What You Need to Know About Alcohol – Food Pharmacy

Henrik Ennart

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What You Need to Know About Alcohol

During the summer season, most of us socialize more, and maybe drink a bit more alcohol than usual. In the short term, alcohol can cheer you up and relieve stress, but let’s make one thing clear: in the end, alcohol will make you more depressed – not less!

That said, you have probably heard of studies indicating benefits from drinking one (women) or two (men) glasses of wine a day. According to these studies, it’s linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

But think twice! Higher quantities are harmful to one’s health. That’s also why alcohol is considered the world’s third largest risk factor for disease and disability, and it’s linked to 6 percent of all deaths. In the world. Also, studies have found an increased risk of breast cancer associated with increasing alcohol intake.

But ok, I’m not here to preach. I just want to remind you of what your intestinal bacteria think about all this.

I’ve traveled a lot in so called blue zones – places where you would have the highest chance of living to 100 years old – and realized that many of the very old men and women drink a lot of wine. But not all of them. On the Japanese island of Okinawa, old women drink a small cup of rice wine once in a while, if even so. And alcohol consumption is low on the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica as well.

However, alcoholic beverages are more than popular on the Greek Island of Ikaria and in the Sardinian mountains, especially among men. But you still can’t compare it to the habits and behaviors we have here. Unlike them, we don’t drink pure wine made from grapes from the backyard, we don’t walk miles in the mountains every day, we don’t breathe the same fresh air as they do, we don’t eat their fresh vegetables or raise our own animals for food.

The obvious conclusion is, therefore, that you don’t have to drink wine to get old and stay healthy. Some do, as part of an extremely healthy lifestyle. Perhaps they would have lived longer without the wine? Who knows.

When mice drink alcohol, they react as if they were given sugar: it destroys the good gut bacteria, and helps the bad bacteria thrive in the digestive tract. In general, alcohol consumption alters the gut flora and leads to poor bacterial diversity within the intestine. And that’s usually a bad sign.

If you’re looking for a reason to have a glass of red wine, it’s supposed to boost the Lacto and Bifidobacteria in the intestine. Also, feel free to eat some unpasteurized cheese and a piece of dark chocolate. If you’re looking for arguments against that same glass of wine, it will lead to lower levels of good Prevotella bacteria.

Also, a new study suggests that bacteria in the gut may play a role in alcohol addiction. During the first three weeks of sobriety, the addicts suffered from increased inflammation in the intestine. As a result of this, they felt even more anxious and depressed.

Other findings suggest a link between imbalance in the intestine and the risk of developing an addiction. For example, if you disturb an animal’s intestinal flora with antibiotics, it will experience a stronger sense of reward when they get cocaine. 

Ok, this is early research, but it provides new and interesting input to ongoing research.

So, who’s asking for that extra glass of wine? Is it you, or is it your intestinal bacteria?

Photo credit: Niklas Veenhuis.

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.



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