We get it.
Summer is full of sun, bbqs, and beer.
We're not knocking you for it, we indulge as well, but we are letting you know that overdoing it can negatively impact your gut health.
So we're here to help.
Chronic alcohol consumption can disrupt the gut microbiome, leading to gut inflammation, leaky gut, and other digestive woes. In severe cases, it can even lead to alcoholic liver disease, which can be fatal.
This article will discuss the link between alcohol and gut health.
Keep reading to explore ways to keep your gut bacteria balanced this summer and support your overall health.
- Although enjoying alcohol in moderation is fine, drinking too much alcohol can kill off the good bacteria in your gut.
- Excessive alcohol consumption can cause gut inflammation, leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth, and dysbiosis.
- The best way to keep your gut healthy this summer is by limiting your alcohol intake, drinking plenty of water, and consuming prebiotics and probiotics to strengthen your gut and support other body systems.
ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION AND GUT HEALTH
Excessive alcohol consumption can overwhelm your digestive system and liver, wreaking havoc on your gastrointestinal tract and other important organs in your body.
It can also affect stomach acid production, reducing your stomach’s ability to destroy harmful bacteria, thus allowing it to enter the upper intestinal tract.
According to research, consuming too much alcohol can lead to:
- Gut Inflammation
- Leaky Gut
- Bacterial Overgrowth
- Gut Imbalance - Dysbiosis
Alcohol and its metabolites are known to increase intestinal inflammation. This is because when alcohol metabolism takes place in the liver, toxins are produced. These toxins can cause inflammation in the liver and intestinal lining.
Inflammation of the gut, also known as gastritis, happens when chronic alcohol intake irritates and erodes the lining of your intestinal wall.
Symptoms of gastritis include:
- Acid reflux
- Abdominal pain
If left untreated, it can lead to stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding. It can also place you at an increased risk for stomach cancer.
Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the major causes of leaky gut. Leaky gut is the term used to describe a gastrointestinal disorder that affects the lining of the intestines.
Under normal circumstances, our intestinal lining forms a tight barrier that controls what flows into the bloodstream.
When someone has a leaky gut, cracks or holes are present in their intestinal lining, allowing toxins, undigested food particles, and bacteria to enter their bloodstream.
Not only does this promote inflammation throughout the body, but it also puts a person at risk for diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and obesity.
Although the condition is not fully understood, it is believed that alcohol leads to intestinal mucosal damage, which increases intestinal permeability, causing a leaky gut.
- Digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Abdominal pain
- Food sensitivities
- Difficulty concentrating
If left untreated, leaky gut can lead to autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, depression, and diabetes.
Studies have proven that chronic alcohol consumption can lead to bacterial overgrowth. Bacterial overgrowth, also known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), happens when the bacteria normally present in your large intestine colonize your small intestine.
It usually starts when the small intestine doesn’t move food along as it should, causing a buildup of bacteria.
Studies suggest that alcohol contributes to bacterial overgrowth because it impacts gut motility, or the ability of the small intestine to move food through via wave-like contractions.
Symptoms of SIBO include:
- Decreased appetite
- Stomach pain and bloating
- Weight loss
Left untreated, SIBO can cause malabsorption of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, leading to malnutrition and vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
GUT IMBALANCE - DYSBIOSIS
Consuming too much alcohol also leads to an imbalance of gut bacteria, also known as dysbiosis.
Under normal circumstances, we have good bacteria in our gut to keep the bad gut bacteria “in check.” This healthy bacteria balance keeps our gut and immune system functioning optimally. It also helps fight inflammation.
Drinking too much alcohol disrupts this normal balance by increasing the amount of harmful bacteria known to cause inflammation and digestive issues.
Symptoms of dysbiosis include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Food intolerance
- Gas, bloating, and abdominal pain
- Skin problems
- Difficulty urinating
- Acid reflux
- Vaginal or rectal itching
- Bad breath
Dysbiosis can lead to chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and lupus if left untreated.
USING PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS TO SUPPORT GUT HEALTH
The best way to support a healthy gut and keep your gut microbiome balanced is by eating a well-balanced diet and prioritizing prebiotics and probiotics.
Adding prebiotic foods and supplements to your diet can help keep your gut bacteria balanced and offset negative impacts from alcohol on the gut microbiome.
WHAT IT IS:
Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that serves as a food source for your good gut bacteria. Although your body cannot digest them, they deliver nutrients to the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
HOW IT WORKS:
When the microorganisms in your gut break down prebiotics, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are created. According to research, these SCFAs can improve the gut barrier and function, as well as modulate the immune system and inflammatory response.
- Chicory root
- Legumes, beans, and peas
- Prebiotic supplements
While prebiotics feed good gut bacteria, probiotics can help restore the gut microbiome by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in your gut.
WHAT IT IS:
Probiotics are a combination of live bacteria/or yeast that lives in your body. These good bacteria are responsible for keeping your gut healthy and your body working well.
HOW IT WORKS:
Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how probiotics work. However, it is believed that probiotics work by fighting off bad gut bacteria and keeping your gut microbiome balanced.
These beneficial bacteria also can support a healthy immune system and reduce body-wide inflammation.
Probiotics can also:
- Keep harmful bacteria at bay, preventing you from getting sick
- Help your body digest food
- Heal a leaky gut
- Breakdown and absorb nutrients and medications
GUT HEALTH TIPS FOR SUMMER
- Eat More Greens
- Consume Probiotics
- Exercise Regularly
- Get Adequate Sleep
- Stay Hydrated
- Take Collagen Supplements
As we enter the dog days of summer, days are getting hotter, placing us at a greater risk for digestive issues, including bloating, gas, constipation, and heartburn.
In fact, according to early research, heat stress can disrupt tight intestinal junctions, increasing intestinal permeability and contributing to a leaky gut.
Below are six tips to help improve your gut health while still enjoying summer and everything it offers.
1. EAT MORE GREENS
Avoid high-sugar foods and ultra-processed foods that can reduce the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Instead, opt for antioxidant-rich green veggies that can contribute to good gut health.
According to one 2021 study, leafy greens contain a type of sugar known as sulfoquinovose that can promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
2. CONSUME PROBIOTICS
As we’ve mentioned, probiotics are incredibly beneficial for keeping good gut bacteria healthy and thriving.
In addition to enjoying probiotic-rich foods, high-quality probiotic supplements are available to keep you feeling your best this summer.
3. EXERCISE REGULARLY
Studies suggest that moderate exercise can reduce inflammation and intestinal permeability while improving body composition in athletes. Exercise also increases the number of beneficial gut bacteria.
One 2018 study found that endurance exercise training for 30-60 minutes three times per week led to an increased production of SCFAs, which are known for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier and reducing inflammation.
4. GET ADEQUATE SLEEP
Thanks to the ample daylight it provides, summer days seem to be much longer. However, it is important to still get adequate sleep. One recent study found that poor sleep patterns negatively impact your gut microbiome. Aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
5. STAY HYDRATED
Staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do for your body this summer. In addition to promoting your skin’s health, drinking enough water can help balance your gut health.
Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water each day and replace your lost electrolytes with a natural hydration solution.
6. TAKE COLLAGEN SUPPLEMENTS
Collagen supplements are beneficial to gut health because they contain large amounts of the amino acids proline, glutamine, and glycine, which are essential for strengthening and repairing the lining of our digestive tract.
Studies show that, when consistently taken, collagen supplements can also reduce bloating and improve unpleasant digestive systems in otherwise healthy individuals.
If you frequently enjoy alcoholic beverages and are experiencing unexplained digestive problems, it may be time to rethink your alcohol intake.
Although moderate drinking does not appear to pose significant risks to your gut microbiome, scientific evidence suggests that drinking alcohol in large quantities can lead to increased gut permeability, gut-derived inflammation, and a slew of other digestive problems. Sometimes, it can even lead to other health problems, including liver diseases.
The best way to keep your gut healthy is by eating a well-balanced diet rich in prebiotic and probiotic foods. Alternatively, you can take high-quality prebiotic and probiotic supplements to feed beneficial bacteria and restore the composition of your gut microbiome.