Maybe you like cracking open a cold beer after a long day or to cool off in the summer and have wondered whether beer is good or bad for your gut. Sure, alcohol is considered bad for you but beer also contains yeast and is a fermented beverage. If fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi are good for you then shouldn’t beer also be good for your digestive health?
Some of the Nutrients in Beer May Be Beneficial To Gut Health
Beer does contain vitamins and polyphenols that your body needs. Your digestive system relies on B vitamins to properly break down and convert the nutrients from food into energy. Meanwhile, polyphenols and other enzymes are thought to provide anti-inflammatory benefits to the body and may even have a prebiotic-like effect, stimulating the growth of good bacteria and keeping bad bacteria at bay.
One study found that beer contains soluble fiber, beneficial for digestion keeping you regular. There’s also evidence that consumption of beer may increase certain beneficial bacterial strain that digests complex carb found in beer and bread producing prebiotic short-chain fatty acids, which help promote a healthy gut.
The Alcohol in Beer vs Potential Benefits
While beer contains useful vitamins and prebiotics, the opposite end of the scale is the known negative effects of alcohol on the body. Excessive alcohol consumption may damage the gut bacteria called dysbiosis, a condition where the gut contains too much bad bacteria. Symptoms include autoimmune and neurologic issues and even IBS.
Alcohol acts as an irritant in the gastrointestinal tract, reduce nutrient absorption, increase toxins, and increase gastric acid, causing acid reflux. Many people also experience bouts of diarrhea from heavy drinking episodes.
Some Beers May Be Better for Gut Health Than Others
Due to the variabilities that go into beer production from the type of yeast, wheat, barley, and hops used and the different fermentation periods, there have not been comprehensive studies done on this subject. However, beers that are higher in polyphenols and thus prebiotic potential might be better for your gut. A rough rule of thumb is that hoppier beers like IPA’s tend to have higher concentrations of polyphenols.
This is because the hops’ bitterness also contributes to the polyphenol content. Look for the beer’s IBU number aka (International Bitterness Units), the higher the number (on a scale from 0 to 100), the hoppier the beer.
Of course, lower-alcohol beers or consuming less can also help minimize the potential harm of the alcohol.
The truth is, it’s hard to say. There currently aren’t studies examining the gut microbiome in mild to moderate beer consumption while taking into account all the production variables.
Pay Attention To Beer Sensitivity
Like all other foods, paying attention to beer’s effect on your own body can give clues to whether it is negatively affecting your microbiome. Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation are all signs that your beer of choice is messing with your GI tract. Too much beer consumption causing hangovers may also damage your gut.
Benefits of Gut-Friendly Foods To Counteract Over Consumption
Eating more fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut may help to correct the damage done to the gut bacteria by alcohol. Prebiotics like bananas, B vitamin foods (eggs, whole grains), and plenty of water can also help.