We drink to celebrate, we drink to forget, and we drink to have fun… Americans love to drink! Most people know the effects to the liver and the brain that are caused by alcohol consumption, however most people don’t know that alcohol can actually cause damage to your entire digestive system. Since May is Alcohol Awareness Month, we thought it would be the perfect chance to talk about it. Here’s how alcohol affects your digestive system.
Starting with the mouth – the point of entry, alcohol travels down the esophagus and can cause impaired function of the muscles separating the esophagus from the stomach. This is what causes heartburn.
The next stop is the stomach where about 20 percent of the alcohol is absorbed. Once in the stomach, alcohol causes increased acid. For alcohol abusers, the constant increase in acid can cause severe stomach pain or sores in the intestines.
The consumption of alcohol with meals also slows digestion. This is because alcohol can cause the muscles responsible for gastric motility to delay the emptying of the stomach. When food is delayed from moving through the digestive tract, bacterial degradation of the food can cause gases that lead to feeling full and/or abdominal pain.
Once the alcohol leaves the stomach, where 20 percent of it is absorbed, the other 80 percent is absorbed in the small intestine. This absorption of alcohol inhibits the
absorption of nutrients in the small and large intestine and constant alcohol consumption could damage the mucosal protective lining called the mucosal. This damage could allow large molecules such as endotoxin and other bacterial toxins to pass more easily into the blood. Damaging this protective lining could also result in hemorrhagic lesions, chronic diseases, or gastrointestinal bleeding.
Lastly, alcohol can also interfere with enzymes essential for intestinal functioning and can cause nutrient deficiencies among other things.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “Everything in moderation, especially moderation.” Have fun but know your risks and please, drink responsibly.
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