How Does Alcohol Affect Your Immune System?

When it comes to does alcohol weaken your immune system and flu viruses, most of the research concerning alcohol’s effect on immunity is limited. There is, however, much in the way of anecdotal evidence suggesting that binge drinking lowers the immune system significantly enough to create a window of heightened virus vulnerability. The pair says alcohol suppresses your immune system and can also make a virus last longer. In fact, they say having just one drink could make an illness last a few extra days. This is likely because alcohol disrupts our gastrointestinal tract, which plays a vital role in keeping our immune systems strong. Research shows alcohol can cause gut bacteria leakage, which leads to inflammation, forcing our immune system’s defenses down. Not to mention, booze is dehydrating, and staying hydrated is important for staying healthy.

  • Usually, HIV and Hepatitis C are contracted through unprotected sex or contaminated needles.
  • In other words, binge drinking suppresses immunity at a high level.
  • The doctors also encourage loading up on vitamin C- and zinc-rich foods and avoiding empty calories, which can actually make your illness worse.
  • To this end, heavy drinkers have been shown to exhibit an increase in both IgA and IgM levels when compared to both moderate and light male drinkers.
  • Yet, many are surprised that drinking alcohol can also make you more susceptible to viruses such as COVID-19.

Um, it’s even sometimes the term sober curious has also been, um, reference point for a lot of youth today who were just curious about what is the lifestyle that might be less, um, involved in or around drinking. So you can, it’s easy to search those terms and find out more information. But in essence, um, from 2018, our national Institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism research and data shows that about 70% of adult population were drinking at least something in the past year.

Alcohol and Immune System Functions

If you are someone who drinks heavily or regularly binge drinks, getting sick may offer you an opportunity to reflect on your alcohol consumption. You may want to ask yourself if it is worth it to keep drinking this much if it will leave you bedridden for days. Still, quitting alcohol is challenging for many people, especially if they find they are physically dependent on it. In that case, you may want to reach out to a treatment center or mental health professional for support. Some older research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the frequency of colds.

  • While sleep often tends to be a low priority in our busy lives, it has a huge impact on our health and ability to fight viruses and disease.
  • Consuming alcohol decreases the activity level of T cells, also known as “killer” cells.
  • Most people are aware that excessive drinking can damage your liver and cardiovascular system.
  • And actually it grows into more of a health risk than maybe most people would be aware of.
  • The immune system is comprised of a variety of different cell types and proteins designed to recognize and/or react against foreign material .
  • It will prevent the spread of pathogenic bacteria and other harmful organisms from one body to another.
  • When you’re suffering from pneumonia, your body’s response is to send fluids with immune cells to the area of infection in order to isolate and remove it.

People with HIV/AIDS become seriously ill with infections that most people can fight off. These infections are called “opportunistic infections” because they take advantage of weak immune systems.

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Whether or not moderate alcohol consumption has health benefits is not conclusive. Steatosis—Steatosis occurs in more than 90% of those who consume 4 to 5 standard drinks per day over decades.

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You may be less aware that alcohol also damages your immune system, increasing your risk of potentially fatal illnesses such as pneumonia. There are a number of ways alcohol impairs your immune system, making you more likely to get sick. Another concerning link has been found between alcohol use and respiratory illness. People with alcohol use disorder are more likely to develop illnesses in their lungs such as pneumonia, respiratory infections, and tuberculosis. Again, this is happening because of alcohol’s effect on the specific cells responsible for the body’s immune response.

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Two of the most serious diseases that can strike an individual are HIV and hepatitis C. Indeed, white blood cells are important parts of a person’s immune system. They are created in an individual’s bone marrow and move throughout the bloodstream in search of invaders that cause illness. Indeed, the immune system requires time to establish a response to a foreign invader. Therefore, when a person gets sick, the initial symptoms are bothersome and noticeable.


It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers. While these tips can promote immune system health, the best tip for healing the immune system is to stop drinking alcohol as soon as possible. If you are struggling to stop using alcohol, The Recovery Village is here to help.Contactone of our caring team members today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for you. Each of these events is mediated by the activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB), which can be inhibited by alcohol consumption and thus prevent the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. In vivo studies have confirmed that binge drinking with a blood alcohol concentration of approximately 0.4% can reduce the production of various inflammatory cytokines including interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-10, and IL-12. The gastrointestinal system is typically the first point of contact for alcohol as it passes through the body and is where alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.

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