Alcohol and Gut Flora

When people make the change to a healthy diet, they don’t always eliminate alcohol. I mean, sugary and starchy things ferment and alcohol is just a byproduct of that fermentation, right? That’s just nature for ya. Plus, alcohol makes you feel really funny. Ancient man must have drunk it!

Well, maybe sometimes, but without agriculture, alcohol would have been a pretty rare thing. You need quite a bit of starchy or sugary stuff to make it. (Just to give you an idea, it takes 3 pounds of honey to make 1 gallon of mead.) Humans wouldn’t have made it very far if they turned all their food into alcohol. And they wouldn’t have been so successful if they had gone through history drunk.

The lack of presence alcohol has made throughout most of human history has left our bodies ill-adapted to frequent drinks. Hang on, you say. Isn’t moderate drinking supposed to be good for you?

Benefits of Moderate Drinking

We have managed to find plenty of “evidence” to back up our desire to drink.

  • Wine contains resveratol – a potent anti-oxidant
  • Unpasteurized beer contains beneficial organisms
  • Moderate drinking lowers the risk of heart disease, possibly by thinning the blood
  • Alcohol may improve insulin sensitivity – at least it did in a study of mostly women
  • Moderate drinking can reduce the risk of dementia

That’s not all! Alcohol is also known to:

  • Make ugly people look good
  • Enhance story telling
  • Make a boring night fun and boring people interesting
  • Make dishonest people honest and insensitive people sensitive

But all these benefits don’t come without side effects, unfortunately, at least for some…

Alcohol Induced Dysbiosis

The reality is, alcohol does harm. Not only does it increase breast cancer rates, harm the liver, and cloud the judgement, leading to accidents and bad decisions, but it also changes the landscape of the gut.

For many of us coming from a background of digestive problems, we want to avoid anything that can alter the population of bacteria and cause dysbiosis.

Just one drink per day for women — two for men — could lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and subsequently cause gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea… Article on the American College of Gastroenterology’s study

SIBO, as it is called, is a pretty big health concern.

The small intestine is not supposed to be a home for much bacteria (the large intestine is). When lots of bacteria do inhabit it, they consume the nutrients which the small intestine would otherwise absorb. This can lead to malnourishment. In addition, the breakdown of these nutrients can lead to gas, bloating, and a change in bowel habits – i.e. constipation or diarrhea.

Consequently, no matter how much healthy food you eat, if you drink, even moderately, you may become malnourished.

Symptoms of SIBO

  • fatigue
  • diarrhea or constipatio
  • depression
  • headaches
  • food cravings
  • rashes
  • excessive gas and/or intestinal noise
  • bloating and abdominal distention

For more info about SIBO check out

Even if you did quit drinking when you went Paleo, you may find that drinking even a little can bring back symptoms. If you didn’t quit drinking after you went Paleo, quitting may be the key that unlocks your door to health.

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