Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth

October 31, 2011

Just one drink per day for women -- two for men -- could lead to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and subsequently cause gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhea, according to the results of a new study unveiled today at the American College of Gastroenterology's (ACG) 76th Annual Scientific meeting in Washington, DC.

The retrospective review, "Moderate Alcohol Consumption is Associated with Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth," looked at the charts of 198 patients who underwent lactulose hydrogen breath testing (LHBT) to determine the presence of SIBO, and found that any current alcohol consumption was significantly associated with the presence of SIBO -- and neither smoking nor use of heartburn drugs called PPIs was associated with an increased risk of SIBO.

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a condition where abnormally of bacteria grow in the . Normally the small intestine contains a relatively low number of bacteria in contrast to the , which should contain a larger number of bacteria. In patients with SIBO, the abnormally large numbers of bacteria in the small intestine use for their growth many of the nutrients that would otherwise be absorbed.

As a result, a person with small bowel bacterial overgrowth may not absorb enough nutrients and become malnourished. In addition, the breakdown of nutrients by the in the small intestines can produce gas as well as lead to a change in bowel habits.

While previous studies have focused on alcoholics, who were found to have high rates of SIBO, this study by Scott Gabbard, MD and colleagues at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic, is one of the first to look at the relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and SIBO. Moderate alcohol consumption means no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men, with twelve ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1-½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits counting as one drink, according to the USDA dietary guidelines.

An overwhelming majority (95 percent) of the 198 patients in the study drank a moderate amount of alcohol, sometimes less than 1 drink per day, said Dr. Gabbard, who also indicated that only four of the patients drank more alcohol -- a finding he noted indicates that consumption of even the slightest amount of alcohol could have an impact on gut health.

"These findings are significant because we now know that any bit of alcohol consumption -- not just the amount consumed by alcoholics -- is a strong predictor of a positive lactulose hydrogen breath testing and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth," he said. "While typical treatment for SIBO has been antibiotics, probiotics or a combination of the two, the question now becomes what is the exact association between and SIBO and whether cessation can be used as a treatment for this potentially harmful condition."

Explore further: New research deepens understanding of most common gastrointestinal disorder in US

Related Stories

New research deepens understanding of most common gastrointestinal disorder in US

May 11, 2011
Cedars-Sinai researchers have reported two advances in the understanding of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the United States, affecting an estimated 30 million people.

One drink a day may be related to good overall health in women when older

September 6, 2011
Women who drink 15 grams or less of alcohol a day (the equivalent of one drink of any alcoholic beverage) at midlife may be healthier when older than women who do not drink at all, who consume more than two drinks a day, ...

Recommended for you

Safety of medical devices not often evaluated by sex, age, or race

July 25, 2017
Researchers at Yale and the University of California-San Francisco have found that few medical devices are analyzed to consider the influence of their users' sex, age, or race on safety and effectiveness.

Why you should consider more than looks when choosing a fitness tracker

July 25, 2017
A UNSW study of five popular physical activity monitors, including Fitbit and Jawbone models, has found their accuracy differs with the speed of activity, and where they are worn.

Dog walking could be key to ensuring activity in later life

July 24, 2017
A new study has shown that regularly walking a dog boosts levels of physical activity in older people, especially during the winter.

Alcohol to claim 63,000 lives over next five years, experts warn

July 24, 2017
Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years – the equivalent of 35 deaths a day – according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

App lets patients work alone or with others to prevent, monitor, and reverse chronic disease

July 24, 2017
Lack of patient adherence to treatment plans is a lingering, costly problem in the United States. But MIT Media Lab spinout Twine Health is proving that regular interventions from a patient's community of supporters can greatly ...

Alcohol boosts recall of earlier learning

July 24, 2017
Drinking alcohol improves memory for information learned before the drinking episode began, new research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.