How Alcohol Can Affect Your Immune System

However, this well-orchestrated defence mechanism against pathogens can be impaired by exogenous agents that affect any of these components of the immune system. Impaired immunity in patients with chronic alcohol use has long been described in the medical literature (Kanagasundram and Leevy, 1981; Palmer, 1989; Baker and Jerrels, 1993; Cook, 1995; MacGregor and Louria, 1997). While malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, and advanced liver cirrhosis can contribute to some of the immune abnormalities in chronic alcoholics, alcohol itself is a potent modulator of the immune system. Increasing evidence from human and animal studies in vivo as well as from experiments in vitro suggests that alcohol use can indeed modulate the immune system at various levels. In addition to the immunomodulatory effects of chronic alcohol use, recent evidence also points out the immunoregulatory potential of acute, moderate alcohol consumption.

There’s a high chance that your self-regulating sibling makes a better voice of reason than your drinking partner when regulating your intake. Many who drink alcohol to excess rely on others’ help and support and cannot self-isolate. As vulnerable individuals, they regularly contact carers, friends and family, and other support networks. Regardless of their vaccination status, these individuals come into regular contact with other vulnerable adults, so the chances of spreading the illness are high. This lack of inhibition can cause you to do things you wouldn’t do most of the time, thus putting your immune system at higher risk. In that case, you might develop severe liver problems and liver failure.

Specific Health Problems Linked to Low Immunity from Alcohol Consumption

We want to give recovering addicts the tools to return to the outside world completely substance-free and successful. It will help you navigate the complicated process of alcohol withdrawal, but it doesn’t address patterns of thought and behavior that contribute to drug abuse. Various treatment approaches and settings can help provide the ongoing support necessary to maintain long-term sobriety after you complete detox.

“Anything above that, regardless of time period, is exposing your body to more alcohol than is ideal,” says Favini. Here’s what you need to know about how alcohol affects your immune system. Those who have any of the known risk factors for COVID-19, like heart disease or diabetes, should drink even less. A lack of sleep can also affect how long it takes for a person to recover if they do get sick, according to the Mayo Clinic. Alcohol has been flying off the shelves as people try to combat boredom during lockdown, with some reports estimating that alcoholic beverage sales surged by 55 percent toward the end of March. The researchers then monitored the animals’ daily ethanol consumption for 14 months.

Respiratory Complications

However, alcohol produces both short term and long term effects on the immune system that may sometimes lead to permanent health defects. When it comes to immunity, drinking any alcohol puts you at higher risk of getting sick. Drinking on even one occasion can have negative effects on your immunity – for example, by interfering with healthy sleep, which is known to protect against infection. Alcohol has also been found to damage the white blood cells themselves. When you drink alcohol, it disturbs your body’s ability to handle stress. This can cause your immune system to be less effective at fighting infections.

Our bodies are constantly exposed to a barrage of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Some of these are necessary for our well-being, such as the bacteria that live in the intestine and help with digestion. The immune system is the body’s defense against infectious diseases, helping to distinguish, for example, between “bad” and “good” bacteria and eradicating harmful organisms (pathogens) from the body. The largest contributor to alcohol-induced suppression is binge drinking. Due to the higher amounts of alcohol involved in binge drinking, a long night out can lead to a substantially suppressed immune system for the next 24 hours. For men, having more than four drinks per day is considered heavy drinking while the limit for women is three drinks.

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Because a larger dose of alcohol is used, the effects of a single episode of drinking will be most evident when someone binge drinks. A single episode of binge drinking can greatly reduce immune system function for up to 24 hours. Healthy habits, such as being active, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep, can keep your immune system strong.

  • One recent study reported that binge drinking increased from 22 percent in February to 27 percent in April.
  • These effects extend to the immune system, which is known to be significantly suppressed or disrupted after excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Therefore, further studies focused on drinking pattern are necessary to elucidate the effect of moderate alcohol consumption on the immune response.

Without this defense system, a person is at a heightened risk of developing more life-threatening diseases, such as cancer. Some alcoholic beverages contain components that combat ethanol’s damaging effects. The ethanol in alcohol damages immune cells because it generates free radicals.


Living in a culture where alcohol consumption is very much accepted and even encouraged tends to water down how devastating it can be to your physical, mental, social, and does alcohol weaken your immune system financial health. When it comes to alcohol abuse, a cold can be the least of your worries. Additionally, alcohol can impair your liver’s ability to process B vitamins.

Does quitting alcohol affect immune system?

Stopping alcohol use can significantly improve your health, boost your immune system and protect your body from serious infections and viruses.

Fatty liver, early stage alcoholic liver disease, develops in about 90% of people who drink more than one and a half to two ounces of alcohol per day. So, if you drink that much or more on most days of the week, you probably have fatty liver. Continued alcohol use leads to liver fibrosis and, finally, cirrhosis. The pandemic’s effects of boredom, stress and isolation have also led to an increase in alcohol use and alcohol addiction. Many people who have never struggled with alcohol use before are finding themselves drinking more and more at a time when promoting optimal immune health is incredibly important.

That may lead to a pharmaceutical alternative that could provide the same benefits as the moderate alcohol consumption. In many cases, traumatic experiences can result in mental health disorders and substance abuse. The best approach for the treatment of dual diagnosis is an integrated system. In this strategy, both the substance abuse problem and the mental disorder are treated simultaneously. Regardless of which diagnosis (mental health or substance abuse problem) came first, long-term recovery will depend largely on the treatment for both disorders done by the same team or provider.

Others take time to recognize and respond to infectious microorganisms. Macrophages are leukocytes that circulate throughout the blood and tissues, while neutrophils are leukocytes that circulate in the blood, patrolling for new foreign antigens. It wasn’t long before smartphone apps began popping up that let homebound customers order their favorite beverages from their local haunts, too. Indeed, online sales increased 262 percent from March 2019 to March 2020, according to Nielsen’s market data. If you or a loved need to safely detox from drugs or alcohol, contact Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center Today. If you are addicted to alcohol and think you may have contracted a virus, stay away from others in public until you know for sure.