No matter who you are or where you are from, if you like to take a drink it’s vital to ask yourself just how does alcohol affect immune system, and how can the effects be remedied? Being British this piece is coming from a very personal perspective. As my readers may well know, the British along with the Germans’and a number of other European countries are seen as heavy drinkers throughout the world, so it’s a question close to my heart.
The subject has come under more scrutiny recently due to the recent lock-down that has seen an increase in sales of alcohol according to market research firm Nielsen, as people try to find ways to entertain themselves through isolation and insecurity of lost income and maintenance of good health. The thing is, as we are hold-up in our (hopefully) comfortable places of detention we are drinking much more, which can and will effect our immune system at a time when we need it the most.
The Effects Of Alcohol On The Body
We all know that drinking heavily isn’t good for us but it doesn’t seem to stop us doing it, does it? If I was to draw an analogy between drinking and over eating it might start to look crazy. Imagine a morbidly obese person unable to move from the bed and totally reliant of family and friends to feed them. Then imaging this person fully understands that every time they take a mouthful of that fatty burger or pizza, they are closer to death by heart failure or other weight related complications. It’s too difficult to imagine is it?
What if I told you that constant and heavy drinking is very similar to this , in terms of the end results. That is, we know it is killing us but we are enjoying it. Essentially, it’s a suicide in slow motion. Dramatic? Maybe, but read on….
The idea of taking a drink or two to relax is practiced all over the world and it’s one of the few potentially addictive drugs that are legal and readily available. A drink can relax us, make us more sociable, allow us to connect with others as our inhibitions fade. The other side of the same coin is the poor behavior and poor choices we often make while under the influence. These are the two basic levels of understanding when it comes to excessive alcohol intake.
Unfortunately it’s not just a headache and a couple of days feeling embarrassed about our behavior that we need to think about. There are more damaging effects we need to talk about, from dehydration, vitamin and nutrient depletion, poor sleep, inflammation and the disturbance in the balance of our gut bacteria.
A Closer Look
A couple of drinks will be okay, but if you over do it, and over do it on a regular basis, your body will not thank you for it. The thing is, when you take a drink your body knows it can’t store alcohol so it needs to dispose of it ASAP, and it does that at the cost of all other functions. With alcohol disposal a priority the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats take a back seat. As the liver flushes the alcohol from our body it is also flushing water and nutrients, leaving us dehydrated and lacking nutrients. Not good news.
The alcohol bloat is something all heavy drinkers will recognize. It’s the feeling of blessedness that you can feel from the the top of your head to your toes. You can feel your eyes are puffed up and your head is sore. This is the inflammation effect. This is a protective response to threats.
In response to the presences of excess alcohol the body releases endotoxins that triggers inflammation, and if the situation persists it will lead to damage to your tissues in the form of chronic inflammation.
Alcohol also causes the growth of unfriendly bacteria that offsets the delicate balance in the gut. This will upset the digestive system and can contribute to the production of cell killing toxins called cytolysin. Other bacteria called lipopolysaccharide (LPS) are also produced that penetrate the gut wall to spread throughout the body and to other organs. As it is the liver that takes control of washing poison from the body, it is now on over time and can eventually develop scarring know as cirrhosis
How Does Alcohol Affect Immune Systems
As we all know when our body is under attack from a pathogen or other foreign body from bacteria, antigen or virus, our immune system jumps into action to fight it off. However, alcohol makes things more difficult for the immune system as the body works over time to rid the body of poison. So, alcohol and the immune system don’t really mix because it’s a massive distraction form its everyday role of ‘Body Guard’.
Alcohol is also effecting the brain which is a problem because it’s the brain that controls the activation of the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal (HPA) axis in response to a stress events. The problem is that prolonged use of alcohol is that the adrenal (HPA) axis which works together with the immune system, sees alcohol as a stress event and subsequently raises the stress hormone level. Have you ever had heart palpitations after drink? This is the release of stress hormone.
Not only is this uncomfortable and unhealthy, but the prolonged condition will mean the adrenal (HPA) axis will become less efficient and eventually work at reduced capacity making it more difficult to respond and fight inflammation.
The bottom line is alcohol abuse will damage your immune system and the microscopic cilia in the top of the lungs. These defend against harmful bacteria and viruses getting into the lungs. Not only that, but alcohol can also damage the last line of defense which is the mucous membrane in the lungs that stops the pathogens from entering the body making us susceptible to pneumonia and viruses.
The Take Away
I am sure like myself you have been told ‘you don’t need to drink to have a good time’. While this is certainly true it’s also true that drinking is a great way to bond socially, sexually, and the fastest way to relax and unwind. It’s also quite nice feeling to be a little drunk.
The other side of the issue is not so good. Without moderation drinking can affect the whole body causing dehydration, inflammation, and cause problems with the immune system and subsequently organs.
In the current situation with Covid-19, lock-downs and social distancing we are drinking more but are subsequently putting ourselves in danger by reducing the effectiveness of our immune system. We have to realize that alcohol is not the answer to our problems on it’s own.
New and more moderate drinking habits need to be considered as well as different ways to reach out, relax, and connect with others. These can be stress reduction techniques such as Yoga, Hypnosis, Natural remedies, Diet, and Exercise.
So, let’s be more mindful of our needs and more careful about how we treat ourselves because right now our immune system is the most important thing to look after.
If this was helpful or interesting please share with others who may benefit from this post. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to drop me a line.
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