Man drinking alcohol


So, let's talk spirits and the gut – a tale of how alcohol can stir up quite the commotion in our digestive realm. It's not just about a night of revelry; alcohol has its ways of meddling with nutrient absorption, causing mayhem in the small intestine, and playing a role in the malnutrition often witnessed in those who lean heavily on the bottle.


Recent findings spotlight the gut's significance in the intricate dance of alcoholic liver injury and other alcohol-related diseases. It seems alcohol has a hand in immune deficiency and a spike in infections. Here, we'll dive into the latest revelations on the alcohol-gut connection and its symphony with different physiological systems in our body.


Let's begin with the journey of alcohol in your gut. After the grand entrance, alcohol takes the spotlight in the upper intestinal tract, hitching a ride to the liver via the portal vein. The party's impact on the distal small intestine and colon stems from its circulating levels.

In the liver's VIP lounge – hepatocytes – alcohol undergoes a process called oxidative conversion. During social sipping (think two standard drinks), the body gracefully handles the alcohol intake with no harm done.

However, both the small and large intestine aren't spared from alcohol's influence. Its metabolic dance can disrupt tissue harmony, leading to chronic intestinal inflammation. [3]


A chunk of nutrient absorption unfolds in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, where the lining's permeability allows the magic to happen. This barrier, spread over 4,000 square feet, is the guardian, selectively choosing what enters the bloodstream.

Yet, excessive alcohol can throw this guardian off balance, damaging intestinal cell lining and ushering in leaky gut syndrome. This rebel act allows half-digested food, toxins, and unwanted guests to infiltrate tissues, sparking inflammation and shifts in the gut flora.

Research showcases that tweaks in intestinal bacteria and inflammation could be key players in various chronic diseases.


The gut, housing over 500 bacterial species, finds its groove in a balanced dance between "good" and pathogenic bacteria. Alcohol, however, loves to shake things up. Dysbiosis – an overgrowth of bacteria – becomes the name of the game, linked to an increase in endotoxins. These troublemakers activate proteins and immune cells, triggering inflammation.

Studies confirm that alcohol is the maestro behind this bacterial overgrowth, potentially linked to poor digestion and intestinal function. The interplay between alcohol, bile acid, and bacterial overgrowth becomes a complex web. [5]

Recent studies highlight consistent effects of both short and long-term alcohol intake on gut microbial communities, influencing the development of alcohol-associated chronic diseases. Chronic, excessive alcohol consumption tilts the balance toward harmful bacteria, unleashing toxins that fuel gut inflammation.

The repercussions? An orchestra of:

Emotional regulation challenges

Weight rollercoasters

Increased fatigue

Digestive drama (constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating)

Food allergies and intolerances

Skin struggles


Alcohol's intrusion isn't just about gut bacteria; it also amplifies inflammation. Bacterial overgrowth escalates the inflammation risk, as intestinal bacteria metabolize alcohol independently, producing excess acetaldehyde in the colon. This surplus fuels proinflammatory alcohol metabolites.

As discussed, the intestinal barrier's permeability becomes a battleground. People with alcohol use disorder exhibit increased intestinal permeability, linking it to a higher likelihood of liver disease. This suggests that intestinal permeability might be a mediator of organ damage in some individuals with alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol disrupts the intestinal barrier by damaging epithelial cells and tight junctions. This damage opens the door for pathogens and harmful substances to infiltrate the bloodstream.


Alcohol and GI Cancers: Esophageal, stomach, and colorectal cancers dance in sync with alcohol consumption, especially when paired with smoking or metabolic syndrome.

Alcohol and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): While lifestyle factors like smoking and diet influence IBD, alcohol's impact on gut inflammation might sway the course of IBD, though further research is needed.


The brain's influence on the gut is a known tale, but the gut's whispers to the brain? Recent evidence points to this intriguing dialogue. Alcohol-induced intestinal permeability might sway psychological and cognitive functions.

Detoxification-hospitalized patients with intestinal permeability issues showed higher depression and anxiety levels, coupled with compromised selective attention. The gut's influence on the systemic inflammatory response in alcohol use disorder might explain behavioral changes.

The mechanisms behind this gut-brain axis influence aren't crystal clear, but systemic inflammation, triggered by alcohol-induced leaky gut, seems to have a say. It might affect neuronal function, impacting symptoms like autonomic disturbances and anxiety during alcohol withdrawal.

Research suggests that alcohol-induced dysbiosis and gut microbiome changes might influence the vagal response and neuroinflammation, tying into alcohol-associated behaviors.


People drinking red wine

Before you pop the cork, a disclaimer: excessive alcohol use is no friend to your gut. However, if there's a "best" in the lineup, red wine takes the spotlight. Rich in polyphenols like resveratrol, red wine might act as a fuel for the beneficial microbes in your gut. These polyphenols, also found in fruits and vegetables, can enhance good gut bacteria and reduce inflammation.

A recent twin-centered study sang red wine's praises, associating it with increased gut microbiota diversity, a marker of gut health. Even rare sips seemed to suffice, hinting that a glass every two weeks might be your gut's way of saying "cheers."


In a nutshell, alcohol's rendezvous with your gut can be a turbulent affair when taken to extremes. The evidence paints a vivid picture of its influence on gut bacteria, inflammation, and the intricate gut-brain axis. While red wine makes a cameo as a "gut-friendly" option, moderation is the key.

To keep your gut in harmony, prioritize good sleep, stay hydrated, savor a diverse, nutrient-packed diet, and consider adding a probiotic like Simply’s Probiotic 40 Billion with Prebiotics to your daily routine. Cheers to a balanced gut!

Kayla Thomas


Kayla Thomas, a 34-year-old sports and fitness coach living in Connecticut, USA. With seven years of hands-on experience, she's all about helping folks get fit and strong. Kayla's fitness journey began when she was a sports-loving kid, and she followed her passion to college, where she earned a degree in Exercise Science and picked up personal training and sports coaching certifications. But what really lights her up is empowering women through fitness, breaking barriers and making fitness feel welcoming for everyone. Her clients see her as not just a coach but a motivating friend. In her downtime, you'll find her swimming and cycling, always on the move. And you can follow her fitness journey on Instagram – she's all about sharing that empowerment vibe.