9 Ways Even One Glass Of Wine Can Affect Your Gut Health

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Whether you're a Pinot Noir fan or are solidly in favor of crisper white varieties, you may see enjoying a glass of wine as a good way to unwind at the end of the day. Although one glass probably has no effect on you in terms of getting intoxicated, even one glass of wine can affect your gut health, according to experts.

In moderation, the drink can lead to health benefits for most people. For example, Dr. Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, tells Bustle that people who have a glass of red wine on a regular basis likely have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But if your gut is already struggling, wine could actually make the situation even worse instead of better. The key is to make sure that your gut is as strong as possible. "Balancing your [food choices] is one of the best ways of promoting gut health," Dr. Velikova says. "High-fiber vegetables and nuts are the best foods for the gut. Onions, artichokes, or nuts are all very high in fiber."

Next time you pour yourself a glass of wine, you can rest assured that your gut is probably benefitting from it. Just make sure to reevaluate if you feel worse after a single glass, as opposed to better.

1. It Can Better Heart Health

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Polyphenols, plant compounds found in wine, can have a significant effect on the gut microbiome which can in turn reduce cardiovascular disease risk, Bart Wolbers, researcher and health scientist at Nature Builds Health, tells Bustle. "The mechanism for that effect is a reduction of total cholesterol and blood pressure, with a possible increase in the healthy HDL cholesterol," he says.

2. It Can Make Your Gut Weaker

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As you drink alcohol, your gut can become more permeable, which can be a problem. "Higher gut permeability can allow harmful substances from food to enter the bloodstream," says Wolbers, "thereby wreaking havoc on parts of the body where they shouldn't be." While he says that if you already have a healthy gut the benefits of a glass of wine most likely outweigh the downsides, that's not the case for someone whose gut is already struggling. "If you've got existing gut issues, drinking alcohol is more likely to be harmful," Wolbers says.

3. It Can Boost Good Bacteria

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"Drinking a glass of red wine every week can be very beneficial for your gut health," Dr. Gregory Funk, founder of Hope N Wellness, tells Bustle. "This is due to the antioxidant properties of the polyphenol compounds of wine, which can promote a larger percentage of good gut bacteria," he says. As your gut bacteria diversifies, your overall health improves a great deal, so know that enjoying a glass along with dinner can benefit you in a similar way that a cup of kombucha or a bowl of yogurt could.

4. It Can Intensify Your Digestive Issues

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Some people don't experience any negative digestion symptoms, but for others, discomfort after eating or drinking is unfortunately all too common. "For people who experience acid reflux, heartburn, or regurgitation, it's important to know that all forms of alcohol will aggravate symptoms," Wendy Leung, R.Ac., an IBS elimination coach, licensed acupuncturist, and traditional Chinese medicine expert, tells Bustle. If you are already battling indigestion issues, you might want to think twice about incorporating wine into your day, at least until you get medical help for your existing digestive problem.

5. It Can Calm You Down

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It may seem like the way that drinking a glass of wine affects your mental health has nothing to do with your gut, but that's really not the case. "From a [traditional Chinese medicine] perspective, all organ systems within the body are related and can easily impact one another," Leung says. "The liver organ system is most easily impacted by stress and emotions, and although drinking a glass of wine may calm you down," she says, "over-drinking will aggravate the liver organ causing it to 'bully' other organ systems that might be already weak, like the gut." If your gut is in good shape, a single glass may just soothe your mind a bit.

6. It Can Boost Your Immune Health

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Thanks to the polyphenol content in wine, having a glass of it can have a positive effect on your immune system. As the chemicals support good bacteria growth, your immune health will also strengthen, Dr. Allison Hill, OB/GYN and chief medical correspondent for Florajen, tells Bustle. This is definitely a situation where less is more, though, because drinking wine in excess can have the opposite effect, she says.

7. It Can Irritate Your Stomach

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"Wine can be a gastrointestinal irritant, like any other alcoholic beverage and cause gas, bloating, or diarrhea in susceptible individuals," Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition, tells Bustle. The specific amount of wine that it could take to irritate your stomach really depends on your body, she says. So it's really best to pay close attention to how your stomach feels after you drink a glass of wine. If you tend to have stomach issues even after having a single glass, that's a pretty good sign that you're someone who reacts strongly to the beverage.

8. It Can Decrease Inflammation

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If you love nothing more than a rich Merlot or a dark Cabernet and you also care deeply about inflammation, you're in luck, because that combo can go together nicely. "Resveratrol is found in the skin of the red grape and is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound," Michael Lovich, DC, MS, DACNB, CCSP, tells Bustle. Enjoying a glass of wine in the name of fighting gut inflammation sounds like a total win-win.

9. It Can Trigger Your Gluten Intolerance

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If you've been diagnosed with Celiac disease (or just react strongly to gluten), you might not realize that your wine habits could be causing your stomach to react. "Wine stored in wood barrels may have gluten contamination," Lovich says. "If you are gluten sensitive or have Celiac, the glue used to make the barrel can leach into the wine." This doesn't mean giving up wine forever, though. Just do your best to drink wine that's been stored in steel barrels, rather than wooden ones, he says.

If enjoying a glass of wine with a hearty bowl of pasta sounds like an amazing way to spend your Friday night, then go for it. There are plenty of potential gut benefits to the drink. Just make sure that if your stomach always feels worse after having the wine, you check in with a doctor to make sure it isn't hurting your gut.