The importance of gut health is hard to overstate. Most of us are familiar with the bloating, burning, nausea and general discomfort that can come from stomach issues. But what about the effects of alcohol on gut health? There’s much more to the story, though.
The food we eat that keeps us functioning is broken down in the gut. The gut is also home to the community of bacteria, fungi, and viruses known as our microbiome. The microbiome’s health and composition can have wide-ranging effects on our bodies and brains. The microbes in our gut help control our immune system and aid us in dealing with infection.
A study of the gut microbiome and heart health found that people with cardiometabolic diseases had different levels of certain bacteria than healthy people did. Our microbes help us regulate blood sugar, too, which Weill Cornell Medicine explains is through their effect on the liver.
Gut health, and the microbiome in particular, also greatly affect the functioning of our brains. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter associated with mood and primarily produced in the gut. The gut and brain are also connected through a network of nerves. These messages can be sent back and forth very quickly.
Effects of Alcohol on Gut Health: the Intestinal Lining and the Microbiome
Alcohol can affect gut health in a number of significant ways. It can damage the intestinal lining, causing ulcers, heartburn and acid reflux and impairing the process of turning food into fuel. The damage can lead to intestinal permeability, also known as leaky gut. When the gut is “leaky,” it allows bacteria and toxins to easily enter the bloodstream, where they can cause problems all over the body.
Alcohol also affects the microbiome. A study of the effects of alcohol on gut health found that drinking can cause an overall overgrowth of bacteria and also change the ratio between helpful and harmful ones. Paying attention to the microbiome can be especially important for people in recovery from alcohol use disorder.
An article on the importance of gut health in alcohol addiction notes that certain changes in the microbiome are associated with alcohol addiction symptoms, including alcohol craving. Researchers also connected the microbiome in people with alcohol use disorder to depression and low sociability. They note that restoring the gut microbiota could decrease the relapse risk.
Because of its effect on the liver, the microbiome is especially important to address in alcohol addiction patients with liver disease. An article entitled “Does Alcohol Dependence Alter the Gut Microbiome?” notes that there are bacterial differences between alcohol-dependent patients and others and that there are also differences between people with alcohol use disorder who do and don’t have liver disease.
Restoring Gut Health
Restoring gut health is often a multistep process. It’s important to avoid the things that can damage the intestinal lining and alter the microbiome, such as alcohol and certain environmental toxins. Many people find probiotic supplements helpful, too. Paying attention to your diet matters a lot. A Psychology Today article notes that sugar and refined carbohydrates cause unhealthy changes to gut bacteria but that eating plenty of fiber is one way to keep your gut healthy.
There are many reasons to get control of drinking that’s become excessive, and restoring gut health is one of them. No matter your reason for addressing the issue, we can help. Give us a call at 877.767.9383, and let’s talk.