Effect of alcohol consumption on the gut

Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Aug;17(4):575-92. doi: 10.1016/s1521-6918(03)00034-9.


Consumption of large quantities of alcoholic beverages leads to disturbances in the intestinal absorption of nutrients including several vitamins. The inhibition of the absorption of sodium and water caused by alcohol contributes to the tendency in alcoholics to develop diarrhoea. Excessive alcohol consumption (even a single episode) can result in duodenal erosions and bleeding and mucosal injury in the upper jejunum. An increased prevalence for bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine may contribute to functional and/or morphological abnormalities of this part of the gut and also to non-specific abdominal complaints in alcoholics. The mucosal damage caused by alcohol increases the permeability of the gut to macromolecules. This facilitates the translocation of endotoxin and other bacterial toxins from the gut lumen to the portal blood, thereby increasing the liver's exposure to these toxins and, consequently, the risk of liver injury. The results of recent experimental studies support the assumption that alcohol significantly modulates the mucosal immune system of the gut.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects*
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Alcoholism / immunology
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Motility
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / enzymology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiopathology
  • Malnutrition / etiology
  • Permeability


  • Ethanol