5 ways alcohol affects gut health by Functional Nutritionist Andrea Nicholson

Most of us are aware that alcohol might have negative health effects, but many aren’t aware of how harmful it can be to our entire gut system. Alcohol can wreak havoc on your gut by causing inflammation and upsetting the equilibrium of good and bad bacteria, as well as limiting nutrient absorption and even causing a leaky gut.

5 ways alcohol affects gut health

Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is an illness in which the intestinal lining breaks down, leaking toxins, germs, and undigested food pieces into the circulation. This may result in a number of ailments, including inflammation, autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities and allergies, joint discomfort, digestive difficulties, brain fog, cardiovascular disease, and even migraines.

Impaired Nutrient Absorption

Alcohol depletes vital vitamins and minerals from the body by damaging intestinal cells that are responsible for absorbing nutrients. Alcohol inhibits the absorption of a number of key B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. These nutrients are essential to energy production and usage in the body, but they can also reduce the absorption of vitamin A, C, D, E, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Alcohol slows down the production and release of digestive enzymes involved in the breakdown of foods, which may result in nutritional absorption issues.


Inflammation is a hallmark of several chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Alcohol is toxic necessitating complex and healthy detoxification systems. However, alcohol slows and blocks detoxification pathways. Without proper detoxification, metabolites of alcohol remain in the body continually causing damage.

Detoxification concerns not only the liver, but also the pancreas, gallbladder, kidneys, lungs, and skin. We require adequate digestion and elimination of waste products for detoxification. If these processes are incomplete, toxins can be reabsorbed and recirculated through the body.

Microbial Imbalances

The microbiome refers to all of the bacteria and other microscopic organisms that dwell in and on our bodies. It’s one of the most significant elements affecting overall health. Alcohol kills and damages good bacteria, wreaking havoc on the delicate microbiome balance by promoting overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, yeast, and fungus while suppressing normal microbes. These microbes are critical for our general health, producing vitamins and short-chain fatty acids that feed our intestinal cells, signal our immune system, combat infections, and manage hormones.

Weakened Immune System

Alcohol can also have a detrimental impact on the immune system, which is in charge of defending the body from infection and illness. 70% of the immune system is found in the gut. Damaging the immune system makes the body more susceptible to illness and infection and slows the healing process. Alcohol can also trigger the development of autoimmune conditions and exacerbate existing autoimmune conditions.


Many people are aware of the health hazards that alcohol can create, but few are aware of the harm it may do to their gut specifically. Alcohol can cause a leaky gut, hinder nutrient absorption, and cause inflammation in the body. It can also upset the equilibrium of good and bad microorganisms in the gut and harm the immune system. If you’re looking for ways to improve your gut health, avoiding or limiting alcohol is a good place to start.


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