We've known for years that intestinal permeability, or "leaky gut syndrome," can affect your immune system. Now we know at least one reason for this: binge drinking. And it doesn't take many episodes. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School discovered that women who drank just four glasses of wine in two hours had harmful bacteria leak from their intestines, triggering inflammation.
And the news isn't much better for men — five glasses in two hours can have the same effect on them. In this study, 11 men and 14 women drank enough alcohol to raise their blood alcohol levels to 0.08g/dL within an hour. Drinking this much regularly meets the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's definition of binge drinking.
The researchers took blood samples from the participants every half hour for four hours after their blood alcohol levels reached the 0.08g/dL threshold and again after 24 hours. They found that levels of endotoxins, which originate from the cell walls of dead bacteria, rose quickly and also found bacterial DNA in the bloodstream. This suggests that the bacteria had moved to the blood from the gut. The female volunteers had higher levels of endotoxins than the males, but both had levels high enough to be of concern.
Other studies have suggested that alcohol abuse can increase gut permeability and that higher levels of endotoxins in the blood can contribute to many health problems, including alcoholic liver disease.
Of course, binge drinking also carries other risks, from car crashes and injuries to liver and organ damage. And according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 38 million Americans drink more than they should. If you're among them, let this be another reason to cut back. The leader of the study, Dr. Gyongyi Szabo, concluded, "Our observations suggest that an alcohol binge is more dangerous than previously thought."
If you do get carried away, probiotics, or healthy bacteria, may be able to prevent leaky gut after bingeing. Don't use them as an excuse to over-do the partying, but do get a couple of bottles of a strong probiotic formula, such as Advanced Probiotic Formula. Take two capsules two or three times a day for a month to help keep your gut healthy.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
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