ESTIMATED READING TIME 4 MINUTES
It’s Alcohol Awareness Week, aiming to encourage people to think about their drinking. When the weather is good, it’s easy to slip into drinking regularly. But alcohol comes with a cost, both financial and to your physical and mental health. Plus, it’s often connected with relationship and family issues.
According to Alcohol Change UK, on average each person spends an eye-watering £50,000 on alcohol throughout their lifetime. In fact, almost a quarter of the population of England and Scotland drink more than the Chief Medical Officer’s low risk guidelines.
You might not be aware of the delicate link between your alcohol and your gut microbes. Read on to find out more.
The Chief Medical Officer’s low risk guidelines suggest drinking at most 14 units of alcohol per week. This is ideally spread out over three or more days and with several days off per week. As a guide, a pint of beer or a medium glass of wine both contain just over two units.
But in truth, drinking any amount will affect your health. Alcohol must be processed by your liver to make it safe, like any drug. This uses valuable nutrients which could be used for other purposes. It also means your liver is busy dealing with alcohol when it could be doing other vital work for you instead.
However, the negative effects of alcohol extend beyond simply its effects on your liver. Indeed, alcohol is known to be a causal factor in over sixty medical conditions. It’s linked with heart disease, poor bone health, memory problems and hormone imbalances, as well as several cancers. Meanwhile, in 2020, alcohol-related deaths increased by more than they ever had since records began.
If you drink alcohol, you might have noticed its negative effects on your gut. In fact, research has found drinkers have different bacteria living in their guts to non-drinkers. Alcohol consumption has been linked with specific changes in the microbiome. Alcohol encourages an excess of certain species of gut bacteria, and reductions in others.
The majority of alcohol is absorbed in your mouth, stomach and small intestine, where it’s shunted to your liver to be processed. However, though alcohol doesn’t reach your large intestine where most of your gut bacteria reside, it does indirectly affect the microbes there.
When your liver processes alcohol, it eventually produces a substance called acetate, a type of short-chain fatty acid. In general, and at healthy levels acetate is beneficial for health, and in fact it’s naturally produced by your gut bacteria. Indeed, acetate is essential for many metabolic processes. For example, it supports your heart, helps memory, is involved in red blood cell production, and indirectly used to produce energy for cells. However, too much acetate is not a good thing and when present in excess it’s been linked with cancer.
Acetate produced after drinking alcohol is shunted from your liver into your bloodstream. It’s then moved into your large intestines so it can be eliminated from your body. There, it’s used by your gut bacteria as a kind of fertiliser, promoting the growth of certain types of bacteria. This sounds in theory like a positive thing, but it can cause bacterial imbalances. When certain species of bacteria grow out of control, this is known as dysbiosis. Because your gut microbes are so important for your health, anything unbalancing them will have far-reaching implications.
A disordered gut microbiome is directly linked to problems with the immune system, gut issues like IBS, bloating and diarrhoea, cardiovascular issues, brain health and even obesity. Likewise, dysbiosis is also connected with an increase of inflammation in the gut as well as all around the body.
Another negative effect of dysbiosis is to cause your intestines to become more permeable than they should be. In other words, this makes it easier for errant microbes and the substances they produce to be absorbed into your bloodstream and transported around your body. On the other hand, a resilient population of gut bacteria can improve resilience against the damaging effects of alcohol.
Meanwhile, studies even suggest certain gut bacteria may make their host feel more like drinking. In animals, when scientists transplanted gut bacteria associated with alcohol consumption, the recipients voluntarily drank more alcohol 1.
If you suspect alcohol may be adversely impacting your health and would like to explore a healthier relationship with alcohol, then help is at hand. The first step will be to test to find out how your microbiome is faring. Then, dietary and lifestyle strategies can be employed to improve your gut health. There are many delicious alcohol-free tipples, and you will have fun discovering them. Contact me to start your journey to a healthier future.
Do you need personalised support for a healthy relationship with alcohol? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
Please enter your details below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
FOR ALL THE LATEST NUTRITION & WELLNESS NEWS & OFFERS
Login to your account to access your personal dashboard
Create your free account to gain access to free content and a customer dashboard to access your orders, appointments and subscribed courses. A verification email will be sent to the address provided.
Please enter your contact details below and some details of your Fibromyalgia for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call
Please enter your contact details below and some details of your Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call
Please enter your contact details below and some details of your symptoms for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Call
Please enter your contact details below and the reason for your discovery call and we will get back to you to arrange a suitable time for your FREE 15 Minute Discovery Call
If you wish to reschedule your appointment, please fill out the reschedule booking request form below.
Booking Re-schedules need to be approved and are processed manually. You will receive confirmation of your rescheduled booking once processed.
If you would rather cancel your appointment, then please close this form and select Consultation Cancel Request from the menu.
If an appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours-notice 50% fee will be incurred. If an appointment is not attended a 100% fee will be charged.
If an appointment is cancelled with less than 24 hours-notice by Embracing Nutrition, a 50% reduction of your next appointment will be made.