Alcohol – Putting Your Microbes To Work!
How Alcohol Affects Gut Bacteria
Alcohol linked to potentially harmful changes in oral & gut microbiome leading to disease
Typically, when we think of indulging in alcohol, our first thought is about the potential for a hangover.
We’ve all been there – maybe it’s a social celebration or a holiday, or maybe you’re stressed out and having a hard week at work … a few drinks down the hatch seems to be therapeutic, and the only real concern for many is simply mitigating the risk of a sore head the next day.
Now, although a few alcoholic drinks can lighten the mood and make a party move forward in a positive flow … what is nearly always overlooked however, is how alcohol negatively impacts both your oral and gut microbiome.
Alcohol is a deadly killer, and disease potentiator – out of sight and out of mind…
How Does Alcohol Affect Our Gut Health?
Well, it is well known that chronic, consistent alcohol abuse leads to dysbiosis and gastrointestinal tract inflammation and intestinal hyperpermeability aka leaky gut. Those who regularly consume alcohol are inducing a state of oxidative stress on the body and increasing systemic inflammation amongst many other negative factors influencing health & well being.
What about those less frequent occasions. Those one-off events or social nights where infrequent and more moderated bouts of alcohol consumption occur – and what impact does that have on your microbes and microbiome?
You may not consider yourself a ‘binge’ drinker, but by definition, anyone who consumes more than four drinks per event falls into this category. It’s the most common form of drinking worldwide.
Studies have confirmed that if you fall into that category of relatively infrequent bouts of drinking, you’re simply not immune to the ravishing effects alcohol has on your delicate microbiome. What was discovered in one study was that that binge drinking (where infrequently you’re consuming 4 or more drinks in one sitting) resulted in a rapid increase in serum endotoxins. Endotoxins are bacterial toxins located in the cell, showing that bacteria were permeating (moving from) the gut and into our system. This was also underscored by elevated markers of inflammation, meaning that one night of heavier drinking is enough to drive up our bodies immune response.
Alcohol quite simply puts your microbes to work, and challenges your systemic health & wellbeing – FACT!
“Our study offers clear evidence that drinking is bad for maintaining a healthy balance of microbes in the mouth and could help explain why drinking, like smoking, leads to bacterial changes already tied to cancer and chronic disease,” study author Jiyoung Ahn, PhD, associate director of population sciences at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, said in a press release relating to a study linked to alcohol-related diseases. Factors such as periodontal disease, GI cancers, head and neck cancers and heart disease were considered in the research published in the journal Microbiome.
Oral Microbiome – Alcohol’s Negative Effects
It was noted in the study that oral microbiota differed significantly between heavy drinkers and non-drinkers. Specifically, higher levels of alcohol consumption correlated with increased levels of potentially harmful species including Actinomyces, Leptotrichia and Cardiobacterium, some of which contain oral pathogens, and higher levels of Neisseria, which has been shown to synthesise the carcinogen acetaldehyde from ethanol. Additionally, abundance of the bacteria Lactobacillales, commonly found in probiotics and thought to be beneficial, tended to decline with higher alcohol consumption.
Joyoung Ahn noted specifically the possibility that alcohol creates an acidic environment that limits the growth of certain bacteria in the mouth, or that bacteria like Neisseria may produce acetaldehydes and other harmful byproducts resulting from the breakdown of alcohol.
Red Wine – Maybe An Exception
Numerous studies have been thrown out by high quality red wine. Research in 2012 suggested that people who drank two glasses of dry red wine a day (the researchers served Merlot) had higher levels of beneficial bacteria like Enterococcus, Prevotella, Bacteroides and Bifidobacterium. [Influence of red wine polyphenols and ethanol on the gut microbiota ecology and biochemical biomarkers]
Prepare Your Immune System to Cope Better With Alcohol Consumption
Let’s face it, it might not always be possible, or, desired to abstain from alcohol unless you’re dedicated to leading a optimised microbiome lifestyle, or you simply avoid alcohol for religious (such as practicing muslims where it is haram to consume alcohol) or practical reasons.
If you are deciding to consume alcohol, it is sane and sensible to advocate moderation and responsible drinking.
Education is key – you are now understanding how even small bouts of drinking alcohol can negatively impact your oral & gut microbiome, which in turn negatively impacts your immune system, causes systemic inflammation and encourages disease while decreasing your vitality, health and wellbeing.
Your immune system is critical in protecting your system from bacterial invaders that you don’t want hanging around wreaking havoc on your health.
Tips To Help You Support Your System Against Alcohol’s Negative Effects
Probiotics: taking a daily dose of a high-quality probiotics, alongside probiotic rich fermented foods such as Kombucha, Kimchi, Kefir and Sauerkraut are great ways to maintain your digestive health and promote a plethora of diverse gut microflora. Kombucha and other fermented foods can help promote an increase in B-vitamins which quickly become depleted when we consume alcohol.
Vitamin C: incredibly well researched, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which helps support our immune system. Furthermore, Vitamin C can be liver protective (the liver being one of the primary organs under assault with even a small bout of alcohol consumption). Alcohol depletes our vitamin C stores, so it’s best to consume this nutrient both before and after drinking.
Fibre: you have probably heard that you shouldn’t drink alcohol on an empty stomach – and there’s actually some small truth to this. Alcohol is readily absorbed throughout the entire digestive tract. Now, the amount of food we have in our system determines the speed velocity at which that happens. In order to slow down the velocity at which the absorption of alcohol flows into your system, you should never drink on an empty stomach. It’s preferably that you consume slow digesting carbs like vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice, as well as lean protein and healthy fats. Gut bacteria absolutely love certain types of fibre, so not only will you lessen the effects of alcohol, you’ll keep your good gut bacteria healthy and primed.
Listen To Your Gut – Always
The human gut is so complex in how it communicates and interacts systemically with your body & brain as a whole is quite simply fascinating, and we’re literally just at the stage of researching the tip of the iceberg!
Your gut has been termed by many as the ‘second brain’. Have you ever really understood the phrase ‘listen to your gut‘ or ‘getting a bad gut feeling about this‘…
When you are healthy, and well – your body and brain communicate more effectively and efficiently. Many, many factors influence health and wellness, which in turn, impact how well your internal systems communicate with each other. In the world of programming, there is a phrase called GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). If you can allow yourself to image your body like one organic super computer, processing millions of bits of programming code at any one time; you can imagine that what you feed your system (what goes in) obviously influences the quality of the outputs – what comes out.
If your operating system is primed, running smoothly and optimally, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that when it comes to alcohol – your body and mind actively send you notifications to avoid it. To the body, alcohol is a poison. It can make you sick immediately, commonly understood as a ‘hangover’.
Worse than this, behind the scenes, alcohol is causing untold havoc, derailing your operating system and corrupting your wellbeing code. You can read deeper into the damaging effects of alcohol here – alcohol’s disastrous effect on your systemic health & wellbeing.
When you engage in any negative lifestyle factor that corrupts your operating system, whenever you input poor quality and damaging inputs (one of those being alcohol) – you’re inserting garbage into your system, so you can expect garbage to be an output. The more you corrupt your system, the more you create an environment for abuse, and so you dim the signals that your body and brain are able to send you. It’s a self defeating feedback loop, where the more damage you do, the less you can read the signs … and so you might just end up ignoring the very signals your body is throwing out to warn you that you need to change your habits and lifestyle.
When you ignore these signals, your body has no other choice but to send you stronger signals. You might begin with some headaches and stomach discomfort. You might start to notice some dry, ithchy scalp or skin conditions. Over time, you may develop some acid reflux, some psoriasis. Before you know it, you’re still ignoring the warning signs, and you develop leaky gut syndrome, or Chrons disease. How else can the body signal you to change your habits and upgrade your lifestyle before it’s too late?!
REMEMBER – your body does talk to you, but not in a language we always understand.
You have to be sensitive to the signals you body, your operating system, is throwing out at you. If you ignore the warning signs, the signals will become more and more severe until you become literally disabled through disease (literally dis-ease). Your system will be crippled with the pain of outputting garbage thanks to the garbage being input. Eventually, you will break, since none of us are immortal or resistant to disease. Your defences do not withstand everything, and they simply do not last forever.
Focus on strengthening your gut – always. Through a diet of fermented foods, such as Kombucha and other probiotic rich stimulus, fibers that good bacteria thrive on, and a nurturing supportive lifestyle you will go a long way to withstanding the damage induced by alcohol.
Of course, you will always find yourself in situations where other people are enjoying the a few alcoholic tipples – we get it, it is social and fun. Just be on your guard and be educated. Understand what is happening to your system.
If you’re looking for an alcohol-free, non-alcoholic replacement, then of course we’re going to recommend OMBucha® Kombucha; it’s why we do what we do! We take gut health and wellness very seriously, and we’re proud to produce a truly authentic craft kombucha designed to do what it was intended; to enhance your health, vitality and wellbeing.