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Does Dry January Actually Help Your Gut Health?

Thursday Jan 13, 2022

How abstaining from alcohol affects your gut health.

Women Consuming Alcohol

Everyone knows how the holidays can wreak havoc on your health. Between the food, drinks, travel, and stress, your gut health probably has taken a hit. While this past year and a half may have looked different for some with the pandemic, alcohol sales increased by 17%. Since we’re officially in the New Year, you might have made a New Year’s resolution to take a break from alcohol. Here’s how abstaining from alcohol affects your gut health.

Alcohol and Your Gut Microbiome

Different alcoholic beverages have their own unique effects on the gut microbiota as a whole as well as their specific strains. Red wine is known to have health benefits that may be able to help your heart while white wine contains antioxidants. You can read more about different types of alcohol and their effects on your gut in a previous blog post we wrote.

No matter what you drink, heavy drinking can promote the abundance of harmful bacteria like Clostridioides species, which can cause severe gastrointestinal problems and colon inflammation. Not only does heavy drinking promote harmful bacteria, but it decreases beneficial bacteria. People who drink excessively experience less amounts of good bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains. These strains have critical duties like helping you break down food, absorbing nutrients, and fighting off bacteria.

Excessive drinking can also contribute to increased inflammation in the gut, irritation in the stomach lining, and can worsen leaky gut symptoms.

Dry January and Its’ Effect On Your Gut Health

Like most health solutions, results depend on the individual, so the effects of Dry January can depend on factors like how often you drink or exercise, or what your diet consists of. A study done in 2014 showed that alcohol dependent users showed significant changes in their gut microbiome only 3 weeks into sobriety. Their levels of those important strains we talked about earlier, Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, increased considerably.

Refraining from alcohol this month or any amount of time, may help improve other digestive issues you might be experiencing, such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Even if you don’t want to completely quit drinking, moderate consumption of wine and non-alcoholic beer can provide positive effects to the microbiome, just make sure you’re not overdoing it.

If you would like to visually see the difference sobriety can make on your gut microbiome, try testing your gut health before you quit drinking, then take another test after a month or so to see how your gut microbiome has changed.

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