In moderation, alcohol can be an enjoyable addition to a social occasion or a nice meal. However, more and more we are seeing the effects of excess alcohol consumption on people’s physical, mental and specifically, their gut health.
The Covid pandemic has led to an increase in alcohol consumption, particularly in drinking in the home, which may be particularly problematic as home measures are often a lot more generous than standard measures. As a result, people may be drinking far more standard drinks of alcohol per week than they realise. This is particularly important for women as the female liver is 30% smaller than the male liver and as alcohol is metabolised (broken down) in the liver, women are less efficient at metabolising it and more sensitive to its effects.
From the gut health perspective, alcohol can affect every part of your digestive system. Here are some of the topline effects that alcohol can have on your digestive system:
Aside from all of these effects, alcohol can trigger unpleasant symptoms in people who suffer with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). IBS is extremely common – it affects up to 1 in 10 adults. What’s more, it is up to 2.5 times more common in women than men, so that 7 out of every 10 people with IBS are female.
So alcohol is a trigger of IBS symptoms, IBS is more common in women and women are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol in general – you can see how alcohol may be particularly problematic for women who suffer from IBS.
The symptoms of IBS include stomach cramps, diarrhoea or constipation (or alternating between the two), abdominal bloating and excess wind/gas. These can all be made worse by alcohol.
The Drinkaware website is an excellent resource and has a lot of information regarding how much alcohol makes up one standard drink for all the different alcoholic beverages. At The Gut Experts, we strongly believe that people can enjoy alcohol safely but we want people to be aware of the many reasons for staying within those safe guidelines. Our gut and our gut bacteria do not like an excess of alcohol, so as with all things, we should listen to our gut.
Professor of Gastroenterology, Barbara Ryan and Clinical Dietitian, Elaine McGowan want to improve people’s understanding and awareness about IBS. The more it is understood, the better people can be supported. Together they are sharing their medical and dietary expertise to educate and empower people to take action to restore their gut health and to find the best solutions for their gut problems. Between them they have cared for more than 60,000 patients.
Visit The Gut Experts website for more information or you can follow The Gut Experts on Instagram and Facebook @thegutexperts.