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Alcohol + Gut Health: 5 Things To Know

It's summertime, and so often we spend more time at the lake and with friends and family at different celebrations.

And for some people alcohol is a part of that equation.

But have you ever considered, what is alcohol doing to your gut?

In today's video, I'm going to answer a few of those questions.

First, I'll explain what is alcohol and how is it impactful on your gut?

How does alcohol create more inflammation in your gut?

As well as how alcohol really disrupts our microbiome?

And then give you some tips and tricks in terms of maintaining a healthy gut while consuming alcohol.

[Video Transcript Below Video - it is the same information]

But before we get started, my name is Marcie Vaske. I'm a functional medicine nutritionist with Oswald Digestive Clinic at Oswald Digestive Clinic.

Of course, I see a lot of people who struggle with many different kinds of gut health and always trying to educate as much as possible if they do drink alcohol, what that is actually doing to their gut.

Now I'm going to link our website here where you can easily make an initial appointment if you're struggling with gut health issues.

And I'll also link our free guide here, which is 5 Ways to Improve your Gut Health.

So to get started with our topic today, I just want to explain a little bit more about what is our gut and our gut health is just foundational for the rest of our health.

Our gut has a microbiome which is made up of trillions of microorganisms that help support all the systems in our body.

Our gut helps us digest properly. It's very important for our immune system. It also plays a real crucial role in obviously nutrition absorption as well as even our mental health.

Now, if you've listened to any of our past videos, you know how important gut health is in terms of just a better healthy body, but we have a real delicate balance. Our gut gets disturbed very easily by environmental factors, the type of foods we eat, the lifestyle we lead, and even the kind of stress we have in our life.

But today we're going to focus on consuming alcohol.

Alcohol + Gut Health

So first, what is alcohol and how does it affect our gut?

Alcohol is actually a compound that's created or produced through the fermentation of sugars. And this alcohol can be, when it's consumed, it gets into our bloodstream and has far reaching effects outside of just our gut.

When we consume alcohol, it really is a gut irritant that can cause lots of inflammation in our gastrointestinal tract. Now, because alcohol is an irritant to our gi, it does increase inflammation and it also can increase our intestinal permeability.

And if alcohol's consumed excessively or even just on a real chronic basis, you are going to end up with some microbiome, a disruption. And when we have a disruption in that delicate balance of organisms in our intestinal tract, we'll end up with symptoms like bloating or gas, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramping, maybe even acid reflux.

So you can see that just the alcohol itself and how irritating it can be for our digestive system can really create a lot of symptoms.

Alcohol and Inflammation

So what is the link between alcohol and our gut inflammation?

As I mentioned above, alcohol is a significant contributor to inflammation.

And when alcohol is actually broken down in our body, it produces something called acetylaldehyde. And that is a toxic compound that breaks down or deteriorates our gut lining, which creates more of what we call leaky gut or intestinal permeability.

Individuals that struggle with intestinal permeability may feel like having a lot of food sensitivities so you can get other substances into your bloodstream that end up causing issues.

There is of course, a disruption to our microbiome, which then creates a space for more opportunistic or pathogenic bacteria to set up home in our intestinal tract, creating again, a lot of symptoms.

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And lastly, alcohol and inflammation can really create a place where there's less nutrient absorption of your foods that you're consuming.

And so many people who drink alcohol on a daily basis or even excessively, even just on the weekend, can end up being nutrient deficient.

Alcohol + Gut Bacteria

So how does alcohol really disrupt our gut microbiome or that balance of flora in our digestive system?

And what happens is, I've talked about this a lot and we have in a lot of our videos, but our microbiome is really a delicate ecosystem.

When we consume alcohol, it does kill off or reduce the amount of good flora in our gut setting up this less diverse microbiome.

So when we have a healthy microbiome, we have trillions of different microorganisms, but when we have constant toxins getting into our digestive system, that's really going to set the microbiome up for less diversity.

Now, alcohol can actually decrease two of our flora families.

One is bifidobacterium and two is lactobacillus. If we have less of these good flora, as I mentioned, you're going to have a better environment for opportunistic type flora as well as pathogenic flora.

Now if this happens and we have less diversity in our gut, then that's going to set us up for what we call dysbiosis of the gut.

And dysbiosis of the gut can impair your nutrient absorption, so you're going to be more likely to be low in essential minerals and vitamins. And as well, I mentioned that our digestive system harbors our immune system.

So if we have less good flora, that means our immune system is compromised. And of course, if you have a disruptive or dysbiosis, a microbiome or gut, you are going to set your or you're more at risk for inflammatory bowel diseases and even just chronic conditions.

So I see a lot of people who have chronic gut issues and they really can tell that if they stay away from alcohol, their gut is much more calm and their flares stay away.

However, you have a couple drinks even, or maybe it's a family weekend of something coming up and you end up having more than you want.

You're usually struggling with gut issues for a few days to maybe a week after that experience. And so that just kind of goes to show how sensitive our digestive system really is.

So with our gut microbiome, really bringing back that diversity of flora in our gut is going to be important and restoring that good flora that may have been compromised while drinking alcohol.

And I mentioned too that there's nutrient dysregulation or nutrient losses when we are consuming alcohol. And if you are a chronic drinker, meaning that you have a few drinks every night or you're binge drinking on the weekend, but nothing during the week, you can still have these same symptoms and you might be reducing many of your essential minerals and vitamins.

Some of those minerals and vitamins such as B one or just B vitamins in general are going to be eliminated as well as folate can be eliminated.

And the vitamins and minerals that are most likely to be less absorbed are going to be those water soluble vitamins.

So also things like zinc and mineral, the mineral magnesium.

And if you think about it, you drink alcohol and it's a diuretic, so you end up going to the bathroom several times, and so you're really running through these minerals to begin with.

But then, as I said, if you're drinking chronically, your gut just can't even absorb those minerals and vitamins from your foods. So I think I've made it pretty clear that alcohol does nothing positive for your digestive system. And if you're struggling with digestive issues already, they're definitely going to take longer to get better if you're in kind of a healing process with it.

Or you'll notice that you have a lot more flares. So what are some tips that can help you keep your gut microbiome as healthy as possible, even if you have a drink once a week or maybe even a couple drinks on the weekend, that's not binge drinking and that's not chronic drinking.

And so a few things that we mention a lot on this channel is, of course, what are you eating?

If you have a really solid diet of healthy proteins, good amount of vegetables and fruits as well as healthy fats, you are going to be putting a lot of amazing product that your body can use for making good flora and keeping that digestive system happy and healthy.

Also, you want to stay hydrated. So if you're having a drink, you want to make sure that you're maybe having the drink and you drink a glass of water with it or in between the next cocktail you have.

That way your balance of electrolyte state even and in your gut doesn't get as dehydrated. Now, in terms of supporting good flora in your digestive system, if you have cocktails or drinks, we'll be, first of all, you can take a probio. So you can take just a simple probiotic that maybe has a couple strains of what I mentioned, bifidobacterium and lactobacillus as well.

If you want more information on that. We do have several videos about probiotics, so it can kind of give you some more options to choose from. Or you can just incorporate probiotic rich foods.

So things that are fermented, things like yogurt or keefer or kimchi or sauerkraut, those have amazing amounts of beneficial flora. And so if you're just adding that into your weekly meal plan, you're going to get some good flora there. And of course, managing your stress, and this is something I always talk about is that stress is so impactful on our digestive system, it can create lots of problems.

And so kind of bringing all of these together, staying hydrated, eating well, incorporating good flora or probiotic, as well as managing stress levels.

And then if you keep your alcohol consumption to a moderate amount and really just paying attention, how do you feel your gut can stay in a much happier place?

So if you have been a chronic drinker or you feel like you might be drinking a little too much or even just binge drinking on the weekend and you want to give your gut just a little extra support and not just probiotics or adding in fermented foods, you can also do things like L-Glutamine is a supplement that is an amino acid and is an amazing for tissue repair.

So really repairing that intestinal tract as well as adding in digestive enzymes, digestive enzymes can be really helpful in the way that we digest our food.

So we get all of those minerals and vitamins out of our foods that we're consuming, and that will help then restore some of those mineral and vitamin deficiencies that may have occurred.

So I hope that helped you help make a better decision on how you consume alcohol.

Now, moderate alcohol use one or two drinks a week isn't going to cause a lot of these issues to happen. But if you're drinking daily, if you're binge drinking on the weekend, this is where we see a lot more gut irritation, a lot more distress of the gastrointestinal system.

And so it's really just about just like with your food making choices for yourself each day.

And if you're really struggling with getting your gut health back together, definitely make an appointment with our link down below.

We can help you find root causes or just putting things that are more specific to what you need in terms of food and even supplement use.

So I hope you have a great summer and drink responsibly.

functional nutrition dietitian, registered dietitian nutritionist, functional medicine clinic, gut health help, how to improve gut health, functional medicine taking insurance

If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic.  We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.

5 ways to improve your gut health free guide by Oswald Digestive clinic, how to improve gut health, functional nutrition, functional medicine, registered dietitian nutritionist, licensed nutritionist, functional nutrition dietitian

Or you can just start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH  

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