Well, it’s that time of year in the northern hemisphere when the days get really short and the temperature drops fast. This means golf, and other outdoor activities, are much less of a possibility than during the summer. Luckily I live in the pacific Northwest where golf courses are open all year, but it’s not always ideal weather. So, when you don’t want to go outside, what else is there to do? That’s right, have a couple drinks…or some other fun activity with your significant other…Was that inappropriate? Well it doesn’t matter anyway because today I will be focusing on Alcohol and it’s negative consequences for our health; particularly, alcohol and leaky gut.
Alcohol and Leaky Gut
I like a drink just as much as the next person, my favourites are good quality wine (a bit of a snob here), vodka, and tequila (NorCal Margarita anyone). Because of this, in the past I did some research into things we can do to mitigate the damages of alcohol consumption on our health. I discussed alcohol and probiotics as well as alcohol and saturated fat, both of which provide health protective action in the presence of alcohol consumption.
Both of the above noted articles are very popular here at The Barefoot Golfer, and the post about alcohol, probiotics, and leaky gut is my second most popular post. However, this has lead me to believe that I may have been giving the wrong impression about alcohol consumption. To be clear, alcohol consumption is not a healthful choice even though epidemiological studies indicate moderate consumption is good for our health. While moderate alcohol consumption in the presence of a nutritionally sufficient, probiotic rich diet is likely a nil concern, I would never suggest that this would be better than a nutritionally sufficient , probiotic rich, alcohol free diet, and I would like to discuss exactly why this is the case.
Alcohol and Leaky Gut the Evidence is Clear
We don’t really have to dig all that deep to find out that alcohol causes many problems throughout our bodies, and they can all basically be tied back to leaky gut (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). There are many studies out there showing that alcoholism/alcoholic liver disease and leaky gut go hand in hand, and there are even a number of proposed mechanisms of how alcohol causes leaky gut (1, 2, 3, 5). You may be thinking that you don’t drink as much as an alcoholic, but guess what…unfortunate brand new research in humans showed that a one time consumption of a moderate amount (approximately 2 drinks) of alcohol was associated with increased markers of intestinal permeability (leaky gut) (4). Does this mean it will happen with everyone, no, and I will also point out that alcohol was introduced directly into the intestine, not via oral consumption, which eliminates differences in alcohol metabolisms prior to reaching the intestines. So, not a perfect study, but it definitely sheds some concerning light on moderate alcohol consumption.
Alcohol and Leaky Gut Vitamin Deficiency to Neurodegeneration
We also know that malnutrition is found in alcoholics. There is plenty of evidence indicating deficiencies in folate, vitamin D, vitamin A, choline, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, Thiamin, Methionine, and other B-vitamins, just to name a few (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). There are a few reasons behind why such deficiencies are seen. First, as noted above, alcohol can disrupt intestinal barrier function leading to malabsorption of the nutrients that are consumed. Second, some alcoholics don’t eat sufficient amounts or sufficient nutrient dense foods to provide enough vitamins and minerals. Third, we have a clear understanding that alcohol increases inflammation and the level of oxidative stress our body is under (1). What this means is that in order to deal with the increased oxidative stress, our body must utilize it’s available vitamin, mineral, and nutrient stores through multiple protective systems (i.e. antioxidant system) that rely heavily on certain vitamins and minerals.
Since alcohol clearly affects our state of mind, we know it crosses the blood brain barrier, but what it also does in the brain is alter immune system function and chemical activity, leading to increased inflammation in the brain (1), and as we all know this is a hallmark feature of neurodegenerative conditions.
Aside from alcohol and leaky gut, vitamin deficiencies, and neurodegeneration, alcoholics also have increased risk of bone and muscle diseases, liver diseases, lung diseases, infections, cardiovascular disease, and cancer (1). A key point here is that all of these conditions can occur in the absence of any significant liver disease markers (1). What this means is that alcoholism can actually be considered a systemic inflammatory condition that can impact much more than just our minds and liver (1).
So there you have it, although I hate to admit it, alcohol is really not so great for us, and I really wanted to make that clear. Some evidence even indicates moderate alcohol consumptions is less than ideal. However, as I have discussed previously, there are many things we can do to reduce health risks associated with moderate alcohol consumption. Maybe in the future I will put a post together on how to drink intelligently?
The Barefoot Golfer