Alcohol and the Intestine

Biomolecules. 2015 Oct 15;5(4):2573-88. doi: 10.3390/biom5042573.


Alcohol abuse is a significant contributor to the global burden of disease and can lead to tissue damage and organ dysfunction in a subset of alcoholics. However, a subset of alcoholics without any of these predisposing factors can develop alcohol-mediated organ injury. The gastrointestinal tract (GI) could be an important source of inflammation in alcohol-mediated organ damage. The purpose of review was to evaluate mechanisms of alcohol-induced endotoxemia (including dysbiosis and gut leakiness), and highlight the predisposing factors for alcohol-induced dysbiosis and gut leakiness to endotoxins. Barriers, including immunologic, physical, and biochemical can regulate the passage of toxins into the portal and systemic circulation. In addition, a host of environmental interactions including those influenced by circadian rhythms can impact alcohol-induced organ pathology. There appears to be a role for therapeutic measures to mitigate alcohol-induced organ damage by normalizing intestinal dysbiosis and/or improving intestinal barrier integrity. Ultimately, the inflammatory process that drives progression into organ damage from alcohol appears to be multifactorial. Understanding the role of the intestine in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease can pose further avenues for pathogenic and treatment approaches.

Keywords: alcohol; dysbiosis; endotoxemia; gut leakiness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dysbiosis / etiology
  • Endotoxemia / etiology
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / microbiology*


  • Ethanol