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Does Alcohol Change Gut Microflora and is the Change Reversible?

A review published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics showed alcohol consumption adversely altered gut microbiota and could lead to negative impacts on the liver.

It is well known that alcohol intake directly and adversely affects the liver, but more recently, it has also been clinically shown to impact the gastrointestinal microbiota. To better elucidate this relationship the authors utilized the PubMed data base, to identify and review data from research articles addressing this topic.

The studies that the authors identified showed alcohol reduces gastrointestinal mobility possibly by inducing bacterial overgrowth in the gut. Alcohol may also reduce innate immune function which may impact types of bacteria present in the gut and lead to gut infections by suppression of a Th-1 response.

Recent research indicates that modifying gut microbiota by use of probiotics therapy may be a viable therapy to reduce liver injury and stop the progression of alcoholic liver disease. Numerous clinical trials examining probiotic supplementation in patients with alcoholic liver disease have shown improvement in liver enzymatic function and metabolism. Past research also indicates administration of probiotics decreases oxidative damage, and improves immune response to enteric pathogens. This is a promising area of research that needs further study to examine specific probiotic strains and duration of therapy necessary to help mitigate liver damage and potentially reverse damage from excessive alcoholic consumption.

Why is this Clinically Relevant?

  • Chronic alcohol intake leads to hepatic damage
  • Gut microbiota are altered by excessive alcohol consumption
  • Modulating gut flora may be a promising way to reverse liver damage and prevent disease progression in patients with alcoholic liver disease
  • Administration of probiotics for patients with alcoholic liver disease may help improve immune function and prevent oxidative damage

Reference

Link to abstract

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