Prevention & Recovery

Exploring the Impact of Alcohol on the Gut Microbiome: Insights from Experts

Exploring the Impact of Alcohol on the Gut Microbiome: Insights from Experts

Photography, Helena Yankovska,

Prevention & Recovery

Exploring the Impact of Alcohol on the Gut Microbiome: Insights from Experts

We’re always on the lookout for easy ways to improve our physical and mental health. One tip that comes up again and again is limiting the amount of alcohol we consume.

Yes, a glass of wine at the end of the day may taste great, but do you know how it impacts your overall well-being? Well, it starts in the gut.

Understanding how alcohol affects the gut microbiome is critical for improving both physical and mental health outcomes. To learn more, we spoke with three experts in the field.

How does alcohol consumption impact the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome?

"Alcohol can mess up the variety and balance of microbes in our guts," explains Sophie Solmini, founder and CEO of Heal@Home. "Drinking regularly might decrease the variety of good bacteria and increase harmful ones. Over time, this can lead to health problems like more infections and other digestive troubles."



Photography, Christopher Campbell,

Rory Bray, dietician at Tonic Spa and trainer at Sweat and Tonic, says that alcohol consumption will directly alter the diversity of gut microbes and cause inflammation in the gut. “We see a decrease in anti-inflammatory bacteria and an increase in inflammatory bacterial cultures which increases bacterial endotoxin levels, a toxin that causes inflammation in the gut."

Can changes in the gut microbiome due to alcohol consumption contribute to alcohol dependence or addiction?

"The changes in gut bacteria caused by alcohol might also play a role in addiction," says Solmini. "There’s a connection between our gut and our brain, known as the gut-brain axis, that can affect our mood and behaviour. This might make cravings worse and influence addiction patterns."

What role does the gut-brain axis play in the relationship between alcohol and the gut microbiome?

"The connection between our gut and brain is crucial," says Solmini. "It influences how our brain works, affecting our mood, behaviour, and cravings."

Bray explains further that disruptions in gut bacteria due to alcohol consumption have been linked to the development of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety and neurodegenerative disorders.

Trista Chan, registered dietitian and founder of The Good Life Dietitian, says, "The relationship between alcohol consumption, the gut microbiome, and the gut-brain axis is complex and multifaceted. Increased gut permeability can lead to 'leaky gut,' allowing potentially toxic molecules to 'leak' out of the gut, enter the bloodstream, and activate immune responses."

Are there differences in the gut microbiome between individuals who drink alcohol and those who do not?

"People who drink alcohol typically have less variety in their gut bacteria compared to those who don’t drink," says Solmini.



Photography, Peter Conlan,

"There is less presence of anti-inflammatory bacteria and more of a presence of pro-inflammatory bacteria in individuals who consume high amounts of alcohol," Bray confirms.

What should we consume after a night of drinking to support our gut microbiome?

"Consuming foods rich in probiotics like yogurt or kefir and prebiotics like bananas, onions, and garlic can help balance your gut bacteria after drinking," advises Solmini.

Bray recommends consuming foods that are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish, walnuts, and/or supplements to help reduce inflammation.

"Hydration is crucial," Chan emphasizes. "Water helps break down foods to facilitate nutrient absorption. Additionally, consuming liver-supporting foods rich in antioxidants like Vitamin E and Vitamin C, as well as fibre and prebiotic foods, can support a diverse gut microbiome."

Are there potential long-term consequences on gut health from past alcohol abuse?

"Long-term drinking can lead to chronic gut inflammation, a higher risk of gastrointestinal problems, and weakened immune function," warns Solmini.

Is there a “safe” number of drinks we can have without negatively impacting our gut microbiome?

"There’s no universally 'safe' number of drinks that won’t affect your gut, as everyone reacts differently," says Solmini. "For those who choose to drink, sticking to up to two standard drinks per week is considered low-risk."

Chan agrees, saying that there is no current research or guidelines around a 'safe' number of drinks specifically for gut microbiome health.





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Prevention & Recovery

Exploring the Impact of Alcohol on the Gut Microbiome: Insights from Experts