Alcohol and Gut Health: Is Drinking Disrupting Your Microbiome?
Have you ever wondered how alcohol and gut health are related? One of the most common complaints I saw in my clinic was unexplained digestive problems. Most of the time, the patient was eating a diet full of healthy whole foods yet struggled with bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, and gas. Once I dived deeper into their diet there was one common denominator for the unexplained gut health issues – alcohol!
Having a glass of your favorite wine or indulging in a cocktail from time to time is perfectly fine. However, you should be mindful of how much is too much. To understand how much is too much, you need to understand the link between alcohol and gut health.
I’m going to tell you more about the relationship between alcohol and gut health, how it disrupts your gut microbiome, and how you can repair the damage caused by too much alcohol. Before I do that, let’s discuss how your body absorbs and breaks down alcohol.
How Alcohol is Metabolized By Your Body
Your body begins to absorb alcohol the second you swallow that first sip. Once alcohol hits your gut, 20% goes right into your bloodstream.1 How quickly your body absorbs the remaining 80% is determined by the amount of alcohol you drink, whether or not it’s carbonated, if you’ve eaten anything, and genetics.
Your body can typically process 1 drink per hour. What equates to 1 drink depends on what you are drinking and the size of your cocktail or beer. For example, a 5-ounce glass of wine is equivalent to one drink. Yet, so is a 12-ounce beer.
Your liver is responsible for 90% of the metabolism of alcohol into carbon dioxide and water. The remaining is removed through sweating, peeing, and breathing. The type of alcohol also is a factor. A small shot of tequila takes up to an hour to fully metabolize while a 12-ounce beer takes up to two hours.
Your BAC and Gut Health
As you can see, alcohol can stay in your body for hours. That’s because blood alcohol concentration (BAC) varies from person to person. BAC is affected by age, weight, medications, liver disease, and the number of drinks you have in a specific time.
Metabolism of alcohol is done at a rate of 20 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) per hour.2 For example, if your BAC is 40 mg/dL (or .04), it would take two hours to metabolize the alcohol.
The longer alcohol stays in your body, the more effect alcohol has on gut health. Something to keep in mind is that alcohol is a toxin, which means it’s harmful to your body.
Alcohol is a Toxin
A toxin is a poisonous substance that is dangerous to your body. Toxins are found in the air you breathe, the body products you use, the cleaning supplies in your home, the clothing you wear, the water you drink, and the food you eat. Alcohol is considered a toxic food. What’s more is that alcohol is packed with other toxic ingredients such as sugar and artificial flavors.
The effects of toxins on your body are complex. What we do know is the more toxins your body is exposed to, the greater your risk is of developing autoimmune disease. Think of your body as a cup. Each exposure to toxins fills up your cup a little more. As your inflammation rises and your toxic burden becomes too great, continuous exposure to toxins can inevitably lead to autoimmune disease. There’s a couple of theories as to why.
Toxins damage cells in your body. When your immune system is not able to recognize its own cells because of this damage, it begins to attack them as foreign invaders.
Another belief is that the damage to your cells by toxins triggers an inflammatory response from the immune system. Because of this constant assault of exposure keeps the immune system on high alert. This state of high alert causes your immune system to attack everything, including healthy tissue.
Remember, the occasional glass of wine or cocktail isn’t anything to worry about. It’s when you indulge regularly that it can become a problem. Alcohol can lead to gut permeability (leaky gut) and disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria. It can even kill good bacteria in your gut.
I’m about to tell more of the ways alcohol can affect your gut health, starting with leaky gut.
Alcohol Can Cause Leaky Gut
The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 70 million people suffer from digestive issues. In functional medicine, we believe these symptoms are the result of a leaky gut. In case you need a refresher, leaky gut is when the tight injunctions that hold your intestinal wall together open up
Think of your gut like a drawbridge. Your gut is naturally semi-permeable to let micronutrients pass through the wall in your gut and into your bloodstream. Stress, inflammatory foods, infections, and toxins can cause these tight injunctions to break apart the tight junctions, leaving the drawbridge open and allowing bigger particles into your bloodstream. Once this happens you have a leaky gut.
When you have a leaky gut, these particles such as toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles that were never meant to get through your intestinal wall get into your bloodstream. Your immune system identifies these as foreign invaders and attacks them.
Signs of Leaky Gut
This immune system response comes in any of the following forms:
- Diagnosis of an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, psoriasis, or celiac disease
- Food allergies or food intolerances
- Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, ADD, or ADHD
- Mood imbalances such as depression and anxiety
- Seasonal allergies or asthma
- Skin issues such as acne, rosacea, or eczema
- Hormonal imbalances such as irregular periods, premenstrual syndrome, or polycystic ovarian syndrome
Keep in mind that a very large percentage of alcohol is absorbed in your gut. Alcohol disrupts the intestinal barrier in two ways: by directly disrupting the epithelial cells that allow material to pass directly into the bloodstream and by opening the tight junctions between them.
Don’t worry! I’m going to tell you about my new No. 1 weapon to heal a leaky gut. Before I do that, I need to tell you about how alcohol disrupts the balance between good and bad bacteria.
Alcohol Can Disrupt the Gut Microbiome
The link between alcohol and gut health has both direct and indirect effects in relation to the gut microbiome. Alcohol can disrupt the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut microbiome. Leaky gut, as I previously discussed, can lead to inflammation if it persists. That means alcohol can disrupt your gut microbiome indirectly through leaky gut and directly by throwing off the balance of bacteria.
Your body’s largest microbiome is in your gut, which is where 80% of your immune system lives. I think of your gut microbiome as a rainforest where billions of microbes live in harmony with one another. This rainforest contains good and bad bacteria, viruses and yeast in a delicate balance. It’s also where most of the digestion of your food takes place. Your gut microbiome is also where 95% of your serotonin – the feel-good hormone – comes from. When this delicate balance gets disrupted by disease or environmental factors, dysbiosis occurs. This leads to an overgrowth of bacteria.
Alcohol & Gut Health Issues: SIBO, Dysbiosis
Alcohol promotes both dysbiosis and bacterial overgrowth,3 leading to an increase in toxins that activate immune cells that promote inflammation. Studies show that alcohol increases bad gut bacteria, causing an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria.4 This leads to mood imbalances, weight gain, increased fatigue, food allergies and intolerances, and skin problems.
You can help keep your gut microbiome healthy by eating a nutrient-dense diet of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, and other gut-supporting foods as well as avoiding gluten and dairy and other inflammatory and toxic foods such as alcohol.
How to Get Alcohol Out Of Your System
Only 10% of the alcohol that you consume is removed through urinating, sweating and breathing. Your liver takes care of the rest. You can support the detoxification process by sleeping to allow your body a chance to recover and rest, drinking water or electrolyte drink to reduce dehydration, and eating food to slow down the absorption process.
Using Activated Charcoal can help clean up the toxic aftermath. Activated charcoal acts as an effective binder and chelator to tra toxins, gas, and chemicals within its millions of tiny pores. Then Activated Charcoal binds with them so they can be safely and quickly transported out of your body.5
Once you’ve removed the alcohol from your body, it’s time to repair your gut. I have some exciting news for you. I’ve spent the last year going over months of research to formulate the most powerful weapon to repair your gut.
Repair and Balance Your Gut
Your gut is the gateway to health. Knowing the link between alcohol and gut health, you can see how important it is to repair the damage caused by a leaky gut or imbalance in gut bacteria due to alcohol.
Nearly 80% of your immune system lives within your gut. Your immune system is so important to a healthy gut barrier. That’s why I formulated the most advanced formula of Leaky Gut Revive® to date – Leaky Gut Revive® Max.
This is an extra-strength, physician-formulated blend of nutrients designed to soothe and repair your gut quickly. Featuring pharmaceutical-grade L-Glutamine and a potent blend of gut-soothing botanicals, Leaky Gut Revive® Max gets to work immediately to repair your gut.
Leaky Gut Revive® Max contains 1,000 mg of ImmunoLin®, which contains the highest concentration of naturally sourced immunoglobulins in the world. Immunoglobulins play a critical role in your immune system by binding to particular antigens in your gut such as viruses and bacteria and aid in their removal from your body.
What’s more, Leaky Gut Revive® Max contains a proprietary blend of botanicals to include Larch Arabinogalactan Bark Powder to support healthy immune function. It’s a prebiotic, which promotes the beneficial bacteria in your gut to support a healthy gut and intestinal barrier.
I want to make sure that you understand that I’m NOT telling you that you have to give up alcohol. Feel free to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktail every now and then, just don’t over do it! Now that you have the tools to heal your gut and support optimal health, you can weaken the link between alcohol and gut health.
- Liver and alcohol breakdown. MyDr. 2016.
- What Happens When You Drink on an Empty Stomach. Erica Cirino. Healthline. 2019.
- Interactions between the intestinal microbiome and liver diseases. Bernd Schnabl and David A Brenner. Gastroenterology. 2014.
- Comparing the effects of acute alcohol consumption in germ-free and conventional mice: the role of the gut microbiota. Canesso MCC, et al. BMC Microbiology. 2014.
- Activated Charcoal - Uses, Side Effects, and More. WebMD. 2021.
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