Alcohol and Leaky Gut, the Probiotic Protection Factor

Alcohol and leaky gutAnyone out there who knows me or has read my Bio Page knows that I enjoy a drink or two from time to time.  Wine is my favorite, although I must say I am pretty picky and like the wine from our wonderful province of BC most.  If you have not tried BC wine, do it now! Or read this article and then decide if you want to drink it.  I will be discussing alcohol and leaky gut, and then be outlining how us “ancestral lifestyle” individuals may be doing a great job of protecting our livers/bodies from the damages of alcohol by the way we are living.

On a side note, what a great post for a Friday, how many of you are going to go home and relax after a long week by splitting a nice bottle of wine with your significant other – Or 2 bottles 🙂

Alcohol & Leaky Gut

I am sure most of you fall into the category of enjoying the occasional, or more than occasional, alcoholic beverage.  What I am sure most of you don’t know, and I didn’t know until recently, is that alcohol consumption has been shown, in both animal and human studies, to lead to disruptions in our gut microbiome, like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and also to increased intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut).  If you are not familiar with these conditions, I would suggest scouring Chriss Kresser’s website.  Basically, what we are looking at here is a change in the beneficial bacteria in our intestines which can lead to certain molecules “leaking through” our intestines into our bloodstream.  I am not talking about nutrients, which are supposed to get through to our bloodstream, I am talking about things that aren’t supposed to be there, things that our body recognizes as foreign and harmful; ultimately, leading to a chronic, systemic inflammatory response in our body.  Leaky gut and SIBO are taking center stage these days as major causes of a great deal of chronic lifestyle related diseases and autoimmune conditions.  One such disease is alcohol induced fatty liver disease (ALD) (1).

So the reason most of us probably haven’t heard about alcohol and leaky gut is because leaky gut and SIBO haven’t become a mainstream idea that we see in the media or hear from our doctors, and also because majority of the information communicated to us seems to support the fact that mild to moderate alcohol consumption can have positive impacts on our health, reducing the risk of certain diseases.

Probiotics, Alcohol and Leaky Gut

When looking through some of the studies out there, it concerned me when I came across this one (2) that linked alcohol consumption in people with inflammatory bowel disease to an increase in markers for leaky gut, and this literature review (1), that also indicated that alcohol consumption can lead to SIBO and leaky gut.  However, after further review of (1) and, coming across this study (3), I discovered that probiotic and prebiotic consumption concurrent with alcohol consumption may have a protective effect on the damages alcohol can have on our liver.  I know this study (3) was performed with rats, but still…

What’s also interesting, after reading these studies, is that probiotic and prebiotic ingestion after the onset of ALD reduces all markers of the disease!  This really excited me, but I had to calm myself down because reasonably speaking, it is clear that alcohol consumption is simply not all that great for us, and probiotic and prebiotic consumption seems to simply buffer the negative effects.  Basically, alcohol consumption is still not an ideal choice given that it does lead to some not so nice conditions.

However, for most of us, myself included, ceasing alcohol consumption completely for the rest of our lives sounds either impossible, or just plain boring.  What is the saying?

“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink.  When they wake up in the morning,

that’s the best they are going to feel all day”

LOL!  Also, I truly enjoy the flavor of a nice wine or expensive tequila, and the pairing of said drinks with great paleo food.

Paleo Living, Alcohol and Leaky Gut

Living a paleo/ancestral lifestyle already decreases the chance of developing SIBO and leaky gut because we do not eat the majority of foods that can contribute to these conditions (grains, legumes, industrial seed oils, processed chemical containing foods, etc).  Secondly, we a lot of probiotic foods including homemade fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, beets, store bought fermented pickles (Bubbies brand Dills), Kombucha (GTs brand is my fav), and I also take some probiotics once and awhile when I feel they are needed.  Thirdly, eating a diet full of whole foods involves lots of vegetables (including starchy tubers) and spices/herbs which also provides all the prebiotics we need in our diet.  Since all of the above already strengthen our resistance to leaky gut and SIBO, we should be able to consume a REASONABLE amount of alcohol with very little detrimental effect on our gut and health.  Obviously I have not tested this on myself with biomarker testing – that would be too much work – but the evidence out there seems to suggest that a focus on gut health via healthy living, including plenty of probiotic and prebiotic food should provide some protection against the negative effects of alcohol consumption.

However, the literature does seem to show that people who already have a gut/bowel condition are more susceptible to the gut damaging effects of alcohol, and they should likely do their best to have as little alcohol as possible.  Since autoimmune conditions can be directly related to SIBO and leaky gut, these individuals should also limit consumption of alcohol to as little as absolutely possible.


My Conclusion

Don’t get me wrong, I hope haven’t convinced you that alcohol consumption the best choice for optimal health; however, I think we can say that living a paleo/ancestral type lifestyle involving #JERF and plenty of fermented probiotic foods may mitigate the detrimental effects that mild to moderate (let’s not go crazy here) alcohol consumption may have on our health.

What do you think?


The Barefoot Golfer



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  3. Pingback: The Barefoot Golfer Alcohol and Leaky Gut Part 2

  4. Denis

    Was browsing the net and found this video but not sure if it is relevant:

  5. Montresor Herringbone

    I’ve noticed a distinct tenderness in my lower bowel area. A recent colonoscopy didn’t reveal any problem. I’ve been averaging about 2-3 drinks daily and plan on cutting back considerably to see if it helps.

  6. steven

    beer seems much worse than wine ,and strips away protection and causes leaky gut to come back after night on the town.beers with high hops is the worst,strips away the good bacteria ,seems to mess up the flora or the probiotics that you have been in small amounts occasionally seems less harsh .

  7. scott

    Thank you. That was exactly what i wanted to read. I started on pro and prebiotic gummies yesterday for the second time. Im probably in the already suffering from conditions caregory, but i felt better the first time it took them, just couldnt afford to keep up with it. As an at least a 12 pack of Heineken a day drinker and a healthy legal bud smoker, there wasnt room in the budget. I know i have to cut back, dont want to ever totally stop drinking beer, but glad to read something with research cited that im on the right track with the pre and probiotics. Certainly incorporating natural foods that promote digestive health into my diet would be a good area for me to go further in a comitment to my health, beyond chewing two gummie bears a day! I like beets. Havent had em in years….

    1. The Barefoot Golfer
      Twitter: barefootgolfer1
      (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed the post. There is some interesting information out there when you do a bit of research. For instance, the Kitavans ate a paleo/traditional diet of vegetables, fruit, fish, and coconut and experienced little to no chronic diseases. This is even in light of the fact that they smoked, which we know is one of the biggest risk factors for chronic disease and heart disease.

      It is pretty clear that quality probiotics and a proper diet have protective effects on our liver; however, I would not count on them being able to fully offset the health impacts of chronic heavy drinking. Like you said, a reduction in daily amount to close to the recommended 1-3 drinks per day (for men) sounds like a great idea.

  8. Dr. K.

    Great post! Very interesting that the leaky gut effects of alcohol can be reduced by taking pre and probiotics – makes sense. By the way, it’s great to see information on leaky gut referenced appropriately!

    1. The Barefoot Golfer
      Twitter: barefootgolfer1
      (Post author)

      Thank you Dr. K. They are interesting findings but definitely still not an excuse to over indulge, although very useful information on those occasions when we do over do it a bit.

  9. Don Johnson

    Would have been nice to actually read the article, but there were so many pop ups ads and poor formatting of the web site, I just gave up.

    1. The Barefoot Golfer
      Twitter: barefootgolfer1
      (Post author)

      Hello Don,
      Thank you for the feedback on formatting. I only have 1 scheduled pop-up for my website and that is for email subscription to my newsletter which only goes out when new posts are published. I also ensure that there is only one ad placed in the content of my articles (this excludes anything at the end of the post) to limit the impact on formatting and readability. I am sorry this was not to your liking.


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