Toast your way to a healthier gut

As you prepare to make some toasts this holiday season, you may want to stock up on one of my favorite alcoholic beverages, as a new study has found it supports gut health.

Don’t worry—I’ll tell you which drink offers this key benefit in a moment. But first, let’s back up to discuss why gut health is so important…

Gut health is an indicator, and a determinant, of overall health

As you know, more and more research shows that your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, the environment in your gut where billions of healthy bacteria thrive, is really ground zero for your health. And the beneficial probiotic bacteria in your microbiome influence everything from your immune system to your metabolism to your body weight.

Plus, we now know that disruptions to your microbiome often signal bigger, systemic health problems, such as fibromyalgia and colon cancer, as I explained last week. And by the same token, other research links improvements to your gut health and increased diversity of healthy bacteria to many positive health outcomes, such as a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and Type II diabetes.

So, what can you do to improve your gut health?

Well, some natural-know-it-alls keep recommending probiotic supplements. But as I’ve explained many times before, probiotic supplements just don’t work—and can even cause harm.

In my view, the only way to boost the diversity of healthy bacteria in your microbiome is by following a balanced, Mediterranean-type diet, which happens to be the healthiest way of eating on the planet! It includes plenty of full-fat, organic dairy (butter, eggs, cheeses, yogurt), wild-caught fish and seafood, grass-fed and free-range meat, beans (legumes), fruits, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. The healthy, whole foods in this diet have “prebiotic” effects. Which means they “feed” the healthy probiotic bacteria in your GI tract.

Plus, on this diet, you can even enjoy alcohol in moderation, which brings me back to the study I mentioned at the beginning of this Dispatch

One type of alcohol improves gut microbiome

For the new study, researchers studied more than 900 sets of female twins. (Comparisons among twins are strong because other factors such as genetics, age, sex, and others are automatically eliminated as possible reasons for differences found.)

Specifically, the researchers wanted to understand the effect of alcohol consumption on gut health.

Well, it turns out, the women who drank at least one glass of red wine a week increased the diversity of good bacteria in their gut. Plus, they had more “good” bacteria and less “harmful” bacteria overall. And—there was a clear dose response, meaning that the more wine the women drank (within reason, of course), the greater the beneficial effects in the microbiome.

Interestingly, these benefits were not seen in women who drank just beer, cider, white wine, or whiskey. Plus, the researchers came to the same conclusion when they expanded the study to include almost 3,000 non-twins in the Netherlands, U.K., and U.S.

In a post-study interview, researchers said they believe the polyphenols in red wine are responsible for the beneficial effects on the probiotic bacteria.

Polyphenols are key active ingredients found in almost all plants, including in grapes used to make wine. They’re also found in chocolate, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

But, as you know, I don’t like researchers trying to pinpoint one single, “magic- bullet” ingredient. So, I’m hesitant to give all the credit to polyphenols. Instead, just take the study at face value…and enjoy a glass of wine (or two) with dinner. Clearly, it will help naturally support the health and diversity of bacteria in your microbiome.

And if red wine isn’t to your liking, there are many other simple steps you can take to boost the “good” bacteria and reduce the “bad” bacteria in your gut:

  1. Avoid antibiotics, which wipe out the healthy bacteria found in your microbiome.
  2. Avoid antibacterial soaps and gels, which disrupt your skin’s microbiome.
  3. Eat foods that can introduce and/or support healthy bacteria in your gut, such as plain, full-fat yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, Korean kim chi, soy sauce, fish sauce, and organic apples—which I discuss in more detail in the November 2019 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“The secret to gut health may grow on a tree”). So if you haven’t already, consider signing up today!
  4. Eat foods that nurture your gut flora, including artichokes, barley, beans, green, leafy vegetables, and steel-cut oats. They naturally support the growth of good bacteria already present in your GI tract.
  5. Avoid processed foods and sugary foods, which disrupt the good bacteria in your gut.

By following these simple steps (and enjoying some red wine with dinner), you’ll truly start to feel the difference in your overall health…starting with your gut.

Also—be on the lookout in 2020 for my new report on groundbreaking research showing that “abstinence” is not the answer for the huge majority of “problem drinkers.” Instead, moderation is the answer, yet again.

P.S. Tune back in tomorrow to learn about how drinking in moderation can even reduce your risk of developing this chronic disease….


“Red Wine Consumption Associated With Increased Gut Microbiota α-Diversity in 3 Independent Cohorts.” Gastroenterology, 2019. pii: S0016-5085(19): 41244-4. 10.1053/j.gastro.2019.08.024.