Alcohol Consumption and Gut Bacteria: How One Effects and Influences the Other
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Health Science

Alcohol Consumption and Gut Bacteria: How One Effects and Influences the Other

Millions of people consume alcohol regularly. Not every person who consumes alcohol experiences the same effects or develops an alcohol use disorder. Some researchers hypothesize that intestinal microbiota may explain alcohol consumption trends.

An Unbalanced Gut Microbiome May Influence Alcohol Consumption

The latest study to focus on this subject comes from the Complutense University of Madrid. A team of scientists found that heavy drinking is linked to a distinct microbiome profile. They had 507 young volunteers complete a drinking habit questionnaire and provide fecal samples. Using the Bristol Stool Scale, the results demonstrated a linear link between alcohol consumption and feces type.

Next, the Madrid researchers compared a selection of nondrinkers and heavy drinkers using the samples and bacterial analysis. They found that heavy drinkers have more Actinobacteria than nondrinkers. However, this showed that drinking alters the gut bacteria, but not that the altered microbiome causes an increase in alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Consumption and Gut Bacteria: How One Effects and Influences the Other
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So, to test this, researchers transplanted alcohol-dependent animals’ feces into healthy animals. Animals given the alcohol-dependent fecal transplant increased their voluntary alcohol intake compared to a control group. The researchers next gave alcohol-dependent mice antibiotics, which reduced their alcohol consumption.

The Gut Microbiota’s Influence Over the Body

Certain gut bacteria help metabolize alcohol. For this reason, we all tolerate alcohol differently. Unfortunately, those that have fewer of these bacteria can’t detox alcohol as well.

In the gut live bacteria, viruses, fungus, and yeast. This microbial community codevelops with the host throughout life and depends on host genetics, nutrition, lifestyle, stress, illnesses, and antibiotic use. The gut microbiota affects the immune system, metabolism, and nervous system. Intestinal bacteria supply the host with critical nutrients such as vitamins, metabolize bile acids and undigested substances, guard against pathogen invasion, and play a crucial role in maintaining the gut barrier function.

The gut microbiota influences brain functions such as myelin production, blood-brain barrier permeability, neuroinflammatory responses, mood, and behavior. In addition, cross-talk between microorganisms and the host involves an extensive array of signaling pathways, including several types of chemicals like metabolites produced by the bacteria from dietary or endogenous sources of carbohydrates and proteins (i.e., SCFAs, indole), neurotransmitters, and inflammatory cytokines.

Thus, whatever you eat and drink can positively or negatively affect and modify this internal ecosystem. Therefore, whatever you eat and drink can positively or negatively affect and change this inner ecosystem.
As such, there is a connection between the gut microbiota and the pathophysiological factors of alcohol dependence, which include gut barrier function, liver damage, and psychological problems.

Alcohol Consumption and Gut Bacteria: How One Effects and Influences the Other
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The University of Gothenburg Professor Fredrik Bäckhed, a scientist from an earlier study, said:

“Our results provide strong evidence that alcohol addiction is not only in the brain but that it, in some cases, can be associated with an imbalance in the intestinal flora. [From the study results], it appears that some alcoholics may need a different treatment than others.”

Professor Bäckhed was part of a 2014 study team that analyzed a group of 60 alcoholics in rehab. The study’s 60 alcoholics drank equally.

After 19 days in rehab, the researchers noticed a huge difference in how well the test subjects recovered. They hypothesized that their gut flora affected their newfound well-being and likelihood of relapse.

Why? Because 26 of 60 alcoholics had leaky gut syndrome and low levels of intestinal bacteria, especially anti-inflammatory Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. These 26 test respondents scored high on depression, anxiety, and alcohol cravings tests after 19 days without alcohol—barely any improvement from when they entered rehab.

Meanwhile, the other 34 normal gut flora participants recovered better, scoring low on despair, anxiety, and alcohol cravings—scores close to those of the non-drinking control group.

The researchers concluded that intestinal flora is linked to recidivism following rehab. Bäckhed hopes the discovery will lead to novel intestinal flora-based treatments for alcoholics.

How Alcohol Consumption Alters Bacteria Composition

Chronic alcohol use alters intestinal microbiota composition and function, intestinal inflammation, intestinal lining permeability, and affects intestinal immunological homeostasis. In addition, studies have shown how alcohol increases gut microbes in animals and humans.

This overgrowth may be driven directly by alcohol, but some studies suggest it may also be a consequence of impaired digestive and intestinal function caused by alcohol.

Altering The Gut Microbiome Might Help Alcoholics Battle Addiction

The gut microbiome affects host health, including brain and behavior. Alcoholism harms the gut barrier and microbiome. Therefore, researchers suggest that certain probiotics and prebiotics may help alcoholism.

Alcohol Consumption and Gut Bacteria: How One Effects and Influences the Other
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Alcohol, the Microbiome, and Treatment of Liver Disease

Alcoholic liver disease ranges from mild illness to alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. Even before liver disease develops, alcohol can alter the gut bacteria/microbiome. These changes intensify with disease progression and may cause it to escalate.

These changes intensify with disease progression and may cause it to escalate. Microbial activity, notably bile acid metabolism, can control alcohol-related damage in cirrhosis and alcoholic hepatitis. Changes in microbiota may also affect brain function, and the gut-brain axis may reduce relapse risk.

In alcoholic liver disease, probiotics, fecal microbial transplants, and antibiotics have shown mixed success. However, since most of these patients aren’t liver transplant candidates, modulating the gut–liver axis is vital as an alternative treatment.

Alcohol Also Alters Your Body’s Nutritional Intake Mechanisms

Excessive alcohol consumption can impede the body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food.
Incomplete digestion causes increased intestinal fermentation, resulting in gas, bloating, and loose stools.
In addition, excessive alcohol use can promote intestinal inflammation, making the gut lining more porous.

As a result, whole food particles may pass the stomach lining and infiltrate your bloodstream, leading to immunological reactions and allergies. Thus, you won’t be able to eat the meals you once could.

In addition, excessive drinking can make you crave processed foods (hint: remember eating all those late-night snacks when you weren’t hungry?). Unfortunately, high-processed diets can further harm your gut microbiota.

So, be aware of how alcohol affects your eating! Just remember, if you’re going to drink, at least nourish yourself afterward with gut-healthy foods to compensate for any damage you’ve done!

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