Alcohol abuse, especially heavy drinking, has a negative effect on immunity and impairs immune function. When most people think about drinking alcohol, they probably don’t think about the body’s immune system, but alcohol can weaken the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria, increasing the risk of colds, bacterial infections, and serious illnesses like cancer and liver failure.
Understanding how alcohol affects the body can help you live a longer, healthier life, so it’s crucial to be aware of the damaging effects it can have on the immune system. Learn more about alcohol, inflammation, and immune reactions by reading on.
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Effects Of Alcohol On The Immune System
Alcohol has a variety of physiological effects. Those who frequently drink or who consume a lot of alcohol may experience hangover symptoms like nausea, headache, and dehydration. Alcohol, however, can also compromise the immune system, result in life-threatening illnesses, and increase a person’s susceptibility to infections and viruses. Alcohol immunosuppression can make someone more susceptible to serious illnesses like cancer or septicemia as well as simple colds.
Alcohol makes red blood cells harmfully attach to one another and causes inflammation throughout the body.
Alcohol’s Immediate Effects On The Immune System
You may experience negative health effects shortly after drinking because alcohol begins to affect your body as soon as you start drinking it. Following are some immediate negative effects of alcohol on the immune system:
1. More Disease Vulnerability
Your body starts prioritizing alcohol digestion as soon as you take a sip. This indicates that the body’s metabolism changes to concentrate on breaking down alcohol while using energy away from other vital processes like disease prevention.
Your body’s capacity to fight off viruses and infections is decreased while it is metabolizing alcohol, increasing your risk of getting a cold or another more serious illness.
Additionally, alcohol makes it harder to sleep soundly, which lowers immunity to illness and makes it harder to recover from it. The body can fight off viruses and infections better when it gets enough sleep, and the less sleep you get, the less your immune system can defend your body.
2. Digestive Issues
Alcohol causes gut inflammation and kills beneficial bacteria in the gut. As alcohol moves through the body, it first enters the gastrointestinal system, where it absorbs into the bloodstream.
It modifies the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract, affecting its integrity and structure.
Microorganisms found in the intestine help to keep the immune system strong, lower the risk of infection, and support healthy digestion. Drinking alcohol destroys this bacteria, making it harder for the body to get rid of pathogens. Viral and bacterial infections can worsen and turn into more serious problems in the absence of healthy gut bacteria. Additionally harming T cells, neutrophils, and epithelial cells, alcohol also impairs the function of the gut barrier.
Damage to the gut barrier and to the intestines’ epithelial cells can impair the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and increase susceptibility to food poisoning. When the gut barrier is compromised, harmful bacteria may enter the bloodstream and cause additional problems.
Alcohol’s Long-Term Effects On The Immune System
Heavy drinking can lead to health issues that, if untreated, can develop into serious conditions. Additionally, if alcohol consumption is continued while having negative effects on the body, those effects may become worse. The following long-term effects can result from heavy or frequent alcohol consumption:
1. Liver Illness
Because the liver filters alcohol, alcohol is a common cause of liver disease. A portion of the liver’s cells die after consuming alcohol, and new ones grow in their place. Heavy drinking over time can weaken a liver’s capacity to repair itself and cause alcoholic liver disease (ALD). The typical progression of this alcoholic liver disease is that it begins as fatty liver disease, then progresses to alcoholic hepatitis, and finally, to alcoholic liver cirrhosis.
2. Liver Disease
The damage is irreversible and causes complications when ALD reaches its most advanced stage, also referred to as alcoholic liver cirrhosis. Because scar tissues accumulate and replace the liver’s regenerative cells, preventing the organ from healing, the damage is irreversible.
3. Viruses Such as Hepatitis B and C
Liver inflammation is a symptom of hepatitis. Hepatitis is frequently brought on by a virus, but it can also be brought on by some prescription drugs, a few medical conditions, excessive alcohol consumption, and transient infections. Alcohol can impair the immune system, making the body more susceptible to illnesses and viruses like hepatitis B and C.
Hepatitis and alcohol use disorders frequently hasten the progression of liver disease, and alcohol consumption can allow the hepatitis virus to persist as a chronic condition.
A serious bloodstream infection is septicemia. It is brought on by a bacterial infection that starts elsewhere in the body and spreads to the bloodstream, such as in the gut, lungs, skin, bladder, or kidneys.
Alcohol can weaken the barrier lining the digestive tract, allowing bacteria and toxins to more easily enter the bloodstream and possibly cause sepsis and septicemia.
5. UTIs of the Urinary Tract
An infection of the kidneys, bladder, or urethra is referred to as a urinary tract infection. Although alcohol doesn’t directly cause UTIs, it can raise a person’s risk of getting one and make the signs of an existing UTI worse. Because alcohol makes it harder for the body’s immune system to function, it also makes it harder for it to fight UTIs because it makes it easier for bacteria to spread throughout the body.