A woman drinking a glass of wine in a bar.

Seven Ways Alcohol Harms Your Gut


Most people know that alcohol can have negative consequences on their health, but many don’t realize how harmful it can be to their gut. From causing inflammation and disrupting the balance of good and bad bacteria, to impairing nutrient absorption and even leading to a leaky gut, alcohol can do a lot of damage.

In this post, I’m sharing five significant ways alcohol harms your gut.

Alcohol Can Cause a Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the gut becomes damaged, allowing toxins, bacteria and undigested food particles to leak into the bloodstream. This can cause a number of health problems, including inflammation, autoimmune diseases, allergies, joint pain, poor digestive function, brain fog, cardiovascular disease, and even disorders like migraines.

Alcohol Impairs Nutrient Absorption

Alcohol can impair nutrient absorption by damaging the intestinal cells responsible for nutrient absorption, leading to deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals. Specifically, alcohol reduces the absorption of several key B vitamins – which are critical to energy production and utilization in the body, but it can also reduce the absorption of vitamin A, C, D, E, and K, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Alcohol inhibits the production of digestive enzymes necessary for the proper breakdown of food which can further impair nutrient absorption.

Alcohol Can Cause Inflammation in the Body

Inflammation has been linked to a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Alcohol is a toxin – and it requires robust and healthy detoxification pathways. Alcohol can slow or block detoxification, adding insult to injury. Without proper detoxification, toxic alcohol metabolites linger in the body causing further damage. Detoxification isn’t just about liver health – but also the pancreas, gallbladder, kidneys, lungs, and skin too. We need proper digestion and elimination for detoxification.

Alcohol Can Disrupt the Microbiome

The microbiome is a term for all of the bacteria and other microorganisms living in our gut; it is considered one of the most important factors influencing overall health. Alcohol harms and kills off good bacteria and disrupts the delicate balance of microbes – leading to overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria, yeast, and fungi while decreasing populations of healthy microbes. These microbes play a major role in overall health – synthesizing vitamins and short-chain fatty acids that feed our intestinal cells, signaling our immune system, fighting off pathogens, and regulating hormones.

Alcohol Can Damage the Immune System

Alcohol can also damage the immune system which is responsible for protecting the body from infection and disease. 70% of the immune system is in the gut – so damaging the immune system makes the body more susceptible to illness and infection and slows the healing process. Alcohol can even be a trigger for developing autoimmune conditions and exacerbate existing autoimmune conditions.


Most people are aware of the negative consequences that alcohol can have on their health, but few know about the damage it can do to their gut. Alcohol can cause a leaky gut, impair nutrient absorption, and cause inflammation in the body. It can also disrupt the balance of good and bad microbes in the gut and damage the immune system. If you’re looking for ways to improve your gut health, avoiding or limiting alcohol is a good place to start.

As a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Restorative Wellness Practitioner, Certified Nutrition Therapist Master, and Gut Health Specialist, I focus on identifying areas of imbalance with my clients that are keeping them from having the optimal health and vitality they desire.  I evaluate subjective data from each client (symptoms, energy levels, desires, dislikes) along with objective data (prior laboratory testing, physical measurements).  I use specialized functional laboratory testing to uncover unknown interferences and identify the fastest, most effective route to true healing.  

Many clients come to me because of chronic symptoms (headaches, fatigue, acne, mood swings, joint pain, digestive issues, or hormone imbalances), autoimmune conditions, or because they’re just tired of “doing all the things” and nothing works.  Identifying the real cause leads us to the right solution.  

All holistic nutrition counseling is done virtually via phone call or video call.

Andrea Nicholson, MS, BCHN®