How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Immune System?

Our safe and supportive environment in California makes it easier to complete treatment. Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused many people to feel depressed and anxious. As a result, individuals turn to alcohol in order to feel better. Drinking at this time may actually lower immunity and make a person more susceptible to the disease.

Does alcohol weaken your immune system?

Heavy drinking weakens your immune system. This makes it easier to get ill and harder to recover from illness. Alcohol reduces the number of bacteria your immune system needs. It also reduces the number of antibodies available to fight off infection.

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.

Effects on White Blood Cells

Also, excess alcohol weakens the stomach’s lining, which allows dangerous microorganisms to enter other parts of the body. Drinking alcohol is a major factor in the disruption of the digestive system. As a result, a person experiences gastrointestinal challenges that lower immunity. Amount of alcohol or beverage considered as a moderate consumption of alcohol. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

  • Think about what you stand to lose by not taking the steps needed to decrease your chances of contracting COVID-19 and other illnesses related to excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Um, the lung is also adversely affected, uh, looking at people with severe drinking, heavier drinking are more likely to develop pneumonia, TB, respiratory virus, RSV infection and acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS.
  • Most of the discussion on the topic of immunodeficiency and alcohol centers around long-term, chronic alcohol consumption.
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  • Depending on your personality, understand the value that your friends and family bring to the experience.

For men, having more than four drinks per day is considered heavy drinking while the limit for women is three drinks. That being said, even one drink can havenegative health impacts. It’s often thought that damage from alcohol abuse only occurs once you’ve done so consistently for months or years. The jarring truth is that justone night of drinkingcan cause your immune system to be suppressed for up to 24 hours. The nature of drinking alcohol to excess also makes it more probable that many will drink away from home.

How Do Drugs and Alcohol Affect the Immune System?

Long-term impacts to the immune system happen alongside long-term alcohol abuse. In cases where an individual has been drinking heavily over a long period of time, they will find that they are sick more often than their peers even if they are otherwise in better shape. Alcohol abuse can have immense impacts on your immune system even if you haven’t been drinking for years on end. A suppressed immune system makes your body more susceptible to infection from viruses and bacteria.

does alcohol lower immunity

But, um, we definitely do recommend it and encourage it for sure. So, um, you know, as we’re wrapping up, dr ESIC and dr Veech, um, this has been just fantastic. And, um, I appreciate y’all taking the time to chat with us today, uh, with the, with this best health episode. Um, and, uh, I hope you all come back and join us at some point in the future as well.


Understanding the specifics of immune alterations caused by chronic alcohol use will be necessary for designing more specific therapeutic approaches to ameliorate immunosuppression in chronic alcoholics. Our current understanding of the effect of acute or chronic does alcohol weaken your immune system alcohol use on the production and action of these important cytokines is limited. However, in the absence of appropriate IFN-γ stimulation, as can be predicted in chronic alcoholics with decreased IFN-γ levels, a preferential Th2 induction may occur.

Is it bad to drink alcohol when you are sick?

Prolongs sickness

Alcohol's effect on your immune system is one reason to avoid drinking while sick. Drinking alcohol can weaken your body's ability to fight off infection. A weakened immune system can make your body more susceptible to getting sick and slow down recovery.

Those who have any of the known risk factors for COVID-19, like heart disease or diabetes, should drink even less. The World Health Organization and U.S. surgeon general have warned people to avoid drinking too much alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, evidence also shows that even smaller amounts of alcohol can affect the immune system. According to the Cleveland Clinic, once you take a sip of alcohol, your body prioritizes breaking down alcohol over several other bodily functions. The body doesn’t have a way to store alcohol like it does with carbohydrates and fats, so it has to immediately send it to the liver, where it’s metabolized. “Alcohol intake can kill normal healthy gut bacteria, which help to promote health and reduce risk of infection,” Mroszczyk-McDonald said.

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