Gut Health and Alcohol - A Dietitians Perspective
Since the start of the pandemic, many people want to know how they can improve their immunity. The truth is, a person’s immunity is determined by variety of genetic and lifestyle factors that work together in complex ways. It’s much more than overdosing vitamin C or elderberry. And with regards to covid-19, there is still a lot we don’t know. But what we do know is gut health plays a huge role in overall health and immunity. Sadly, so many things in our environment and lifestyles work against us when it comes to gut health. Poor diets, environment toxins, pesticides, medications, stress, frequent antibiotic use, and a lack of fermented foods in American cuisine, all contribute to less than ideal gut health for so many people. The human GI tract is a complicated system, but one of the biggest influencers on overall gut health is the balance and diversity of your gut bacteria, or your gut microbiome. Including probiotics in your diet and supplement routine can be a game changer when it comes to overall health and immunity. However, probiotics are not the magic pill we’ve all been searching for (hint….it doesn’t exist). Lifestyle factors play a huge role in influencing our gut microbiome. As mentioned above, there are many factors at play when it comes to fostering a healthy gut, but we do know that alcohol intake affects our guts. While this may be a bit of a buzzkill, its important to understand the ways that alcohol impacts our guts. That way we can still enjoy responsibly, while minimizing damage to our gut.
Chronic alcohol consumption leads to thriving bad bacteria and a shortage of good bacteria, a condition known as dysbiosis. In large amounts or through daily intake, alcohol can inhibit the production of the digestive enzymes necessary for proper digestion and absorption of food and nutrients. Excessive alcohol also creates an inflammatory environment in your gut and gut lining, creating damage and increased permeability, commonly called “leaky gut.” People with IBS are particularly sensitive to alcohol and the way it ferments in the gut. Lastly, we tend to make poor food choices when we’ve had a few too many. if we’ve been indulging, we are much more likely to order that late night pizza (and eat the whole thing) or crave sweets. Higher consumption of these highly processed foods can further damage the gut microbiome, like throwing fuel on a fire. With all that being said, I still like to have as much as the next guy and believe that you can still have a healthy gut and a drink from time to time. The key is moderation and living a lifestyle that is otherwise supportive of gut health. Here are some tips to keep drinking under control.
Go drink for drink. No, not like that. If you can get in the habit of alternating between a glass of water and an alcoholic drink, you’ll end up drinking a lot less and feeling a lot better the next day.
Don’t go in to a social event dehydrated. If you are using alcohol to quench your thirst, you are going to end up drinking way more than you need and creating much worse dehydration. Take a moment before a social event or before cracking a bottle of wine to drink a glass of water. Make a rule for yourself that you must drink 8oz of water before any alcoholic beverage.
Eat a well-balanced meal before you drink alcohol so you’ll be less likely to cave on that pizza.
Follow the next day after alcohol consumption with some hydrating fruit like watermelon and a probiotic supplement.
If you are less of a social drinker and more of a daily glass of wine gal (or guy), make sure you are honest with yourself about how much you are really drinking. One glass can still fit within a healthy lifestyle, but daily consumption of multiple drinks is going to set your gut up for problems.
If you’re concerned about your gut health, Food & Mood offers many services that could help including, nutrition counseling, stool testing, breath work, supplement evaluation and recommendations, etc. Learn more about all we offer at www.yourfoodandmood.com