6 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Gut
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6 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Gut

Your digestive system is the first point of contact when you drink, and is therefore most vulnerable to damage. From mouth to colon, whatever comes in contact with alcohol has a greater risk of diseases, including cancer. The effects of alcohol on the stomach and intestines can affect your overall health.

Alcohol can weaken your stomach acid. Drinks with relatively low alcohol content like wine and beer increase the secretion of stomach acid, while liquor has little or no effect. Unfortunately, alcohol can damage the gastric mucosa, decreasing gastric secretion. In a healthy stomach, bacteria from food is killed in the acidic environment. If the acid is too weak, that bacteria can pass into the upper small intestine, where it can pass into the bloodstream.

Alcohol can damage the stomach itself. The gastric mucosa doesn’t only secrete acid, it also protects the stomach from damage. If the mucosa is damaged by heavy drinking, it can lead to inflammation and bleeding gastric lesions. Binge drinking can cause this even in people who don’t drink regularly.

Alcohol can cause stomach aches. Drinks with more than about 15 percent alcohol can make your stomach empty more slowly. This allows bacteria to grow in the food before it is passed into the small intestines. This can cause gas, bloating, and stomach pain. It’s one reason your stomach might feel awful after a night of drinking whisky. Alcohol may also speed up transit of food through the small intestine, which you typically experience as diarrhea. As if your stomach needs more chaos, alcohol also suppresses lactase production. Lactase is the enzyme that helps digest dairy, so heavy drinking can temporarily increase lactose intolerance.

Alcohol prevents nutrients from being absorbed in your small intestine. This is why it’s not unusual for people who drink heavily to suffer from malnutrition. You have to eat more healthy food to get the same level of vitamins and minerals as a non-drinker or moderate drinker. Malnutrition can cause or contribute to a number of diseases.

Alcohol messes up your gut bacteria. Recent research has shown that intestinal bacteria plays a much bigger role in our health than anyone thought. Unfortunately, alcohol disrupts gut bacteria an a bad way. It allows more bacteria to pass from the stomach into the small intestine and it promotes the growth of harmful bacteria that produce endotoxin, a compound, which, as the name suggests, is toxic. Alcohol also feeds bacteria that metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde, a carcinogen that can damage the intestines and colon.

Alcohol makes your intestines more permeable. Although alcohol makes your intestines less efficient at absorbing nutrition, it makes them more permeable to toxins. Endotoxin, for example, easily permeates the intestine and goes into the bloodstream, where it can damage organs, especially the liver.

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