How Alcohol and Animal Products Can Damage Your Gut and Overall Health

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Did you know that our body is not only isolated from the external environment by our skin, but there is a tube running completely through us that represents the outside world? This tube is the gut, and its wall separates us from the external world, much like the skin does on the outside. As a dermatologist, I know how important the skin is in protecting us, but we are only beginning to understand the importance of our internal “skin,” the gut.

In my practice, I often give advice to my patients on how to take care of their exterior skin, but in this blog post, I want to draw your attention to your “internal skin”: what threatens its integrity, what diseases can be caused if it’s interrupted, and what you can do to restore its health.

Two common culprits: alcohol and animal products.

Alcohol is a known irritant to the gut lining and can increase gut permeability, meaning that larger particles (PAMPs: Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns) can pass through the gut lining and enter the bloodstream. This can lead to inflammation and immune system activation as the body tries to defend itself against these foreign particles. Over time, chronic inflammation can lead to a host of health problems, including autoimmune diseases and even cancer.

Similarly, animal products, particularly those high in saturated fat and cholesterol, can also increase gut permeability and disrupt the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in our digestive tract and play a crucial role in regulating our immune system, metabolism, and overall health. When this delicate balance is disrupted, it can lead to dysbiosis, or an imbalance of the gut microbiome, which can contribute to a wide range of health problems.

Furthermore, the pro-inflammatory factors that can get through the gut lining due to increased permeability can cause inflammation throughout the body, including in the blood vessels. This can lead to stiffening of the vessel walls, high blood pressure, and other metabolic symptoms such as insulin resistance and diabetes.

What can you do to protect your gut and overall health?

First and foremost, reducing or eliminating alcohol and animal products from your diet can go a long way in improving gut health and reducing inflammation. Instead, focus on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based sources of protein. Additionally, incorporating probiotics and prebiotics (fermented food, such as kimchi) into your diet can help support a healthy gut microbiome. I do what I preach: I have been a vegan for over three years and consume no to 1 unit of alcohol per month.

In addition to the negative impact that alcohol can have on our gut health, there is something even more cruel on top of this. Only a few of us are aware of the detrimental effect of animal products on human health, but even fewer know or want to know the cruelty and suffering of animals in the process of providing us with their flesh and milk. The way animals are killed and the way they are forcefully impregnated for their milk is cruel and unacceptable.

As a society, why do we maintain industries that are cruel and bad for our health? We need to ponder on this a bit. Not only are we harming our own health by consuming animal products, but we are also contributing to the suffering of animals. We have a responsibility to care for our internal and external environments, and that includes treating animals humanely.

Therefore, by reducing or eliminating animal products from our diet, we not only improve our gut health and overall health, but we also contribute to a more sustainable and ethical food system. Instead, we can choose a plant-based diet that supports our health, the health of animals, and the health of the planet.

In conclusion, while it may be tempting to indulge in alcohol and animal products, the long-term effects on gut health and overall health are not worth it. By making conscious choices about what you eat and drink, you can protect your gut and pave the way for a healthier future.

Your vegan and non-alcoholic dermatologist,

Dr Bela


Some sources of medical evidence supporting the claims made in the blog post:

Increased Gut Permeability:

Bode, C., & Bode, J. C. (2003). Alcohol’s role in gastrointestinal tract disorders. Alcohol Health & Research World, 27(4), 321-328.

Bishehsari, F., Magno, E., Swanson, G., Desai, V., Voigt, R. M., Forsyth, C. B., & Keshavarzian, A. (2017). Alcohol and gut-derived inflammation. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 38(2), 163-171.

Zareie, M., Johnson-Henry, K., Jury, J., Yang, P. C., Ngan, B. Y., McKay, D. M., & Soderholm, J. D. (2006). Probiotics prevent bacterial translocation and improve intestinal barrier function in rats following chronic psychological stress. Gut, 55(11), 1553-1560.


Disruption of the Gut Microbiome:

Sonnenburg, J. L., & Sonnenburg, E. D. (2019). Vulnerability of the industrialized microbiota. Science, 366(6464), eaaw9255.

Gu, S., Chen, D., Zhang, J. N., Lv, X., Wang, K., Duan, L. P., & Nie, Y. (2013). Bacterial community mapping of the mouse gastrointestinal tract. PloS One, 8(10), e74957.


Pro-inflammatory Factors Getting Through and Causing Inflammation:

Fasano, A. (2012). Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology, 42(1), 71-78.

Natividad, J. M., Verdu, E. F., & Verma-Gandhu, M. (2013). Lactic acid bacteria mediate anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 induction in intestinal epithelial cells by modulation of dendritic cell function. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 304(8), G722-G729.


Stiffening of Vessel Walls, High Blood Pressure, and Other Metabolic Symptoms:

Rizzoni, D., Porteri, E., Castellano, M., Bettoni, G., Muiesan, M. L., Tiberio, G. A., … & Agabiti-Rosei, E. (2006). Vascular hypertrophy and remodeling in secondary hypertension. Hypertension, 48(3), 519-524.

Thosar, S. S., Johnson, B. D., Johnston, J. D., Wallace, J. P., & Singh, M. (2014). Sitting and endothelial dysfunction: the role of shear stress. Medical Science Monitor, 20, 1856-1862.

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