Does Drinking Alcohol Kill Your Gut Bacteria? The Surprising Truth

Does Drinking Alcohol Kill Your Gut Bacteria? The Surprising Truth

Trillions of bacteria live in the human gut, and they play an important part in our health and well-being. These microbes, collectively called the gut microbiome, aid in food digestion, immune regulation, vitamin synthesis, and protection against infection and inflammation. Disrupting the delicate equilibrium of microorganisms in our gut can have serious health repercussions.

Recent studies have begun to reveal the effects of alcohol use on the gut flora. Excessive alcohol use is known to harm the gastrointestinal system, resulting in increased gut permeability, intestinal inflammation, and a range of other disorders. 

Alcohol’s Impact on Gut Bacteria

Alcohol consumption has been shown to have various effects on the body, one of which is its impact on the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome refers to the diverse community of microorganisms that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract and play a crucial role in digestion, immune function, and overall health.

Consuming alcohol can significantly affect your gut microbiome, leading to changes in its composition and diversity. Research has shown that chronic consumption of alcohol can alter the balance of bacteria in the gut, reducing the abundance of beneficial microbes and promoting the growth of harmful bacteria. This imbalance can contribute to gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, diarrhea, and alcoholic liver disease.

In the United States, where consuming alcohol is prevalent, the impact of alcohol on the gut microbiome is of particular concern. Studies have found that individuals who consume alcohol regularly tend to have less diverse gut microbiomes compared to non-drinkers. This lack of diversity is associated with an increased risk of various health problems, including obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel diseases.

Chronic alcohol use effectively renders the intestines an unfriendly habitat for many commensal bacterium species. Studies with animal models have revealed that having an alcohol-containing diet for many weeks might result in a 60% decrease in bacterial diversity and relative abundance. Similar changes in gut microbiota diversity and composition have been documented in individuals with alcohol-related illnesses.

Does Alcohol Kill Gut Bacteria?

Does Alcohol Kill Gut Bacteria

In a nutshell, alcohol can hurt gut bacteria. Still, its severity is determined by several factors, including the type and amount of alcohol taken, the length of use, and individual microbiome features.

Drinking moderate to high amounts of alcohol can damage and even kill some intestinal microorganisms. According to studies, alcohol can alter the makeup of the gut microbiota, lowering the quantity of helpful bacteria while allowing dangerous microorganisms to flourish.

It’s worth noting that mild to moderate drinking may not have a significant influence on the microbiota in healthy persons. However, excessive and frequent alcohol intake may cause considerable imbalance and dysbiosis, harming general health.

Alcohol and Leaky Gut

Excessive alcohol consumption can have significant negative effects on the gastrointestinal microbiome, contributing to conditions like leaky gut. While it’s important to address whether alcohol directly kills gut microbes, understanding the broader alcohol effects on gut health is crucial. Chronic alcohol abuse can compromise the integrity of the gut lining, leading to increased intestinal permeability and allowing harmful substances to leak into the bloodstream.

This disruption in the gut barrier function, often termed “leaky gut,” triggers immune responses and chronic inflammation throughout the body. Consequently, individuals with leaky gut syndrome may experience a range of health problems, including autoimmune disorders, allergies, and digestive issues. Therefore, it’s evident that the gastrointestinal microbiome alcohol effects extend beyond mere gut microbe destruction, profoundly impacting overall gut health and systemic well-being.

Best Alcohol for Gut Health

While excessive drinking might harm gut health, moderate use of some types of alcohol may be helpful.

Red wine, in moderation, may be one of the best alternatives for your gut health since it includes polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help promote beneficial gut flora. Furthermore, many beers, particularly darker craft brews, may have gut-friendly properties due to their dietary fiber and yeast content.

Nonetheless, these possible advantages do not justify excessive alcohol usage. Remember, moderation is essential and varies from person to person depending on heredity, general health, and tolerance.

What Can I Do to Improve My Gut Health After Drinking Alcohol?

If you’re concerned about how your preferred alcoholic beverage may affect your microbiome, don’t worry; there are various strategies to improve gut health. Alongside moderating alcohol intake, focusing on a balanced diet rich in fiber, fermented foods, and probiotics can help restore immune system function and promote a healthy gut microbiome. Regular exercise and stress management techniques can also play a crucial role in supporting gut health by reducing inflammation and supporting overall well-being. By incorporating these lifestyle changes, you can take proactive steps to nurture your gut health even after consuming alcohol.



Alcohol dehydrates the body and intestines. Rehydrate by drinking plenty of water before, during, and in between alcoholic beverages.

Prebiotics and probiotics

Prebiotic meals nourish healthy gut flora, whereas probiotics include live bacteria. Consuming these can help repair and balance the gut flora following alcohol intake.


Make sure your meal choices promote gut health, such as foods high in fiber, lean proteins, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.


Regular physical exercise improves gut health by encouraging the growth and variety of your microbiome.

Restorative sleep

Because sleeping habits can influence the microbiota, getting enough good sleep might help you have a healthy gut.


Alcohol has an important impact on gut health, and excessive drinking can be harmful. However, modest intake, particularly of microbiome-friendly beverages such as red wine and craft beer, may not cause significant damage. But keep in mind that everyone is different, and what is considered moderate for one person may not be for another.

The best course of action is to listen to your own body, note any changes, and consult a healthcare practitioner if you have any concerns about your gut health or alcohol usage. Prioritize a balanced lifestyle that includes diverse, nutrient-dense food, frequent exercise, adequate sleep, and, of course, moderation while consuming wine, beer, or cocktail.

Remember that knowing the complexity and delicate balance of our gut microbiota serves as a reminder of the complicated relationship between the food we eat, the drinks we consume, and our general health and well-being.

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Dr. Kimberly Langdon

Kimberly Langdon

Dr. Kimberly Langdon has been an MD for 31 years, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine, earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place accolades for her Senior Research Project and Score of 98th percentile on a National Proficiency Test.

During her clinical career, she delivered over 2000 babies and specialized in minimally invasive procedures, menopause, endometriosis, menstrual disorders, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. After retiring from clinical practice, she founded a medical device company to commercialize her two patented and four patent-pending medical devices for both life-threatening and non-life-threatening infections.

Kimberly Langdon M.D.

Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Coologics, 2010-present
The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine 1987-1991
The Ohio State University Hospital Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program 1991-1995
Private practice 1995-2010

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu

Po-Chang Hsu, M.D., received his medical doctorate from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. During his medical school training, Dr. Hsu worked with various patients, including adult and pediatric patients with acute and chronic conditions. Dr. Hsu’s interests include neurology, psychiatry, pediatrics, and sleep medicine.

Before medical school, Dr. Hsu finished a master’s degree at Harvard University and wrote a thesis on neuroimaging in schizophrenia patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. Dr. Hsu was also a part of the 2008 NASA Phoenix Lander Mission team, which sent a robotic spacecraft to the North polar region of Mars. Dr. Hsu also had research experience on neuroimaging in neonates at Boston Children’s Hospital, another Harvard Medical School-affiliated Hospital.

Since graduating from medical school, Dr. Hsu has worked as a full-time medical writer and consultant. In addition, he has experience writing and ghostwriting books and articles for physicians and health technology start-up companies. Dr. Hsu believes good communication between healthcare providers and patients creates the best results.


-Peer Reviewed Journal Article:
Kounaves, S.P., Hecht, M.H., West, S.J., Morookian, J.-M., Young, S.M.M., Quinn, R., Grunthaner, P., Wen, X., Weilert, M., Cable, C.A., Fisher, A., Gospodinova, K., Kapit, J., Stroble, S., Hsu, P.-C., Clark, B.C., Ming, D.W. and Smith, P.H. The MECA wet chemistry laboratory on the 2007 phoenix mars scout Lander. Journal of Geophysical Research. 2009, Mar; 114(E3): 10.1029/2008je003084.

-Poster Presentation:
2011 Harvard Psychiatry Mysell Poster Session; Boston, MA
Hsu, P.C., Rathi, Y., Eckbo, R., Nestor, P., Niznikiewicz, M., Thompson, E., Kubicki, M., Shenton, M.E. (March, 2011). Two-Tensor Diffusion Tensor Imaging of Acoustic Radiations in Schizophrenia

Dr. Nicolette Natale

Nicolette Natale

Dr. Nicolette Natale is a physician, with a background in Psychology, General Medicine, and English Literature, combining her expertise to provide readers with the most accurate, easy-to-understand, and comprehensive information regarding healthcare. She received her Doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine from Nova Southeastern University, and her bachelor’s in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Miami. Dr. Natale seeks to empower individuals with knowledge, fostering a greater understanding of holistic health and encouraging a proactive approach to well-being