Alcohol and the Gastrointestinal System
You take a sip. Via your mouth and esophagus, the alcohol ends up in your stomach, in the small and large intestines and the pancreas. Excessive drinking can cause all kinds of problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Think of an increased risk of heartburn, inflammation and cancer in the gastrointestinal tract.
Keeping your intestinal flora optimal is important for your overall health. Alcohol causes an imbalance between the good and bad bacteria in the gut (gut flora). Alcohol also increases the permeability of the small and large intestines, which can cause them to 'leak'. Bad bacteria and toxic substances that are in the intestines can therefore leave the gastrointestinal tract and enter the bloodstream. This increases the risk of bacterial infections and inflammation of organs in the body. This puts a heavy burden on the immune system and liver. Leaking the gut can also cause thinner stools.
Suffering from heartburn can be very annoying. Research shows that alcohol consumption is associated with a higher risk of heartburn in people who drink alcohol regularly compared to people who don't drink or drink only occasionally. This is because the sphincter of the stomach relaxes.
The increased gastric secretion (excretion of stomach acid) can also irritate the mucous membrane of the stomach and cause it to become inflamed (gastritis). If this is the result of regular, excessive alcohol consumption, it is called alcoholic gastritis. Known symptoms of this are belching, heartburn and morning vomiting.
Inflammation of the pancreas
Alcohol is, next to gallstones, one of the most common causes of acute pancreatitis (pancreatitis) and the most common cause of chronic pancreatitis. Acute pancreatitis is dangerous and should be treated as soon as possible as it can lead to organ failure and death. In persistent pancreatitis, nutrients such as fats and proteins are lost due to reduced secretion of pancreatic juices.
Because fats cannot be absorbed properly, 'fat-soluble' vitamins (A, D, E and K) will also be absorbed less well and a deficiency can arise. All this results in weight loss, abdominal pain and greasy diarrhea. In the long term, chronic inflammation of the pancreas leads to disturbances in blood sugar levels (diabetes) and increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer.