For many, the beginning of a new year brings promises of renewed health and happiness. Following a joyous holiday season and great festive fun, where the average American drinks twice as much alcohol compared to the rest of the year , there's a good chance you may be reexamining your relationship with alcohol. The growing moderation, or sober curious, movement offers your body a chance to reset through intentional consumption.
And no matter your motivations, it’s probably not a huge surprise to learn that all that drinking can have a negative effect on your health. GT's Living Foods talked to Anthea Levi, a registered dietician with her own virtual private practice, ALIVE+WELL Nutrition, to learn more about how alcohol use affects your gut health.
Having a healthy gut essentially means having a well-balanced, diverse gut microbiome (microorganisms in our intestines), which contributes to healthy digestion.2 But our digestion is not the only thing that’s affected by our gut health. It affects “a pretty outstanding variety of other health outcomes, too,” says Levi, “including our risk of things like type II diabetes and even dementia.”
Taking care of our gut health is important for maintaining healthy digestion, supporting a stable mood, mental clarity, and a building a strong immune system. One way to do this is by adding fermented foods and drinks to our diets, like kefir, yogurt, and SYNERGY Raw Kombucha from GT’s Living Foods, which all help boost microbiome diversity. Prebiotics (foods that help promote the growth of good bacteria), probiotics (good bacteria found in foods) and postbiotics (the bioactive compounds probiotics produce after consuming prebiotics) help balance the bacteria in our gut, too.
Now that we know how integral having a healthy gut is to balanced digestion, it makes sense that consuming too much alcohol can negatively affect our gut microbiome. Levi explains it like this: “Alcohol has been used for many, many centuries for cleaning things like cuts and wounds…because it kills bacteria.”
Similarly, drinking alcohol can also kill off bacteria in the gut. “It’s great for wounds,” she says, but “it’s not great for our gut because there’s some bad bugs in our gut, but there’s also some really, really great ones that we want to keep in there, and alcohol can wipe those out.”
Drinking too much can injure the intestinal wall by weakening the cells that make up the lining of the gut. “That’s really important,” Levi says, “because the lining of the gut basically dictates what substances can or can’t pass from the gut into our circulation.” If your gut lining becomes super permeable or leaky due to chronic alcohol consumption, certain bacteria and toxins can move from the gut into the blood, and that leakage can cause inflammation throughout the body.
Overconsumption of alcohol can also lead to digestive problems like acid reflux, which can cause heartburn. And over time, consuming too much alcohol can also lead to things like gastritis — inflammation of the stomach — which can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Support Gut Health Before You Celebrate and the Morning After
While the harmful effects of consuming too much alcohol are clear, mindful drinking — being intentional about your alcohol consumption — can be a great practice to embrace.
Reach for natural or organic wine, for instance, that is better for you than the commercial stuff since it contains less or no chemicals and additives.3 Or, seek out alternatives like SYNERGY Raw Kombucha, a mocktail, or sparkling water. But, no matter what you’re drinking, moderation is key. In order to be more thoughtful about your alcohol consumption, Levi recommends following these basic tips:
- Drink one to two glasses of water or seltzer in between each alcoholic drink.
- Regardless of how much you drink, give yourself a cutoff time, i.e., stop drinking two hours before bed.
- Avoid drinking on an empty stomach.
- Add an electrolyte mix to your water before you go to bed after a night of drinking, since alcohol (a diuretic) can lead to dehydration.
- Prepare and replenish your microbiome by enjoying a probiotic-rich drink like SYNERGY kombucha before the celebration, and the next morning.
If you have been drinking, whether you’ve had one drink or several, there are a few things you can do to help your gut recover. The probiotic Lactobacillus, that is naturally found in our body, can be wiped out after a day of drinking.4 Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and SYNERGY Raw Kombucha are a great way to start adding Lactobacillus back to your diet naturally after a night out.
These probiotics help restore good gut bacteria, metabolize the alcohol, and aid in preventing headaches and nausea.5 Additionally, the prebiotics found in SYNERGY Raw Kombucha stimulate the growth of good bacteria in the intestinal tract to help your body heal and thrive after consuming alcohol.
Sip Smarter With SYNERGY
Taking care of your gut health is important in every season, but especially coming off the holidays since we inevitably consume greater amounts of pro-inflammatory food and drink. “That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t eat them,” Levi stresses. “I absolutely support enjoying all those things. But thinking through, what else can you incorporate alongside the fun, so that you are supporting your gut health and you’re enjoying a new year feeling (mostly) like you is key.”
SYNERGY Raw Kombucha from GT’s is a great staple to help you achieve that balance and keep your gut feeling happy and healthy. To learn more about the benefits of SYNERGY Raw Kombucha, go here.