This may be one of the most common question I get asked (along with caffeine) and I am going to give you a very similar answer for both.
What about alcohol and gut health?
Anything in excess is not good for the body.
Just as humans have slowly become addicted to sugar and love it, but suffer poor health when it is consumed in excess, so too have humans evolved to love alcohol, yet suffer when we consume it chronically in large quantities.
Let's look at some of the issues that pop up with excessive alcohol intake.
1. Excessive alcohol intake is linked to weight gain and triggers unhealthy eating.
Do you notice that whenever you are having a few too many drinks that your whole foods, macro balanced nutrition goes out the window? This is very very very common because alcohol lowers our inhibitions, leading to poor decision making.
Another problem with most alcohol drinks especially spirits, is they are usually mixed with soft drinks, juices or other high calorie, low nutrient density sugars that feed unhealthy bacteria which is especially a hige problem for yeast, bacterial and fungal overgrowth.
Alcohol is actually a seperate macronnutrient and takes much longer for the body to burn through also.
2. Most alcoholic drinks are full of artificial colours, preservatives, refined sugar and are highly processed.
These artifical colours, preseravtives and refined sugars are extremely inflammatory on our bodies and can have a serious negative affect on our gut and brain.
3. Alcohol limits nutrient absorption and status in the body.
Alcohol acts as a diuretic, meaning it triggers increased elimination of urine. Alcohol consumption has been found to decrease magnesium, Iron, Zinc, B Vitamins & Calcium
Having adequate amounts of these nutrients are critical for energy levels, managing inflammation, muscle function, brain Health, mental health and how our body adapts to stress
4. Excessive alcohol consumption can impair the immune system.
It can inhibit optimal immune response by reducing the activity of critical cells involved in activating the immune system. It also promotes a pro inflammatory state and suppresses the immune system's ability to clear pathogens.
5. Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt hormones.
Drinking alcohol can acutely increase androgens. Women who have PCOS already have increased androgens so alcohol can trigger PCOS symptoms to worsen.
In men regular drinking of alcohol can dramatically decrease testosterone and increase estrogen levels and affects the quality of the sperm they produce.
6. Excessive alcohol disrupts the gut microbiota and the gut lining.
It decreases beneficial gut bacteria while promoting the growth of harmful oral bacteria. It also increases the permeability of the intestinal barrier to pro-inflammatory bacteria.
If you are struggling with gastrointestinal issues such as leaky gut, SIBO, IBS, or reflux, you may be better off avoiding alcohol entirely.
7. It increases histamine.
If you’ve ever become flushed or developed a headache after drinking a glass of red wine, then you’ve experienced first hand the effects of alcohol on histamine production
Histamine is a naturally occurring chemical involved with your immune, digestive and central nervous system that responds to any potential attachers. It is a normal protective response but you have trouble breaking down histamine you can develop histamine intolerances. Some symptoms can include:
skin rashes and hives
flushing and sweating
8. It impairs sleep.
Some of the most concerning qualities of alcohol have to do with its limiting effect on sleep. Alcohol intake decreased the restorative quality of sleep. This can impact gut health as you limit your parasympathetic system from starting its rest and digest process over night.
All of the above issues can start presenting with excessive alcohol consumption. You can see that it not only effects gut health but the entire body in different ways.
When you have a compromised gut already alcohol can definitely just emphasise your symptoms and contribute to the inflammatory environment already present through the microbiota.
When you are trying to reduce inflammation and heal from your condition then reducing alcohol and even eliminating it is just one positive step that should be taken. I am not saying that this is a lifelong thing but it will definitely be beneficial short term and long term.