Drinking beer might help you have a healthier gut, according to new research

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Whether you enjoy it on the golf course, après ski, at the ballgame or at a picnic, little says “leisure” more than cracking open a cold beer. It’s refreshing and indulgent all at once, but a new study suggests you might be doing your body good by chilling out with your favorite ale, stout, sour, lager, shandy or porter.

According to research published June 15 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, drinking a 12-ounce beer—alcoholic or nonalcoholic—daily for four weeks might boost gut microbiome diversity.

Related: What Your Favorite Beer Says About You

What This Gut-Health Study Found

Scientists in Portugal were inspired by previous findings that linked fermented foods (such as kimchi, kombucha, yogurt and tempeh) to better gut health. For this study, they decided to put beer to the test since it’s a fermented extract of malted barley. Beer also contains polyphenols, a type of plant compound that may also affect gut bacteria.

The team recruited 19 men who were currently moderate drinkers (more about what that means here), then randomly assigned them to one of two groups:

  • Drink a bottle of lager beer with dinner nightly for four weeks

  • Drink a nonalcoholic beer with dinner nightly for four weeks

Beyond that, the participants were told to keep up with their usual diet and exercise routines.

At the start and end of the monthlong study, the men provided stool samples so the scientists could analyze their gut bacteria. By the conclusion of the experiment, both groups had more fecal alkaline phosphatase, an indicator of better intestinal function, as well as a more diverse microbiome, which is generally a sign of better gut health. Greater gut diversity has also been linked to less stress and anxiety, a stronger immune system and lower risk for several chronic diseases.

That said, this is a very small and short-term study that was only performed on men, plus it didn’t actually dive into whether those alterations in gut bacteria actually made any noticeable change in the health outcomes of the individuals. This research also didn’t take into account the other lifestyle habits of these participants beyond that nightly brew.

Related: What You’re Eating Can Affect Your Gut Differently Than Someone Else’s

The Bottom Line

What you feed your gut the other 23 hours per day or so should be the focus, the researchers and EatingWell dietitians agree. If a beer or NA beer every so often is part of the menu, great! You might be scoring a tiny bit of a healthy bacteria boost. That said, make sure it’s in moderation, as excessive drinking does much more harm than good to your health.

What will really move the needle in improving your gut microbiome:

  • Taking antibiotics only when necessary and as prescribed

  • Eating a wide variety of nutrient-packed, fiber-rich whole foods, ideally, 30 different fruits and veggies per week

  • Limiting heavily processed foods and red meat

  • Consuming alcohol in moderation (if you choose to drink)

  • Drinking plenty of water

Craving some inspiration to make your microbiome a more diverse, health-supporting place? Study up on the best and worst foods for gut health, then see what a gut doctor eats in a day for a balanced microbiome.

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