Alcohol's Impact on the Gut and Liver

Nutrients. 2021 Sep 11;13(9):3170. doi: 10.3390/nu13093170.


Alcohol is inextricably linked with the digestive system. It is absorbed through the gut and metabolised by hepatocytes within the liver. Excessive alcohol use results in alterations to the gut microbiome and gut epithelial integrity. It contributes to important micronutrient deficiencies including short-chain fatty acids and trace elements that can influence immune function and lead to liver damage. In some people, long-term alcohol misuse results in liver disease progressing from fatty liver to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, and results in over half of all deaths from chronic liver disease, over half a million globally per year. In this review, we will describe the effect of alcohol on the gut, the gut microbiome and liver function and structure, with a specific focus on micronutrients and areas for future research.

Keywords: alcohol; cirrhosis; gut; hepatocellular carcinoma; liver; microbiome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Intestines / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver Diseases, Alcoholic / physiopathology
  • Micronutrients / deficiency


  • Micronutrients