Does Alcohol Weaken Your Immune System?
There’s a reason you may feel sniffly or fatigued during the holidays, especially with all the holiday parties and gatherings. Alcohol consumption has been linked to inhibiting your ability to fight off illness. While having one drink in moderation is unlikely to affect your immune system, more alcohol could suppress it.
The Effects of Alcohol on Your Immune System
Your immune system is responsible for fighting harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, alcohol may weaken its ability to function correctly. Heavy drinking can cause chronic inflammation throughout your body that stirs your immune system into action, resulting in an overreaction. Your immune cells go into hyperdrive, flooding your body with inflammation. This response can make you feel tired and rundown. The University of Rochester Medical Center said it has even been associated with causing rheumatoid arthritis — a chronic disorder that causes joint pain and fatigue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking alcohol in excess puts you at risk for developing certain health conditions, including liver disease, kidney disease, some cancers, and pancreatitis.
In moderate amounts, alcohol has been linked to several benefits for your health. The Department of Health & Human Services said drinking alcohol in moderate amounts may even help you live longer. Moderation means two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
So, if you’re feeling under the weather this holiday season, it might be best to abstain from drinking altogether until you feel better. You don’t want to risk prolonging your illness or making yourself feel worse. If you choose to drink, stick to moderate amounts and make sure to drink plenty of water to help flush out the toxins.
Short-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System
- Disruption of immune system function can be within hours or days of heavy drinking. Disruption can cause a decrease in the number and activity of natural killer cells (a type of white blood cell) Increase in autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and psoriasis.
- Suppression of inflammation reactions is critical in defense against infection and tissue damage.
- Interference with the ability to fight infection. Increase susceptibility to common diseases such as colds and cases of flu, as well as more severe illnesses such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.
Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System
Chronic drinking can lead to:
- Increased risk of developing certain cancers (liver, mouth, throat). Chronic, heavy drinking can cause permanent damage to brain and nerve cells.
- Long-term alcoholism may eventually weaken the heart muscle, leading to congestive heart failure.
- Damage to the pancreas and digestive organs such as the liver and kidneys may ultimately need replacing (transplant).
- Increased risk of malnutrition.
- Alcoholic Liver Disease
- Increased risk for heart disease and stroke (due to changes in blood lipid levels).
- Increased likelihood of developing infections.
How To Repair and Support the Immune System After Drinking Alcohol
If planning to drink alcohol, allow the body to detox the alcohol before engaging in other immune system-building foods and supplements.
- Take high doses of daily immune-supporting vitamins such as vitamin C (1,000-3,000mg), zinc (30-50mg), and selenium (100-200mcg). These nutrients should be taken for at least two weeks after drinking.
- Engage in antioxidant-rich activities like mediation and yoga, which help decrease inflammation.
- Consume a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. These foods provide an array of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that can help to support the immune system.
- Consider taking an immune-supporting supplement such as echinacea, astragalus, or olive leaf extract.
Is binge drinking more harmful to your immune system than moderate consumption?
Binge drinking does reduce your immune system. Because a larger dose of alcohol is consumed during a binge, the impact of one drinking episode will be most apparent. For up to 24 hours after a single bout of binge drinking, the immune system’s function may be severely suppressed.
Diseases Related To Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol can reduce your immune system. However, it can also cause many other health issues and disorders. The following are some of the negative health consequences of alcohol consumption:
- High blood pressure results from the vasodilation effect alcohol have on blood vessels.
- The adverse effects alcohol causes heart disease has on blood vessels. Heart failure and cardiac arrest are more common in those with a history of excessive drinking.
- Stroke is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, which can be brought on by alcohol’s effects on blood pressure and heart rate.
- Liver diseases like Fatty liver disease are caused by the accumulation of fat in the liver due to excessive alcohol intake, and Cirrhosis of the liver is a chronic disease characterized by the replacement of healthy liver tissue with scar tissue due to long-term damage from alcohol abuse. Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the liver is the most common cause of death in alcoholics.
- Digestive problems like Gastritis and Pancreatitis can be caused by the inflammation of the stomach and pancreas, respectively, that is brought on by alcohol consumption.
- Many types of cancers. Cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast are linked to alcohol consumption. Colon Cancer is more common in those who abuse alcohol, along with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, and rectum.
- Infectious diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia are more prevalent in those who drink alcohol excessively.
- Mental health disorders like anxiety and depression are more common in those with a history of alcohol abuse.
- Learning and memory problems are a common occurrence in those who abuse alcohol. Learning and memory problems, e.g., blackouts and forgetting what happened while drunk.
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a range of physical and mental disabilities in a child whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.
- Dementia is caused by alcohol’s neurotoxic effects on the brain.
- Alcohol use disorder is a condition in which a person has difficulty controlling their alcohol intake and can lead to addiction.
- Lung Diseases like Emphysema and Bronchitis can be caused by inhaling alcohol fumes. Alcohol consumption can contribute to lung illness, particularly pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection caused by bacteria or viruses entering the lungs. The immune system activates in response to pneumonia, flooding the diseased sections of the lungs with fluid and immune cells. While this reaction is essential for combating the disease, it may be deadly and essentially cause someone to drown. Antibiotics often provide the best chance of surviving pneumonia.
- Kidney Diseases like Nephrosis are caused by the long-term damage of alcohol on kidneys. Nephrosis is a kidney disease that causes the kidneys to stop functioning correctly. This can lead to kidney failure and, ultimately, death.
- Death is the most severe health consequence of alcohol abuse.
How To Repair and Support the Immune System quitting alcohol
When someone stops drinking, the emphasis shifts to promoting the highest possible immune health. Here are a few easy methods to enhance your immune system’s functionality:
- Avoid smoking
- Follow a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables
- Get sufficient sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce stress when possible
- Follow good hygiene practices
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Take supplements as needed, such as vitamin C, zinc, and Echinacea
What are some of the benefits of having a strong immune system?
A strong and healthy immune system can mean the difference between getting sick and staying well. It can also mean fewer colds and the flu and the ability to bounce back more quickly if you do get sick. A strong immune system can also reduce your risk of developing certain cancers, and it can help control symptoms of many chronic diseases.
How to Drink Responsibly and Protect Your Immune System
If you choose to drink alcohol, make getting a healthy amount of sleep a priority. Alcohol abuse has been proven to hinder the sleep cycle, resulting in poor restorative rest for your immune system. If you must drink, take reasonable caution with what you choose to drink and from whom you receive it.
Many bartenders will add shots upon shots to a premade cocktail to maximize profits, adding more alcohol than you expected. If you are unsure of how much alcohol is in a mixed drink, ask the bartender to dilute it with water or soda before drinking it.
Pace yourself by drinking slowly and alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages. Also, try to avoid sugary syrups that are often used in mixed drinks—these can contribute hundreds of empty calories per drink and tax your immune system even further. Finally, make sure you are well hydrated before and after drinking alcohol by drinking plenty of water in between cocktails.
Can Alcohol Use Disorder Be Treated?
Yes, alcohol use disorder can be treated. There are various treatment options available, including inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, individual and group therapy, and medication-assisted treatment. Treatment is most successful when it is tailored to the specific needs of the individual.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating alcohol use disorder, and the best treatment plan will vary from person to person. Some people may find that 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous are helpful, while others may prefer cognitive behavioral therapy or medication-assisted treatment.
Anyone who is struggling with alcohol use disorder should seek professional help. Treatment can help you overcome your addiction and regain control of your life.
So, Does Alcohol Weaken Your Immune System?
The answer is yes, it can. However, alcohol consumption can also lead to a plethora of other negative health consequences. If you are concerned about the impact alcohol has on your immune system, be sure to speak with a healthcare professional. There are various treatment options available that can help you overcome your addiction and regain control of your life.
If you must drink, make sure to pace yourself and avoid sugary cocktails. Additionally, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water between alcoholic drinks. These simple steps can help protect your immune health from the damaging effects of alcohol abuse.
Drinking and Covid-19
COVID-19 is a viral infection. Although little research has been done on the relationship between alcohol consumption and COVID-19 risk, it appears that someone who drinks would be more likely to acquire it.
Pneumonia and inflammation are increased by alcohol abuse, particularly chronic use. Pneumonia and a cytokine storm are two of the most severe complications linked with COVID-19. These two issues are generally the difference between a minor course of COVID-19 and a potential fatality. Although this disease is relatively new, it does seem likely that alcohol use could lead to an increased likelihood of fatal COVID-19 complications.
The epidemic’s symptoms of boredom, tension, and isolation have prompted a rise in alcohol abuse and addiction. Many individuals who have never struggled with alcohol use are discovering that they are drinking more frequently due to the pandemic. This is not particularly surprising, as alcohol can be an effective coping mechanism for stress and anxiety.
When it comes to alcohol and COVID-19, it’s essential to be aware of the risks associated with both. Alcohol abuse can increase your risk of acquiring the virus, and it can also lead to severe complications if you do become infected. Alcohol use continues to evolve more prevalent in the United States, but few individuals know how dangerous this drug can be when it comes to COVID-19 risk. You must make sure your friends and family members know about this connection to make informed decisions about their behavior during the pandemic.
Drinking weakens the immune system and makes you more vulnerable to disease. Even one drinking episode can temporarily dampen the immune system for up to 24 hours.
Like red wine, in particular, wine is believed to be beneficial for the heart by some people. Others consider it might benefit the immune system. Several studies have suggested this notion, but their findings are inconclusive and contentious. While there may be certain advantages to consuming wine, most medical experts believe that the potential hazards outweigh them.
A weakened immune system is indicated by getting sick more frequently or requiring longer to recover from illnesses. Some people also experience increased allergies and skin problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor about your alcohol consumption. They can help you determine whether or not alcohol is harming your immune system. Although alcohol consumption may exacerbate autoimmune diseases, little evidence increases the risk of acquiring an autoimmune disease.