As we approach the corporate holiday season, it's worth remembering that drinking too much alcoholic beverages can not only cause a hangover, but also cause damage to your health (including your intestines). Biochemist Jill Hart shared how to stay healthy and have fun at the same time.
UK health company YorkTest carried out laboratory tests for food sensitivities and allergies. When the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is disrupted, it can have a negative impact on all aspects of health.
“Alcohol contributes to significant weight gain due to its high calorie content, it can also reduce our ability to fight infections and increase the risk of developing diseases, food intolerances and sensitivities - all as a result of poor gut health,” said biochemist Dr Jill Hart. .
The scientist shared with Fox News Digital seven ways to drink alcohol to improve your gut health and reduce negative effects.
Most of the immune system—about 70%—is located in the gut, she said. Therefore, the first thing that affects the immune system is:
"Because alcohol can harm healthy bacteria, it's important to take gut-protective measures when you drink to protect your immune system," she notes.
Dr. Hart also recommends taking at least three sober days a week or drinking alcohol only with or after meals to reduce absorption.
"Focusing on consuming foods rich in probiotics and fiber can help restore a healthy gut biome and support your immune system," Hart adds.
Sometimes other ingredients in alcoholic beverages can have negative effects, some of which are not always obvious. "Sodas often contain artificial sweeteners, which tend to be bad for your gut, so try to avoid them," Hart warned.
The only way to reduce your risk of developing diabetes is to reduce or avoid drinking high-sugar alcoholic drinks such as cocktails, liqueurs, cider, fortified wines and sherry.
Imbalances in the gut affect other organs, such as the liver. Research has shown that the most common cause of alcohol-related death in the United States is alcoholic liver disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in eight deaths among U.S. adults ages 20 to 64 is attributed to excessive drinking.
“The best way to reduce the effects of alcohol-related liver disease is to stop drinking alcohol or adhere to recommended dietary guidelines, limiting consumption to two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women,” Hart advised.
The biochemist warned that drinking too much alcohol can also suppress the production of digestive enzymes, making it harder for your body to break down, digest and absorb food.
When planning meals during the "heavy drinking season," she suggests focusing on foods that help optimize your gut microbiome—"the 100 trillion bacteria that live in your gut and are critical to your health will thank you."
Foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut contain probiotics, which help nourish and protect the gut, Hart added.
Mental health problems are an endemic problem of the 21st century. And Dr Hart comments: "Alcohol is a depressant - it promotes anxiety and increased stress levels, and its negative impact on mental health is far greater than most of us are ever willing to admit."
High levels of stress can depress the digestive system in a similar way to alcohol, she warned, and to help calm the digestive system and support gut health and immunity, it is important to cultivate the "relaxation response."
Hart suggests starting the evening with a zero or low alcohol drink, then alternating alcoholic drinks with water to avoid dehydration and a hangover.
"It's important to stay hydrated when drinking alcohol; drinking more water or soft drinks will not offset the effects of alcohol on your gut," Hart notes.