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Does Alcohol Kill Gut Bacteria? What You Need To Know Before Drinking Alcohol

Quick Reference

Does Alcohol Kill Gut Bacteria?
What Is Gut Bacteria?
Importance
Dysbiosis
When Bacteria’s Killed
Problems Of Alcohol Consumption
Helpful Products

Yes, alcohol can kill gut bacteria. When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream and travels to your liver. Alcohol interferes with the function of liver cells, which normally break down food and drink. This includes breaking down bacteria in the gut.

Good Bacteria That Alcohol Kills:
– Bifidobacteria (healthy bacteria found in your intestines that help digest fiber)
– Lactobacilli (live in the intestines and vagina)
– Enterococci

Bad Bacteria That Alcohol Kills:
– Streptococci
– E. coli
– Salmonella
– Shigella
– Proteus
– Serratia
– Klebsiella

What Is Gut Bacteria?
Gut bacteria are microorganisms that live in the digestive tract.
The human body is host to trillions of bacteria, including both harmful and beneficial species. The gut microbiome is composed of a diverse array of bacterial species that play a vital role in human health.

Two main types of gut bacteria:
– Commensal bacteria
– Pathogenic bacteria

Why Are Gut Bacteria Important?
– Help digestion by breaking down food particles that the stomach and intestines can’t
– Help the immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria
– Produce vitamins, including vitamin K and some B vitamins

What Is Dybiosis?
Dysbiosis is an imbalance of the gut microbiota, usually characterized by too much of one type of bacteria and not enough of others.

Factors Contributing To Dybiosis:

– Antibiotics
– Processed foods
– Sugar
– Chronic stress
– Alcohol
– Smoking
– Certain medications

When The Gut Is Imbalanced:

– Abdominal pain
– Bloating
– Diarrhea
– Constipation
– Weight loss
– Malabsorption of nutrients
– Fatigue
– Brain fog

What Happens When Gut Bacteria Are Killed?
When good gut bacteria are killed, it can lead to dysbiosis.

Issues That May Arise?
– Diarrhea
– Constipation
– Bloating
– Flatulence
– Bad Breath
– Nausea
– Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD)
– Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
– Obesity
– Diabetes
– Cancer
– Cardiovascular and central nervous system disorders

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Gut Health?
Excessive drinking can create dysbiosis in your gut,
which leads to high levels of endotoxins released by the bacteria. These toxins have been known to incite certain proteins and immune cells, causing them to activate inflammation, resulting in hazardous health consequences.

Harmful Effects of Alcohol
:
– Liver damage
– Pancreatitis
– Cardiovascular disease
– Cancer
– Brain damage
– Sexual dysfunction
– Birth defects
– Fetal alcohol syndrome

Alcohol can clean germs, so some people think it can also kill the good bacteria in your stomach. But, not all alcohols are bad for your stomach; some can actually be good for it.

But, overdoing it with alcohol can lead to several health problems. This blog will talk about the important things to know about the bacteria in your stomach, how alcohol can change these bacteria, and which drinks are okay to have without hurting your stomach’s health.

What is gut bacteria?

Gut bacteria are live microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract. They play a role in many aspects of health, including digestion, immunity, and metabolism.

There are two main types of gut bacteria:

The first type, commensal bacteria, live in harmony with the host (in this case, you). In fact, these bacteria are essential for good health.

The second type, pathogenic bacteria, or harmful bacteria, can cause disease. Most of the bacteria in your gut are commensal, meaning they’re beneficial. In fact, you need this bacteria for good gut health. Around 1000 known bacteria species are present in a healthy human’s gut. But, the same journal states that researchers have yet to discover a significant part of the gut microbiota. [1]

A man with poor gut health

Why are gut bacteria important?

Gut bacteria are essential for many reasons. Humans have a symbiotic relationship with gut bacteria. This means that both humans and gut bacteria benefit from each other. [2] Some of the benefits of gut bacteria include:

  • Gut bacteria help digestion by breaking down food particles that the stomach and intestines can’t.

Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes bacteria help digestion of dietary fiber and polyphenols by a complex metabolic energy-harvesting mechanism based on cross-feeding and co-metabolism. [3]

  • Gut bacteria help the immune system by fighting off harmful bacteria

The gut microbiota that resides in the digestive system benefits its host by maintaining immune homeostasis. [4]

  • Gut bacteria produce vitamins, including vitamin K and some B vitamins.

Bacteroides, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococcus bacteria synthesize vitamins such as Vitamin K, Thiamine, Riboflavin, Folate, Biotin, and Pantothenic acid. These vitamins are essential for the overall health of our body. [5]

Did You Know? There are a total of 13 vitamins that are important for your body. They improve metabolism, support immunity, and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

A woman with good gut health

What is dysbiosis?

Dysbiosis is an imbalance of gut bacteria. As mentioned earlier, there are two kinds of bacteria in the gut – the good kind that helps us and the bad kind that can make us sick.

The number of good bacteria should be greater than that of harmful bacteria. Certain lifestyle and food choices can upset this balance, causing an unhealthy shift in the bacteria levels. Many factors can contribute to dysbiosis, including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Chronic stress
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Certain medications
What happens when gut bacteria are killed graphic

What happens when gut bacteria are killed?

When good gut bacteria are killed, it can lead to dysbiosis. Dysbiosis can cause many problems, including:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Flatulence
  • Bad Breath
  • Nausea

Most of the time, the body can fight harmful bacteria and correct the issue. But sometimes, having an unhealthy mix of bacteria in your gut can cause serious health problems like certain bowel diseases, weight issues, diabetes, cancer, and problems with the heart and brain, according to a study published at NIH. [6]

Does alcohol kill gut bacteria?

Alcohol, in particular, can kill gut bacteria at higher concentrations of 30 percent or more. The CDC says that ethyl alcohol (also called ethanol) and isopropyl alcohol (also known as isopropanol) can kill bacteria like Serratia marcescens, E. coli, and Salmonella. Salmonella is actually a type of bacteria that’s found in our gut. [7]

This is not to say that you should drink alcohol to kill bacteria. People use alcohol to clean surfaces and should avoid using it as medicine. But, people use it as a sanitizer to reduce the risk of getting stomach and respiratory infections. [8]

What bacteria in the gut does alcohol kill?

As mentioned above, alcohol can kill both good and bad gut flora. Some of the good bacteria that are killed by alcohol include:

A table with about bacteria and which one alcohol kills
  • Bifidobacteria
  • Lactobacilli
  • Enterococci
  • Streptococci

Some harmful bacteria for gut health that are killed by alcohol include:

  • E. coli
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • Proteus
  • Serratia
  • Klebsiella

Effective alcohol concentration that can kill bacteria

Alcohol can work as an antibiotic, and it can kill both beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria. But, it needs to have a high concentration to be effective. To hinder the gut microbiome, individuals must ingest alcohol in concentrations greater than 40%. [8]

Higher concentrations of alcohol damage the stomach, causing mucosal lesions. The same study found that the more alcohol was present, the greater the stomach damage. So, as you see, alcohol consumption doesn’t help with bacterial infections but causes more harm to your gut health. [9]

Chronic alcohol consumption causes serious problems

Before, we explained that drinking alcohol doesn’t help with bacterial infections but can cause more harm to your gut health. But what if you are a heavy alcohol drinker?

A study published at NIH states, “Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota is linked to chronic alcohol consumption.” In other words, chronic alcohol consumption can cause a gut-bacterial imbalance. [10]

The research discovered that drinking alcohol changes the types of bacteria in your gut. This can make harmful bacteria increase and helpful bacteria decrease. This can lead to many problems, such as:

  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular and central nervous system disorders
  • Alcohol dependence
A person with bad gut health

How does alcohol affect your gut health?

Research about Alcohol and Gut-Related Inflammation has found that when you drink alcohol, it can mess up the natural balance of bacteria in your stomach, which is called dysbiosis. This can make more toxins, which are bad substances released by certain bacteria. These toxins can wake up proteins and cells in your body that cause inflammation, which can be bad for your health. [11]

Other harmful effects of alcohol

Aside from the effects on gut health, alcohol consumption can also lead to many other problems, such as:

  • Liver damage
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Brain damage
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Birth defects
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome

So, as you see, alcohol consumption can have many adverse effects on your health, both short-term and long-term. It’s essential to be aware of these effects and to drink alcohol in moderation.

Safe alcoholic beverages for your gut

If you choose to consume alcohol, some alcoholic beverages are safer for your gut than others. Several studies have proved that red wine can affect gut health.

Red wine has stuff called polyphenols and antioxidants that can help make your body less inflamed and make your tummy healthier. In fact, one study found that red and white wine can help increase the level of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Red wine and white wine kill food-borne bacteria and promote beneficial bacteria growth. [12]

That beer and carbonated drinks have a negligible effect on killing harmful bacteria. But, the same study found that red wine had a more pronounced effect on gut bacteria. So, if you prefer to drink alcohol, red wine is the best choice for gut health. White wine and beer are also safe choices, but they don’t have the same gut-healthy benefits as red wine. [13]

Furthermore, moderate consumption is key. If you drink too much alcohol, even red wine, it can have adverse effects on your gut health. So, it’s important to not drink too much alcohol and to pick drinks that are safe for your gut’s health.

What if you are an occasional drinker?

Drinking alcohol on occasion will not kill your gut bacteria. In fact, occasional drinking can actually have some benefits for gut health.

Moderate alcohol consumption can help increase the level of good bacteria in the gut. The same study found moderate drinkers had a higher gut microbial biodiversity than non-drinkers. By this, the study doesn’t talk about daily drinkers but people who consume alcohol a few times a week or month. [14]

If you are a daily drinker who consumes about two drinks per day (for women, one drink per day), we have bad news. Drinking this amount daily can increase the odds of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is a condition where there is an imbalance of gut bacteria and can lead to many problems, such as: [15]

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Weight loss
  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog

So, if you are an occasional drinker, there is no need to worry about the effects of alcohol on your gut health. But, if you are a daily drinker, you may want to consider cutting back on your alcohol consumption.

Even if you are a moderate drinker, it’s essential to be aware of the other harmful effects of alcohol and to drink alcohol in moderation.

Tip: If you are a moderate drinker, you can improve your gut health by taking probiotics and eating a healthy diet. To learn more about supplements that improve your gut health, read Nuven Naturals All-in-One Gut Health Probiotics.

Bottom line: does alcohol kill gut bacteria?

Yes, alcohol can kill gut bacteria and harm your digestive health. But, it depends on how much alcohol you consume. If you are a moderate drinker, there is no need to worry about the effects of alcohol on your gut health. But, if you are a heavy alcoholic, you may want to consider cutting back on your alcohol consumption.

So, moderate drinkers, enjoy your occasional glass of red wine. Be sure to drink alcohol in moderation and to choose safe alcoholic beverages for your gut health. And, if you are a heavy drinker, it’s time to consider reducing your alcohol consumption for your health.

FAQ

Does Drinking Alcohol Kill Germs In Throat?

It is possible that alcohol can kill germs in the throat, but it is not advisable to use it as a regular disinfectant to treat tummy bugs or throat infections. Alcohol is a harsh chemical that can damage the gut lining, making the body more susceptible to infection. There are many alternative options available that are safer and more effective.

Does Whiskey Kill Gut Bacteria?

Whiskey has high concentrations of alcohol, about 40% to 50%, which can kill bacteria. This makes Whiskey a great choice for disinfecting wounds and cleaning surfaces. However, it is not recommended for drinking as it can damage the gut lining and lead to gut infections.

References

  1. PubMed Central: The first 1000 cultured species of the human gastrointestinal microbiota
  2. PubMed Central: The first 1000 cultured species of the human gastrointestinal microbiota
  3. Pubmed: Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases
  4. NIH: The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity
  5. NIH: Contributions of Intestinal Bacteria to Nutrition and Metabolism in the Critically Ill
  6. NIH: Microbiome and Gut Dysbiosis
  7. CDC: Chemical Disinfectants
  8. NIH: Alcohol Sanitizer
  9. Pubmed; Inhibition by ethanol of the growth of biofilm and dispersed microcosm dental plaques
  10. Pubmed: Action of pure ethanol and some alcoholic beverages on the gastric mucosa in healthy humans: a descriptive endoscopic study
  11. NIH: Colonic microbiome is altered in alcoholism
  12. Pubmed: Alcohol and Gut-Derived Inflammation
  13. Pubmed: Wine has activity against entero-pathogenic bacteria in vitro but not in vivo
  14. NIH: Survival of enteric pathogens in common beverages: an in vitro study
  15. Pubmed: Effects of moderate, voluntary ethanol consumption on the rat and human gut microbiome

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