How Alcohol Affects Your Digestive System


The gut inflammation can also spread endotoxins and cytokines into the bloodstream where they can enter the central nervous system , causing neuroinflammation. Another study showed that not only is gut permeability increased in people with AUD, it is increased enough to allow large macromolecules through the intestinal barrier (Parlesak et al. 2000). Studies in animals and humans confirm that alcohol increases intestinal bacteria (Canesso et al. 2014). This overgrowth may be stimulated directly by alcohol, but some studies suggest that it also could be an indirect byproduct of poor digestive and intestinal function caused by alcohol consumption. For example, studies of patients with liver cirrhosis found an association between patients with abnormal intestinal motility—the intestine’s ability to move food along— and bacterial overgrowth (Chang et al. 1998).

long term effects of alcohol on the intestines

If you drink consistently, you should see a physician to ensure that your liver is functioning as it should. Our Gastroenterologists at DHAT are board-certified and trained to treat alcoholic hepatitis and other conditions affecting the liver and GI system. Make an appointment with one of our doctors today to evaluate your GI health. Cardiovascular System—Alcohol can also negatively affect both the heart and lungs. The heart muscle is weakened by chronic drinking making it less efficient in pumping blood to the body.


There is an increased risk of hypertriglyceridemia, cardiomyopathy, hypertension, and stroke if three or more standard drinks of alcohol are taken per day. A systematic review reported that reducing alcohol intake lowers blood pressure in a dose-dependent manner in heavy drinkers. For people who drank two or fewer drinks per day, no difference was found.

The majority of absorption occurs as it’s digested, which can irritate the stomach and intestines. Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. In the small intestine, alcohol can reduce the absorption of nutrients. Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.

Does A Bad Nights Sleep Affect Your Health?

In addition, prior parental emotional unavailability contributes to poor conflict resolution skills in adult relationships. Evidence shows a correlation between alcoholic fathers who display harsh and ineffective parenting practices with adolescent and adult alcohol dependence. Ethanol is known to activate aminobutyric acid type A and inhibit N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptors, which are both implicated in essential tremor pathology and could underlie the ameliorative effects. Additionally, the effects of ethanol have been studied in different animal essential tremor models. A study in the United Kingdom found that alcohol causes about 4% of cancer cases in the UK . In the UK, the Chief Medical Officers’ recommends men and women drink no more than 14 units per week. For most countries, the maximum quantity for men is 140 g–210 g per week.

long term effects of alcohol on the intestines

Drinking can increase your desire for intercourse, as well as the confidence that you have in your sexual partners. Your liver detoxifies and removes alcohol from the blood through a process known as oxidation. Once the liver finishes the process, alcohol becomes water and carbon dioxide. If alcohol accumulates in the system, it can destroy cells and, eventually, organs. It can cause the heart to become weak and have an irregular beat pattern .

Some people who drink eventually develop a tolerance to alcohol. As a result, they eventually need to drink more to notice the same effects they once did. Alcohol use can factor into mental health symptoms that closely resemble those of other mental health conditions. Excessive drinking may affect your menstrual cycle and potentially increase your risk for infertility. If your body can’t manage and balance your blood sugar levels, you may experience greater complications and side effects related to diabetes. Drinking too much alcohol may cause inflammation of the pancreas, resulting in a condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can activate the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes and cause abdominal pain.

How Alcohol Affects Different Parts Of Your Body

However, excessive alcohol use can elicit quite the opposite reaction. Once alcohol is in the bloodstream, it can lead to a hypercoagulable state – bringing platelets and red blood cells together, causing them to clump up. These “sticky” red blood cells increase the chance of clot formation and can slow circulation and deprive tissues of needed oxygen. Some can stay in the stomach, increasing the stomach’s acidity and irritating its protective lining. This irritation, when experienced chronically, can lead to corrosion of the stomach lining.

long term effects of alcohol on the intestines

Gut inflammation results from an inflammatory response mounted by the immune system against alcohol and its metabolites. Alcohol affects intestinal mucosal immunity via several mechanisms . In particular, it may first decrease the innate immune response in the mucosa, resulting in increased susceptibility to intestinal pathogens (Zhou et al. 2013). Alcohol consumption has both long-term and short-term effects, resulting in abnormal mental health and lifestyle of a person.

How Alcohol Affects The Gastrointestinal Tract

Some alcoholic drinks have more of an effect on the body than others. The more a person drinks, the more likely they are to experience such effects. Eating a meal before drinking alcohol and drinking in moderation can help protect the gut and allow more regular, healthier bowel movements. Therefore, both the small and large intestine can be affected by alcohol and its metabolites as the result of its oxidative and nonoxidative metabolism.

Tranquil Shores has led many alcoholics throughsuccessful rehabilitationand helped them learn to smile again. Acute ethanol administration inhibits Toll-like receptor 4 signaling pathway in rat intestinal epithelia. Oral bile acids reduce bacterial overgrowth, bacterial translocation, and endotoxemia in cirrhotic rats. Jelski W, Szmitkowski M. Alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase in the cancer diseases. Elamin EE, Masclee AA, Dekker J, Jonkers DM. Ethanol metabolism and its effects on the intestinal epithelial barrier. Chang CS, Chen GH, Lien HC, Yeh HZ. Small intestine dysmotility and bacterial overgrowth in cirrhotic patients with spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.

The Steps To Liver Disease

Alcohol can also disrupt the activity of some enzymes, which are responsible for functions throughout the small intestine. Alcohol is actually a toxin, or poison, which the body endures in small quantities. Large quantities of alcohol consumed quickly or over a long period of time can damage vital organs and result in death. Alteration of bile acid metabolism in the rat induced by chronic ethanol consumption. Schnabl B, Brenner DA. Interactions between the intestinal microbiome and liver diseases. Evidence that chronic alcohol exposure promotes intestinal oxidative stress, intestinal hyperpermeability and endotoxemia prior to development of alcoholic steatohepatitis in rats.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol can also increase a person’s risk of stroke by contributing to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other medical conditions that can cause a stroke. Chronic alcohol consumption has also been linked to the development of epilepsy in some people. Some people also develop peripheral neuropathy, which is damage to the peripheral nervous system that can cause muscle weakness, numbness, tingling and burning pain in their extremities.

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Too much alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, inflammation of the GI tract, hyperacidity, colon spasms, and bacterial imbalance. It also speeds the digestion process and damages the gut’s healthy bacteria. The risk of this occurring after long term effects of alcohol abuse drinking increases based on the type and amount of alcohol consumed. If you do choose to have more than one drink, slow down your intake. This will give your digestive system time to process the alcohol, potentially reducing next-day symptoms.

Risk Factors

Whiskey at 50 percent alcohol by volume (100 U.S. proof, or 87.6 British proof) will be diluted, in a man of average build, to a concentration of about 2 parts per 10,000 in the blood (0.02 percent). The same amount of alcohol will lead to higher blood levels in a woman because of differences in size, ratios of body water to body fat, and levels of gastric ADH. Feel free to share the images and information found on this page freely. When doing so, we ask that you please attribute the authors by providing a link back to this page.

If you or a loved one uses alcohol and suspect that it is causing problems, consider seeking professional assistance. The Recovery Village can help with personalized treatment for alcohol addiction. Contact us today to discover more about your treatment options. Since alcohol causes the intestines to move faster than normal, sometimes nutrients from food aren’t absorbed well. Over a long time, this effect can result in nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition, and often requires supplementation and medical attention. Alcohol use can affect all systems within the body, including the GI tract.

A soluble fiber supplement absorbs water in the bowels and helps your stool firm up before passing. The best way to prevent alcohol-related diarrhea is to not consume alcohol. It’s possible to manage the symptoms Sober living houses of this condition and avoiding alcohol is one of the main defenses against it. Diarrhea alone from alcohol ingestion will usually resolve itself. But if you don’t drink enough water, it can lead to dehydration.

Alcohol And Gut

Alcohol also boosts the levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain, which contributes to the happy, buzzed feeling you get after having a drink or two. NADH and becomes available again for the same reaction only after its own further oxidation. While adequate ADH seems always present for the first step of alcohol metabolism, the temporary reduction of the available NAD apparently acts as a limit on the rate at which alcohol can be metabolized. That rate per hour in an average-size man is about half an ounce, or 15 ml, of alcohol. In other words, the body is able to process approximately one standard bar drink of spirits, beer, or wine per hour. Acetate, most of which enters the bloodstream and is ultimately oxidized to carbon dioxide and water.