Friends holding beers

Too Much Alcohol Can Do a Number on Your Gut Health

Morehouse School of Medicine gastroenterologist Dr. Julia Liu says excessive drinking can result in an upset stomach, acid reflux and other issues.

By Beth Galvin, FOX 5

ATLANTA - The Super Bowl is one of the biggest nights for parties, but if you have a sensitive stomach, Morehouse School of Medicine gastroenterologist Dr. Julia Liu says take it easy on the booze.

"Alcohol is one of these things," Liu says, "I know it makes everyone feel good, but moderation is key. You know, you owe it to your body to not drink excessively."

Because, for one, Dr. Liu says, drinking too much can trigger gastritis 鈥 a painful inflammation of the stomach lining, which can cause everything from belching and nausea to vomiting.

"Because it's an irritant to the stomach lining, you can actually have quite severe gastritis, and that's why you have a lot of symptoms," she says.

Too much alcohol can also be a problem if you have acid reflux, relaxing your lower esophageal sphincter and allowing acid to bubble back up.

"The alcohol relaxes the sphincter more," Liu says.  "So it's already a weakened sphincter, and then you relax it. That's why you make it worse. Alcohol makes everything relaxed: your mind, your body, the muscles."

One final reason to go easy on the drinking? It could leave you running for the bathroom.

"I think alcohol in excess does not cause diarrhea per se," Dr. Liu says. "I think it's the lack of food. You need to take certain amount of fiber, you know, or basically materials for the colon to work with. So if you're only drinking alcohol and having very little food material, you can't blame the gut for having diarrhea, because if it's only liquid you're ingesting, what do you expect the gut to do?"

Dr. Liu says the more that you drink, the higher your risk of gastrointestinal problems. Alcohol triggers inflammation in the gut and research shows that drinking too much over time can disrupt the bacterial balance in the gut, which is key to our immune system.