The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota

Alcohol Res. 2015;37(2):223-36.


The excessive use of alcohol is a global problem causing many adverse pathological health effects and a significant financial health care burden. This review addresses the effect of alcohol consumption on the microbiota in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). Although data are limited in humans, studies highlight the importance of changes in the intestinal microbiota in alcohol-related disorders. Alcohol-induced changes in the GIT microbiota composition and metabolic function may contribute to the well-established link between alcohol-induced oxidative stress, intestinal hyperpermeability to luminal bacterial products, and the subsequent development of alcoholic liver disease (ALD), as well as other diseases. In addition, clinical and preclinical data suggest that alcohol-related disorders are associated with quantitative and qualitative dysbiotic changes in the intestinal microbiota and may be associated with increased GIT inflammation, intestinal hyperpermeability resulting in endotoxemia, systemic inflammation, and tissue damage/organ pathologies including ALD. Thus, gut-directed interventions, such as probiotic and synbiotic modulation of the intestinal microbiota, should be considered and evaluated for prevention and treatment of alcohol-associated pathologies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology*
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / immunology*
  • Alcoholism / microbiology
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local / adverse effects*
  • Bacterial Translocation / drug effects
  • Bacterial Translocation / immunology
  • Dysbiosis / complications
  • Dysbiosis / drug therapy
  • Dysbiosis / immunology*
  • Endotoxemia / etiology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / immunology
  • Humans
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / complications
  • Permeability / drug effects
  • Probiotics / therapeutic use


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Ethanol