinal health with a special interest in the microbiota and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. With Bio-K+, she continues on this path by making the world of probiotics more accessible to all.
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