How Does Alcohol Impact Your Gut Microbiome & Leaky Gut? | Dr. Andrew Huberman

Drinking alcohol relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, which normally prevents acid in your stomach from backing up into your esophagus. The sphincter doesn’t work as well when it has been relaxed by alcohol, so you are more likely to experience acid reflux, commonly called heartburn, after drinking.
“Almost everyone experiences occasional acid reflux, and for most people it’s not a serious problem,” Dr. Haque says. “But for people who frequently drink too much, acid reflux can become a chronic and serious problem.” Over time, repeated acid reflux can lead to more serious conditions, such as Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer. In some cases, people may need surgery.Excessive bad bacteria can lead to a “leaky gut,” in which gaps in the intestinal wall allow bacteria and other toxins into the bloodstream.
“To explain leaky gut, I tell patients to think of their intestinal lining as a brick wall. When there are cracks in the mortar between the bricks, water can leak through. In leaky gut, alcohol causes cracks in the ‘mortar’ of the intestinal wall.”
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to leaky gut, decreases gut absorption and increases the production of bile in the liver, all of which can lead to diarrhea, Dr. Haque says.Heavy alcohol use can cause fat to build up in your liver. This is called alcoholic fatty liver disease, or alcoholic steatohepatitis. As the liver breaks down alcohol, toxins are created that can damage liver cells and promote inflammation. “These toxins, which are byproducts of alcohol digestion, cause inflammation in the liver. Additionally, when alcohol gets metabolized in the liver, it gets converted to and stored as fat,” Dr. Haque says.
People with alcoholic fatty liver disease usually don’t have symptoms, but over time it can lead to liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis. All of these are serious illnesses that can be life-threatening. In the most severe cases, a person may need a lifesaving liver transplant.
6 Ways Alcohol Can Damage Your Gut