Alcohol and Its Effects on the GI Tract

Posted on: March 27, 2020 by in Alcoholism Treatment
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The gastrointestinal tract (GI Tract) consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, rectum, and anus. The stomach, a “J” shaped pouch, is located in the left upper abdomen. The stomach acts as a holding cell for contents that have been ingested and hydrochloric acid is let into the stomach to disintegrate the contents so it can pass through the rest of the GI tract. A large percentage of nutrient absorption happens in the small and large intestine.

What is the GI tract’s job with alcohol?

After the alcohol passes through the esophagus, it enters the stomach. While it stays in the stomach, acid is released into the stomach to help break down the contents. The alcohol then moves into the small intestine where, under normal circumstances, nutrients would be absorbed; however, alcohol contains no nutrient contents except calories. While also in the small and large intestine, bile is being secreted (put in) and creating feces. Once this bile passes into the large intestine and into the rectum, feces has been solidified and will be excreted through the anus.

When is it too much alcohol for the GI Tract?

When an individual drinks more than the recommended amount, the GI tract is at an increased risk for damage. Alcohol puts the esophagus at an increased risk for esophageal cancer. It puts the stomach at risk for gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) – which once the esophagus is repeatedly exposed can burn the esophagus. When the small intestines are repeatedly exposed to alcohol, there is no nutrient uptake causing the individual to become malnourished. The lining of the mouth, esophagus, and stomach provide opportune times for alcohol to enter the bloodstream, connecting the two body systems to increased liver and kidney damage as well.

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