We already know how beneficial probiotics are for gut health. You might be wondering, however, whether alcohol consumption has any interaction with probiotics, or if probiotics would in any way help someone suffering from an alcohol-related disease. We will discuss these benefits and more in this article.
What are probiotics?
The word probiotic is derived from the Latin words Pro and Bio, which loosely translates to “for life”.1 Probiotics are a class of good bacteria that provide us with many benefits, such as helping to keep harmful bacteria in check by suppressing their growth.2
Our bodies are made up of communities of microorganisms known as microbiomes.3 Microbiomes are found in different locations in our body, such as the mouth, skin, respiratory tract, stomach, small intestines, vagina, and colon.4 When it comes to our gut, the inner walls of the intestines contain billions of living microorganisms (microbiota) that are 1-100 times higher than the number of cells in an adult human being.5 When taken adequately, probiotics feed off these bacteria and maintain microbial balance.
For a microbe to be called a probiotic, it must have several characteristics. These include being able to be consumed safely, being able to survive in your intestine after consuming it, and have a proven benefit to you.
Where can you get probiotics?
You can get probiotics from either food sources or by taking oral supplements. The most common probiotic is lactic acid; thus, lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are the most widely used probiotics by food and supplement producers. They are also known as acidophilus strains, including the Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacterium bifidum species.2,5,6
Probiotics are obtained from dairy products, and in particular yogurt. Various bacterial strains are used in making yogurt with active cultures. Food and supplements with these healthy bacteria do not pose any health risks and are generally recognised as safe. Interestingly, studies observed that babies could get probiotics from breast milk due to breast milk being full of healthy bacteria. As a result of this, many infant formula or cereals are fortified with probiotics to offer tremendous benefits to babies.2,5,7
Other fermented products that contain probiotics include sauerkraut, kefir (a fermented dairy drink), pickles, sourdough bread, miso, kimchi, some cheeses, and tempeh. You can also get probiotics from fortified malt or milk drinks, drugs, and dietary supplements.2,7,8
Effects of taking probiotics
Microbiota is the collection of microorganisms in each microbiome located in different parts of our bodies and does not cause any harm to us. Taking probiotics contributes immensely to this relationship with microbiota, thereby helping our metabolism and improving our quality of health in many ways. Consumption of probiotics has also been linked to lower cholesterol levels.2,9
Probiotics are beneficial in the nervous, gastrointestinal, and immune systems.5 In infants, probiotics help to treat infant colic and prevent the inflammation of the large intestines (necrotizing enterocolitis) and sepsis in premature infants.3 Other effects of taking probiotics are notable in the following areas of the body:
- Gut: Probiotics have been proven to treat or prevent inflammable bowel syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea, constipation, antibiotics-associated diarrhoea (AAD), and other stomach diseases. Although some research has shown a positive connection between taking probiotics after an antibiotic and relief from diarrhoea, this hasn’t been proven yet and doesn’t work for everyone.2,3,5,10
- Skin: The overall appearance of the skin is improved while taking probiotics. Probiotics rejuvenate the skin, promote scar and wound healing, and help with skin issues like acne and eczema.2
- Oral: Probiotics could also be used to prevent and treat oral diseases. They are found to improve and prevent dental cavities and other infections of the teeth and gums through the inhibition of the growth of bacteria responsible. Additionally, they may also reduce or prevent the unpleasant odour in the mouth of people with halitosis by regulating the growth of microorganisms that produce sulphide.2,3,11
- Brain: The gut-brain axis is the two-way interaction between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. It is regulated at the hormonal, neural, and immunological levels for maintaining balance, and any dysfunction within this axis may result in issues like depression and anxiety. Probiotics help regulate the balance in the gut-brain axis while boosting mood and cognitive function.2,5,12
- Allergies and infections: When used to prevent allergies, probiotics show promising results.3,8 Probiotics produce vitamins K and B-complex, including folate, riboflavin, thiamine, and B12, and are effective in preventing urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
What to avoid if taking probiotics?
For probiotics to work efficiently, it is important to take them under the right conditions to prevent them from dying off or being rendered ineffective before they are absorbed. Probiotics need the help of a healthy diet, lifestyle, and exercise to boost their effects. Some foods contain chemical components that could interfere with the work of probiotics by either killing them before they get to the stomach or reducing the rate at which our gut absorbs them.
Foods to avoid include red meat, fatty food, carbonated drinks, processed food, refined oils, gluten-rich foods, and some antibiotics (which may kill off good bacteria in your body).1
Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Probiotics?
You may take alcohol while taking probiotics, however their effectiveness might vary based on the time you take your probiotics, the health of your liver, your diet, and the quantity of alcohol you drink.14 If you take alcohol sparingly during the day or week or take your probiotics in the morning and alcohol at night, you should have no issues.
Effects of taking probiotics and alcohol together
Alcohol is known to have various effects within the digestive tract, including irritating the gut lining, increasing acid production, and altering the balance of gut flora. Alcohol not only kills the good bacteria in your intestines, but can also kill the probiotic bacteria in your supplements. Lower levels of three types of gut bacteria, notably Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli, and Enterococci, were noticed in heavy alcohol users.16 In the past decade, the association between the gut microbiota and alcoholic liver disease has raised researchers’ attention. Drinking alcohol causes the gut barrier function to break down, causing people suffering from an alcohol dependency to have what is known as a ‘leaky gut’ where the gut bacteria leak into the body.17 All these can affect the efficacy of the probiotics you are taking.
Beer, the fermented by-product of barley and malt grains, which may or may not contain live bacteria, has been shown to play a significant role in the makeup of the gut microbiota. Beer, after consumption, may release its polyphenols, which are great antioxidants and beneficial to health, after which they enter the gut, where they can regulate bacterial growth.18
Probiotics have also been shown to help ease hangover symptoms by reducing the amount of alcohol absorbed by the intestines and repopulating the gut bacteria eliminated by the alcohol. Some probiotics, like Lactobacillus rhamnosus, can decrease alcohol intake due to their proven anti-inflammatory properties, preventing alcohol use disorder, alcohol addiction, and the progression or establishment of alcoholic liver disease.15,19 Furthermore, probiotics have been shown to help with alcohol-induced muscle pain.20
When to seek medical help
You should seek the opinion of your healthcare provider before you start taking probiotics. Although generally safe, you need to be prescribed the right strain, as issues may arise from taking probiotics, especially in the presence of a weakened immune system or other medical conditions.21 You should seek medical help if you develop bacteremia (bacteria in the blood), fungemia (fungi in the blood), infection, or become resistant to antibiotics.1,22
Probiotics do not work in isolation; they need a healthy diet and lifestyle to work effectively. Making the most of probiotics goes further than consuming them. To reap the benefits from probiotics, you should enhance your consumption of them by taking the correct quantity of the right strain under the right circumstances, while avoiding habits like too much alcohol that can be counterproductive. Before you commence taking probiotics, please speak to your healthcare provider and follow their guidelines.
*Featured image by Alicia Harper*
- Khalighi, Amirreza, et al. Probiotics: A Comprehensive Review of Their Classification, Mode of Action and Role in Human Nutrition. IntechOpen, 2016. www.intechopen.com, Available from: https://doi.org/10.5772/63646.
- Shi, Lye Huey, et al. “Beneficial Properties of Probiotics.” Tropical Life Sciences Research, vol. 27, no. 2, Aug. 2016, pp. 73–90. PubMed Central, Available from:https://doi.org/10.21315/tlsr2016.27.2.6.
- “Probiotics: What You Need To Know.” NCCIH, Available from: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics-what-you-need-to-know. Accessed 12 Oct. 2022.
- Kennedy, Megan S., and Eugene B. Chang. “The Microbiome: Composition and Locations.” Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science, vol. 176, 2020, pp. 1–42. PubMed Central,Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pmbts.2020.08.013.
- Tsai, Yu-Ling, et al. “Probiotics, Prebiotics and Amelioration of Diseases.” Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 26, no. 1, Jan. 2019, p. 3. BioMed Central, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12929-018-0493-6.
- Melbourne, Dr Senaka Ranadheera and Professor Said Ajlouni, University of Melbourne. “Making the Most of Probiotics.” Pursuit, 24 May 2019, Available from: https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/making-the-most-of-probiotics.
- Fontana, Luis, et al. “Sources, Isolation, Characterisation and Evaluation of Probiotics.” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 109, no. S2, Jan. 2013, pp. S35–50. Cambridge University Press, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114512004011.
- Żukiewicz-Sobczak, Wioletta, et al. “Probiotic Lactic Acid Bacteria and Their Potential in the Prevention and Treatment of Allergic Diseases.” Central European Journal of Immunology, vol. 1, 2014, pp. 104–08. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.5114/ceji.2014.42134.
- Islam, Saif Ul. “Clinical Uses of Probiotics.” Medicine, vol. 95, no. 5, Feb. 2016, p. e2658. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000002658.
- Goodman, Clare, et al. “Probiotics for the Prevention of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhoea: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” BMJ Open, vol. 11, no. 8, Aug. 2021, p. e043054. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-043054.
- Rosenberg, M., et al. “Halitosis Measurement by an Industrial Sulphide Monitor.” Journal of Periodontology, vol. 62, no. 8, Aug. 1991, pp. 487–89. PubMed, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1902/jop.19184.108.40.2067.
- Mörkl, Sabrina, et al. “Probiotics and the Microbiota-Gut-Brain Axis: Focus on Psychiatry.” Current Nutrition Reports, vol. 9, no. 3, 2020, pp. 171–82. PubMed Central, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13668-020-00313-5.
- Mikawlrawng, Khaling, et al. “Drug Interactions, Safety and Efficacy of Probiotics.” Asian Journal of Medicine and Health, Nov. 2016, pp. 1–8. journalajmah.com, Available from: https://doi.org/10.9734/AJMAH/2016/29244.
- Ames, Nancy J., et al. “Longitudinal Gut Microbiome Changes in Alcohol Use Disorder Are Influenced by Abstinence and Drinking Quantity.” Gut Microbes, vol. 11, no. 6, Nov. 2020, pp. 1608–31. Taylor and Francis+NEJM, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/19490976.2020.1758010.
- Fuenzalida, Catalina, et al. “Probiotics-Based Treatment as an Integral Approach for Alcohol Use Disorder in Alcoholic Liver Disease.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 12, Sept. 2021, p. 729950. PubMed Central, Available from: https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2021.729950.
- Hartmann, Phillipp, et al. “Alcoholic Liver Disease: The Gut Microbiome and Liver Crosstalk.” Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, vol. 39, no. 5, May 2015, pp. 763–75. PubMed Central, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.12704.
- Wang, Shao-Cheng, et al. “Alcohol Addiction, Gut Microbiota, and Alcoholism Treatment: A Review.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, vol. 21, no. 17, Sept. 2020, p. 6413. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21176413.
- Quesada-Molina, Mar, et al. “A New Perspective on the Health Benefits of Moderate Beer Consumption: Involvement of the Gut Microbiota.” Metabolites, vol. 9, no. 11, Nov. 2019, p. 272. PubMed Central, available from: https://doi.org/10.3390/metabo9110272.
- Nosova, T. “ACETALDEHYDE PRODUCTION AND METABOLISM BY HUMAN INDIGENOUS AND PROBIOTIC LACTOBACILLUS AND BIFIDOBACTERIUM STRAINS.” Alcohol and Alcoholism, vol. 35, no. 6, Nov. 2000, pp. 561–68. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/35.6.561.
- Green, Paul G., et al. “Probiotics Attenuate Alcohol-Induced Muscle Mechanical Hyperalgesia: Preliminary Observations.” Molecular Pain, vol. 18, Feb. 2022, p. 17448069221075344. PubMed Central, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1177/17448069221075345.
- Sniffen, Jason C., et al. “Choosing an Appropriate Probiotic Product for Your Patient: An Evidence-Based Practical Guide.” PLOS ONE, edited by Leandro Araujo Lobo, vol. 13, no. 12, Dec. 2018, p. e0209205. DOI.org (Crossref), Available from: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0209205.
- Office of Dietary Supplements - Probiotics. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Probiotics-HealthProfessional/. Accessed 16 Oct. 2022.