Alcohol could be a tonic or poison, depending on its dose. Moderate drinking can be healthy, but excessive drinking could facilitate various gut-related health issues.
Let’s take a closer look at how alcohol can affect your digestive health and what preventive measures you can take to maintain good digestive health.
How Your Body Digests Alcohol
Metabolism is characterized by a series of chemical reactions in the living cells that convert food into energy for life processes and normal functioning of cells. However, the digestive system does not treat alcohol as other nutrients and strives its best to eliminate alcohol from the body.
Once alcohol drives down into your stomach, the digestive system releases alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes to defend against the alcohol molecules and metabolizes its ethanol into toxic acetaldehyde.
How Alcohol Damages Your Digestive Health
Alcohol can damage the individual organs of your digestive system. Here are the effects of alcohol on each organ and your gut health.
Mouth and Throat
Alcohol can damage mouth tissues by quickly penetrating into your mouth’s saliva. Reportedly, around one-third of mouth and throat cancers are caused by alcohol consumption.
Alcohol reduces the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter and esophageal motility, possibly leading to gastroesophageal reflux disease. It also increases cancer risk by inducing acid reflux and cell damage.
Alcohol can interfere with stomach functions irrespective of the dose and type of beverage. It affects acid production, reduces the stomach’s ability to destroy pathogenic bacteria, and damages mucus cells in the stomach. Lastly, high alcohol content beverages can facilitate stomach emptying and abdominal discomfort, causing gastritis and gastroduodenal ulcers.
Alcohol metabolism in the liver converts ethanol into acetaldehyde, a cell poison causing inflammation. Excessive acetaldehyde leads to cell and tissue damage and fatty liver, increasing the incidence of alcohol-related liver diseases.
Alcohol can increase the incidence of bowel cancer by disrupting the function of the large intestine.
The Risks of Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with fatal diseases. Most of the common alcohol-induced risks include:
- Neurological disorders. Excessive alcohol consumption interferes with brain functions, increasing the risk of neurological disorders, such as seizures, stroke, and dementia.
- Alcohol and acetaldehyde are Group 1 carcinogens. Alcohol consumption can develop risk factors for oral, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, bowel, colon, and liver cancers.
- High blood pressure. Excessive drinking can raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels.
- Alcohol addiction. Daily drinking could put you at risk of alcoholism. Be cautious about bad habits with alcohol.
- Heart failure. Alcohol can also lead to heart muscle damage, leading to heart failure. Increased blood pressure is also a risk for heart disease.
- Alcohol-related accidents. Many accidents, like driving incidents can be the result of alcohol impairment.
How To Keep Your Gut Healthy
While moderation is essential, people react differently to the adverse effects of alcohol depending on age, gender, and other medical issues. Here are a few tips to help you limit your alcohol consumption and promote better digestive health:
- Alternate between a glass of water and an alcoholic beverage. Water helps you stay hydrated and limits alcohol consumption.
- Have a balanced meal before drinking as a full stomach absorbs less alcohol.
- Add salt to your meal to maintain your electrolyte balance.
Digestive Health Care in Austin, TX
If you are suffering from alcohol-induced gastrointestinal disorders, we are here for you.
Our doctors at Austin Gastroenterology are specialized in comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases. We are committed to providing you with compassionate and personalized care.