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Alcohol and the Gut

Ahhh, it's January, holidays are over and maybe your liver wants to take a break from saying "cheers'?

I'm in the same boat, except i broke up with my ex - the alcohol - long time ago because simply he stop loving me and instead gave me headaches, bloating, indigestion and poor sleep.

alcoholic cocktail
i kinda miss the bubbles of a good champagne but not the bubbles in my tummy, ha!

So how does the big A effect the body and more specifically the gut?

  • Our GI (gastrointestinal) track is the first line of contact with anything ingested into the body making it very prone to damage by toxins, viruses and bacteria. When we sitting and relaxing and socially drinking (that's two standard drinks, by the way), the body typically processes the alcohol through oxidative conversion (aka when the alcohol is being converted into a toxin called acetaldehyde). Although the majority of alcohol metabolism occurs in the liver cells, the enzymes involved in the oxidative metabolism of alcohol are also present in the intestinal mucosa (lining of the gut) and intestinal bacteria also produce acetaldehyde in the GI tract. So we turned something delicious into toxins.


  • And it doesn't stop here: metabolism of alcohol in the GI tract can then lead toward a chronic state of intestinal inflammation through changes in intestinal microbiota composition (balance between "bad" and "good" bacteria aka "dysbiosis") and function, increased permeability of the intestinal lining (famous leaky gut) and disruptions of the immune system of the intestinal mucosa.

  • On top of that (or is it below?!) alcohol consumption disrupts the digestion of sugars which in turn leads to a shift in the gut’s normal fungal diversity, causing overgrowth of a type of yeast called candida. Most alcohol drinks are fermented products in which the yeast is converted to alcohol and we know that fermentation feeds candida. g live yeasts are killed, but often with beer much of the live yeast remains. This means that every time you have a drink of beer, where much of the live yeast remains, it's being added to the digestive tract which is already full of yeast. If you are trying to get rid of a yeast infection like candida, then drinking alcohol with live yeast in it is a bad idea. And drinking beverages high in sugar (like rum cocktail, dessert wine, and hard cider) spike the blood glucose levels which encourage candida to multiply and contain FODMAPS, or fermentable sugars, which are not easily digested by peeps with IBS, Crohn's, and colitis.


  • Alcohol also can affect stomach acid production. Recent studies suggest that alcoholic drinks can make your stomach produce more acid than usual, which can gradually wear away your stomach lining and make it inflamed (aka you may develop ulcers) and can reduce the stomach’s ability to destroy bacteria that enter the stomach, which can allow potentially harmful bacteria to enter the upper small intestine.

Fun fact beer is a strong stimulant of gastric acid secretion and beverages with a higher ethanol content (like whisky, gin, cognac) do not stimulate gastric acid secretion.

Alcohol choices

So if you are not ready to commit to #dryjanuary, try these drinks (in moderation of course!) that have lower impact on the gut:

  • red wine has less sugar than most white varieties and contains phytochemicals like flavonoids that have health promoting properties.

  • distilled liquors such as gin, non grains vodka, tequila, or whiskey are the lowest acidity options, try them with unsweetened cranberry, apple or pear juice or, if you can handle carbonation, seltzer and club soda are good to mix in.



Thank you!

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