2021 Wellness Program “The Beauty Chef”
How Alcohol Affects the Gut
The gut contains more than 100 trillion bacteria, and this bacterial population is collectively referred to as the microbiome. Without a healthy gut, numerous other areas of our health will suffer, including but not limited to:
- Immunity, reduced or autoimmunity
- Nervous system
- Increased risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Increased risk for cancer
- Cardiovascular system
- Thyroid and metabolism
- Liver and detox outlets
- Joints and tendons
- Digestion and elimination (risk for intestinal conditions and infections)
- Stress hormones and adrenal gland problems
Countless diet and lifestyle factors can positively and negatively impact gut health and, often, we only give thought to it when we’re noticing life-altering symptoms. Hundreds of different varieties of bacteria live in the gut, some of them “good” and some of them “bad”, with the bad bacteria having a hand in many unpleasant symptoms, side effects, and chronic conditions.
When the bad bacteria outnumber the good, this is referred to as “dysbiosis,” or an imbalance in gut bacteria symmetry. We need more good bacteria to flourish than bad bacteria. Drinking alcohol can have a profound effect on the gut and can influence what kind and how many bacteria live there.
Drinking alcohol can have a profound effect on the gut and can influence what kind and how many bacteria live there. Even a single episode of drinking can damage the gut wall and can also lead to malabsorption of essential vitamins and minerals.
In studies, research shows that people who regularly drink alcohol, including to excess, have guts that look very different to those of people who drink little to no alcohol. Alcohol can also lead to a leaky gut, and can interfere with how the immune system functions, leading to increased inflammation within the gut and elsewhere in the body.
People who regularly consume alcohol or are prone to dependence on alcohol will typically have a gut-brain relationship that is strongly influenced by how alcohol alters the bacteria in the microbiome. Regular alcohol consumption can lead to leaky gut and low-grade chronic inflammation, which in turn can target other organs in the body, leading to autoimmunity, chronic conditions, or even alterations to the central nervous system and how the brain works. (12)
Even a single episode of binge drinking (five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women in the space of two hours) can increase endotoxins in the blood, which are associated with the bad bacteria that can not only disrupt the gut, but can also lead to liver problems, autoimmunity, and other chronic conditions.
So what’s the takeaway?
Alcohol, while it can seem harmless if you’re only sporadically consuming it, can have a major impact on the gut. Genetics can play a role in just how sensitive you are, as well as other lifestyle and health factors (people who already have existing autoimmune, gut, or chronic conditions should be more cautious than those who don’t already have these issues). While alcohol certainly isn’t “all bad”, it’s essential, as with any other food or beverage, to assess how it’s impacting your body and whether it’s good or beneficial for you.
Plan Your Week
Create a S.M.A.R.T. plan for your goals.
Find Joy in the little things.
Consider reducing the amount of alcohol you have each day – The beverage seminar from last week shows a couple great replacements for your nightly cocktail.
Find Your Balance