Alcohol & The Immune System: Does Alcohol Weaken the Immune System?

However, any alcohol use starts to raise your risk of an alcohol-related disease. Alcohol can affect the immune system in many ways, some of which are still the topic of research. While it has been known for some time that alcohol use can make people more prone to infections, recent research has helped medical professionals better understand how this happens. Fully avoiding the negative health consequences of alcohol can be achieved by simply not drinking anymore. This can be difficult as alcohol has such heavy presence in social settings and as a coping mechanism to deal with stressful situations.

does alcohol weaken your immune system

While all of these nutrients are important for optimal health, Vitamin C is particularly important for a healthy immune system. Mayo Clinic Health System Fountain Centers is a chemical dependency treatment program that helps patients safely address substance-use problems and the does alcohol weaken your immune system life circumstances surrounding them. That’s why hard drinking can lead to diarrhea, which can turn into a long-term problem. It also makes heartburn more likely because it relaxes the muscle that keeps acid out of your esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach.

Immune System Recovery After Drinking

Similarly, wine intake, especially red wine, has been identified as having a protective effect against the common coldReference Takkouche, Regueira-Mendez, Garcia-Closas, Figueiras, Gestal-Otero and Hernan29. Heavy drinking and chronic alcohol use can significantly impact the immune system and decrease immune function. Prolonged alcohol consumption can weaken the body’s natural defense against diseases, putting heavy drinkers at risk of getting sick and perhaps staying sick. Alcohol in large amounts can be so harmful to the immune system that a person who indulges in excessive drinking could be just as much at risk of getting sick as someone who drinks regularly. Consuming large amounts of alcohol on only one occasion can affect the body’s ability to defend itself against infections. A person can have impaired immune health for up to 24 hours after having too much to drink.

This can lead to other unpleasant effects and cause discomfort or medical problems. But when you’ve ingested too much alcohol for your liver to process in a timely manner, the toxic substance begins to take its toll on your body, starting with your liver. “The oxidative metabolism of alcohol generates molecules that inhibit fat oxidation in the liver and, subsequently, can lead to a condition known as fatty liver,” says Dr. Menon. Your liver detoxifies and removes alcohol from the blood through a process known as oxidation. Once the liver finishes the process, alcohol becomes water and carbon dioxide.

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System

1 Individual factors in adults that can moderate the effect of alcohol consumption on immunity. Some of the ways alcohol affects our health are well known, but others may surprise you. Here are six less-known effects that alcohol has on your body, as well as how your liver breaks it down. “When you’re feeling run down or like you might get sick, you want to be well hydrated so that all the cells in your body have enough fluid in them and can work really well,” Favini says. “You don’t want to be dehydrated when you’re fighting off an infection.”

Can drinking too much can weaken your immune system making your body a much easier target for disease?

Immune System:

Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease. Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.

Of course, it is well known that drinking can lead to health issues, including organ failure. According to the World Health Organization, alcohol brings both short-term and long-term effects on every part of the body, especially the immune system. Overall, drinking weakens the immune system, which lowers its ability to fight various diseases. Also, heavy consumption raises the likelihood of developing ARDS, a severe complication of COVID-19. These results could support a role, via an anti-inflammatory mechanism, for moderate alcohol intake in cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention.

The Importance of a Strong Immune System

Alcohol’s effect on the immune system can also affect cancer recovery. Having a fully functioning immune system is crucial to successful chemotherapy treatment, so a person’s body may not handle or react to conventional chemotherapy as well if they drink alcohol. There are several negative health problems that could arise due to frequent drinking. Since there is a link between alcohol and the immune system, things only escalate as heavy drinking continues. When an individual drinks, his or her body’s main focus is on processing the alcohol.

does alcohol weaken your immune system

Here, alcohol can damage the epithelial cells, T-cells, and neutrophils in the GI tract, all of which can alter the gut barrier function and allow intestinal microorganisms to leak into circulation. Consumption of alcohol will not destroy the virus in inhaled air or in the body. Drinking alcohol will not disinfect your mouth or throat and will not give you any kind of protection against COVID (WHO, 2020). In fact, as stated above, alcohol increases risks for the transmission of the virus as well the risk for illness from the virus. Drinking alcohol also leads to increased risks to academic and athletic performance, sleep, and long-term health. Along with the hormone changes that alcohol triggers, that can keep your body from building new bone.


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