Over the ages, alcohol has been blamed for everything under the sun. Drunk texting that cute guy you vowed to forget about, eating Taco Bell at 2 am, saying that thing that was in your head but you maaaaybe should not have said out loud or dancing up a storm in front of complete strangers at that party you didn’t want to go to because you’re the shy girl. Alcohol has even played a hand in the creation of some actual human beings in this world. Fun fact, I just so happen to be one of those individuals. It’s probably weird that I know that, but now you know it too so there’s that. Thank you alcoholic beverages! I owe ya!
Alcohol may claim responsibility for a lot, but if you’re dealing with autoimmune issues, a chronic condition or even some mysterious illness you may need to consider cutting alcohol out of your life.
Put the pitchforks and fiery torches down, ladies! Hear me out.
There are a whole host of reasons alcohol may be impeding your health journey. Alcohol directly effects the health of your gut. Not only does it damage your gut lining, but alcohol slows down the gut healing process you may desperately need to return to a better state of health. Consider what you are drinking. Are you consuming things you try to avoid while indulging in your favorite adult beverage? Are you potentially damaging other parts of your body by choosing to drink?
Below I’ll dive into each of these topics a little deeper and explain the real reasons you may want to consider cutting your cocktails.
Alcohol Damages the Gut
Two words: “leaky gut”? I think by now most of us with autoimmune disease are familiar with leaky gut. For those of you scratching your head because you have never heard of this concept, very basically, leaky gut is when your intestines become damaged allowing toxins and other teeny particles to escape into your body. Your body then sees these toxins and particles as intruders and sends antibodies to attack. This becomes a problem when too much is leaking out of your gut and sends your system into a state of constant high alert. Your body, trying to protect you, will react by sending all the “good guys” to fight these perceived “bad guys” and sometimes leads to your body getting confused and attacking itself. Hello autoimmunity.
Alcohol damages the gut itself, contributing to leaky gut, by compromising the mucus lining, killing good bacteria and causing inflammation.
The mucus lining in your intestines is protective, but it also creates enzymes needed for digestion. When the mucus lining gets damage, you become less protected. It is estimated that 70% of our immune system resides in the gut and if this gets damaged our immunity is drastically compromised. As for digestion, when you aren’t digesting food properly, you aren’t getting necessary vitamins and nutrients from your food which can lead to deficiencies and a whole other host of problems.
Bacteria live in your gut by the trillions (yes with a T). Good gut bacteria helps with food digestion, absorbing nutrients and staves off the overgrowth of bad bacteria. When good gut bacteria dies off, bad bacteria can take over which leads to improper immune function. When the balance of gut bacteria is tipped in the favor of bad for too long it can lead to disease.
Chronic inflammation is now believed to be the root cause of most, if not all autoimmune disease. When you consume too much alcohol or are drinking on a regular basis, you can irritate your gut lining and cause inflammation. If you aren’t giving your gut a break, this constant inflammation won’t allow for your body to recover and heal. This leads to more inflammation, as well as my next point.
Alcohol Impedes the Healing of the Gut
When you are dealing with a compromised immune system, which all of us with autoimmune and chronic diseases are, alcohol effects the ability for your gut to heal. As I mentioned above, alcohol can lead to the destruction of your gut health. Even if regular partying did not lead to your compromised gut, it could be the reason you aren’t seeing the healing you want to reclaim your health.
Because the majority of our immune system lives in our gut, anything we can do to strengthen our gut health is imperative. This means cutting out any and all irritants, even temporarily, so we give our system a much needed break and time to repair itself.
Is Your Booze Gluten Free
What are you drinking? Are you gluten free? Do you make a conscious effort to avoid gluten in your food? Are you making the same efforts in your drink of choice?
Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. All three of these are used, in one form or another, to make beer with barley being the most popular. The fact is these gluten riddled grains are used in most alcohols. Some alcohols like vodka, brandies and wine (thank you Jesus!) are gluten free and safer to drink. For a better idea of what is in the clear Dr. Josh Axe has a pretty good article on gluten free spirits.
Nix the Mix
What are you drinking with your alcohol? Most mixers are sugary fruit drinks, chemical laden sodas or dairy/cream based mixers. Sugar is highly inflammatory. It’s one of the worst things you can put into your body. Sugar effects your entire system from your brain to your blood. Eliminating sugar from your diet is one of the best things you can do when trying to reduce inflammation.
Soda is loaded with sugar and chemicals. And don’t try me with, “But I drink diet so I’m good.” Artificial sweeteners are possibly even worse for you than sugar!
Artificial sweeteners trick your body’s metabolic system and causes blood sugar to spike putting you on a blood sugar roller coaster. The ups and downs lead to a bad cycle of craving sweets then crashing from the sugar (real or artificial) and then you craving more sweets. This phenomenon can lead to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes. Studies have also shown artificial sweeteners to cause destruction of gut bacteria.
Dairy can be problematic for people with autoimmune diseases because it causes inflammation (are we seeing a pattern here?). This is a great article from Chemistry Cachet explaining many of the ins and outs of dairy as it is related to autoimmune disease.
Overloading Your Kidneys and Liver
Alcohol is processed through your kidneys and liver, which is where all toxins are filtered in our bodies. Toxins are a big contributor to autoimmune issues whether they be from the environment or the food we consume. Toxins also hinder healing. If you have an autoimmune disease you need to make sure you are filtering any sort of toxins you come in contact with efficiently.
Another important thing to consider has to do with medications you may be taking. A lot of medicines autoimmune patients end up on are taxing on our kidneys, liver or both. Personally, I am on methotrexate to help with my psoriatic arthritis. Methotrexate can damage the kidneys and be toxic in high doses. I haven’t incurred any problems so far, but it’s a fact never too far from my mind.
Our bodies are amazing machines. When we fuel them properly and stop putting in unnecessary pollutants we can go a long way in repairing damage.
I’m not telling you to stop enjoying yourself. I’m not telling you you’re bad for wanting to enjoy an occasional glass of wine. What I am telling you is that you need to make smart choices if you want to see your health improve. We all deserve to live our best and most vibrant life. If you are suffering in any way, you aren’t living the life you are meant to live. Knowledge is power. The right knowledge can lead to great strides in health and happiness. Choose yourself. It’s the most important choice you can make.
*DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or health care professional. I am not licensed, nor qualified, to give medical or nutritional advice. My posts are not meant to diagnose or treat. They are meant to be informative. I am sharing my experience as someone who has suffered with and continues to live with autoimmune disease. Please consult with a doctor, nutritionist or medical professional for any medical needs and/or questions.*