Only two studies have examined alcohol-induced changes in colonic (Mutlu, Gillevet et al. 2012) and fecal microbiomes (Chen, Yang et al. 2011), and both studies focused on individuals with AUD. Alcohol also impacts the function of immune cells of the central nervous system (CNS), particularly astrocytes and microglia. Astrocytes are major glial cells that regulate neuronal function and CNS homeostasis.

does alcohol hurt your immune system

However, it is important to realize that many aspects of alcohol consumption and its effects on immunity and host defense have not yet been fully elucidated. For example, the pattern of alcohol consumption (e.g., occasional binge drinking versus chronic heavy drinking) may affect the immune system in different ways that are yet to be explored. Alcohol has a broad range of effects on the structural, cellular, and humoral components of the immune system. Decreased IL-2 and CCL5 levels provide insight into possible mechanisms of impaired T cell recruitment and proliferation. Increases in IL-7 and IL-15, which are critical for T cell survival, may be compensatory mechanisms for reduced IL-2 levels.

Alcohol’s Effects on Lung Health and Immunity

Talk to your doctor if you can’t shake your worry or if it gets in the way of normal life. Still, some experts argue the immune risks don’t mean you have to quit lockdown happy hour completely. If you want to play Ina Garten and have a Cosmo, or Stanley Tucci and have a Negroni, that’s fine. Some research even suggests that a few libations — 1 drink a day for women and 2 a day for men — may even boost the immune system. Fatty liver is usually completely reversible in about four to six weeks if you completely abstain from drinking alcohol. Cirrhosis, on the other hand, is irreversible and likely to lead to liver failure despite abstinence from alcohol, according to Dr. Menon.

Chronic alcohol abuse leads to increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, most notably a 3 to 7-fold increase in susceptibility (Schmidt and De Lint 1972) and severity (Saitz, Ghali et al. 1997) of bacterial pneumonia compared with control subjects. Similarly, the incidence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection among alcoholics is increased (Sabot and Vendrame 1969, Hudolin 1975, Kline, Hedemark et al. 1995, Panic and Panic 2001). Alcohol use has also been shown to drive disease progression in chronic viral infections such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Baum, Rafie et al. 2010) and Hepatitis C (Bhattacharya and Shuhart 2003).

Focus On: Alcohol and the Immune System

These days, many of us ask this question with alcohol and COVID-19 in mind. Examples include certain cancers, as well as pneumonia and other respiratory problems. It can also lead to complications after surgery and poor recovery from injuries such as broken bones. Those who have any of the known risk factors for COVID-19, like heart disease or diabetes, should drink even less. One study found that people who got less than 7 hours of sleep were nearly three times more likely to develop a cold compared with those who got 8 or more hours of sleep. And the less sleep a person gets, the higher their risk for getting sick.

[inline_cta_one] The risk to the immune system is not necessarily from drugs or alcohol, but from the toll they take on the body. Many substances cause dehydration, mental or physical fatigue, and lack of food or sleep, which can result in a weakened immune system. When the immune system is down, it is at heightened risk for invasion of disease and infection. Understanding how alcohol affects the mind, body, and overall health can help you make the most informed decisions about your consumption habits. If you’re concerned with your alcohol consumption and attitude toward drinking, talk to a healthcare provider as a first step. If you are drinking heavily or are worried you may be dependent on alcohol, reach out to a healthcare provider before you start reducing your alcohol consumption to determine the safest way to make changes.

Alcohol’s Effects on the Immune System

This is when the body produces an army of antibodies specific to the incoming threat. This generates “immune memory,” which ensures that the next time the body faces the same invader, the immune system is better equipped to take it down. Every person has their own reasons for drinking or wanting to reduce their alcohol consumption. Depending on how much you have been drinking, your body may experience physical and psychological changes as you reduce your intake, known as withdrawal.

This can lead to conditions like stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Virtually all of these components are affected by alcohol; however, the discussion in the following sections will does alcohol suppress immune system focus on the first and fourth of these elements. If you’d like to reduce or quit drinking, there are innovative new options for support. Online programs like Ria Health offer customized care from home, without disrupting your daily life.