Your gut and alcohol

The gut-liver axis

You might have heard about the gut-brain axis, but what about the gut-liver axis? 

Our gut and liver are able to communicate with each other. This interaction takes place through the portal vein, carrying products of digestion and bacterial fermentation to the liver and the supply of bile from the liver to the intestine. Bile helps with digestion of food. It breaks down fats into fatty acids, which can be taken into the body by the digestive tract. 

Alcohol also plays a role in this bidirectional relationship. When we drink alcohol, it is absorbed in the upper intestinal tract and enters the liver via the portal vein. 

How does alcohol affect your gut? 

If alcohol is drunk in excessive it can inhibit the production of digestive enzymes and juices making it difficult for your body to breakdown, digest and absorb nutrients from your body. Resulting in partially digested food to sit in your intestines, resulting in excessive fermentation from your gut bacteria. This is why you may experience bloating, gas and loose stools the day after drinking.  

Alcohol consumption has also shown to affect the balance of our gut microbiome and may result in the growth of “bad” bacteria which may result in certain digestive symptoms. As well as changing the balance in your gut microbiome, alcohol can result in inflammation and increase the permeability of your gut lining. This can result in larger food particles entering your bloodstream, resulting in an immune response and undesirable symptoms. 

So, what can you do still enjoy your favourite tipple whilst looking after your gut health?

  • Don’t use alcohol to quench your thirst. Make sure you are hydrated before you start drinking. We should aim to drink 2L of water each day.
  • Alternate between an alcoholic drink and water. Alcohol is a diuretic meaning it can dehydrate you. Switching between an alcohol drink and water will make sure you stay hydrated and may mean you consume less alcohol overall. 
  • Try some alcohol alternatives like soda and mint, or kombucha which is also great for your gut!
  • Be mindful of what you’re eating the day after drinking. Excessive alcohol can increase your desire to consume processed foods however, this can negatively impact your gut microbiome. Try and choose foods that will nourish your gut instead.
  • Red wine contains polyphenols, a compound that your gut loves! Research has shown that these polyphenols may have a positive effect on our gut microbiome. Excessive consumption will outweigh the benefits of these compounds however, it is something to bear in mind if you’re stuck choosing between red or white! 

Did you know...

Our gut bacteria help metabolise alcohol. As we all have a unique gut microbiome, we metabolise alcohol differently and an imbalanced gut may affect how you tolerate alcohol!