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Alcohol and the Immune System: Why You May Want to Stay Dry This Winter

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As we bid farewell to 2020 a while ago, a year that seemed to go on forever, many of us are entering the colder months of 2021 with some acquired bad habits and new unwanted mental health issues. People who don’t usually drink alcohol started and people who were already into moderate drinking and had only a few drinks per day began heavy drinking. The threat of Covid19 is still present; it’s more important now than ever that your immune system is doing its job. 

Pacific Sands Recovery Center has built up a reputation of being a treatment center that treats you like you’re a member of the family. We’ve kept ourselves available 24/7 through the pandemic because we know that when the world is in a state of chaos, that’s when people need help the most. We want to share here some knowledge that will help you stay sober this winter and beyond. 

First, let’s talk about how we got here…

2020 started off the same as any other year, but we had no idea what was lurking around the corner. A few short months passed, and then we were all forced to face something very challenging together, uncertainty. The ongoing Covid19 pandemic has shaken most societies and disrupted the way we went about our daily lives. For most of us, Covid19 was only one of many struggles that happened last year.


We’re all in this together 


A feeling most of us felt at some point or another in 2020 was anxiety. Anxiety brought about by uncertainty, new routines, staying at home, or continuing to work and risking exposure to a newly discovered virus. People found various ways to cope with this anxiety. Some turned to exercise, others to reading, others to the Tiger King, and many others, unfortunately, turned to the bottle. A study from NYU showed that since the pandemic began, people with depression are 64% more likely to increase their alcohol intake, while people with anxiety are 41% more likely to do so.”   

We took walks, spent time in nature, arranged socially-distanced (ugh) hangouts with family and friends. All of these things helped to keep our sanity while also helped to strengthen our immune systems. Moderate alcohol consumption helped keep some of us sane, but how many of us stopped to think if it was putting us at higher risk?

Alcohol’s Effect on the Immune System

We’ve all heard some talk about the immune system. The year of the coronavirus was causing “the body’s ability to fight off a virus” to be thrust into the spotlight. News anchors shared tips and stories on “covid’s effect on the immune system,” or you might have run across an article or 20 telling you what to eat to strengthen it. 


However, winding down with a glass of wine after “yet another long day” (or starting your day with a drink in anticipation of “yet another long day”) has the adverse effect of disrupting our immune system’s ability to fight off disease and keep us healthy. Many of us even started consuming moderate amounts of alcohol per day to escape the coronavirus’s horror and uncertainty. 


Excessive alcohol consumption gave way to a wide range of health risks; increased blood pressure, heart disease, alcoholic liver disease, pulmonary diseases, risk of cancers etc. The relationship between alcohol and cardiovascular disease is notoriously well-known. Another effect of long-term alcohol drinking is a deficient immune response, due to the interruption of normal immune system function. A single episode of binge drinking not only puts you at a greater risk of infection and organ damage, but it also brings with it mental health disorders.

There are a few main ways that alcohol interacts with our immune system. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol can alter the “number, survival and function of most immune cells.” If the body is to try and fight off a virus, it will do so in a weakened immune state. 

“Ah! my poor liver!” 


The link between alcohol consumption and our liver is well-known socially. However, did you know that the liver plays a vital role in aiding our immune function? It’s true! The liver is responsible for producing several antibacterial proteins. If our liver is affected negatively by excessive drinking, then its ability to release these proteins is hindered, leaving us vulnerable to viral infections. It is no wonder then that bacterial infection is one of the most common illnesses related to an alcohol use disAlcohol-and-immune-systemorder.

Additionally, alcoholic beverages harm the liver by setting the stage for leakage of toxins from the gut into the bloodstream (since the liver is responsible for detoxifying substances after passing through the gut). This leakage can become chronic inflammation and can also develop into more severe liver disease forms.

Several studies have also shown gender differences in the effects of heavy alcohol drinking on inflammatory processes reporting that females exhibit greater sensitivity to alcohol than males.

More than a “gut instinct”

The harmful impact of chronic alcohol drinking begins when the drink reaches your stomach. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the body’s first parts under alcohol’s direct influence.  Heavy alcohol consumption causes the GI tract to no longer distinguish between typical organisms and those that cause disease. Killing white blood cells and diminishing our body’s antiviral immunity leads to adverse health outcomes.

Chronic consumption of alcohol severely affects normal gut function and overall human health; it is essential to monitor the amount of alcohol you consume, particularly pregnant women. Pregnancy already puts women at a greater risk of infectious diseases; alcohol will compromise their immune system further. Being aware of your drinking patterns can help to make sure an occasional glass of wine with dinner does not become habitual or turn into binge drinking.

The bottom Line

The harmful effects of alcohol on the immune system health are apparent and can show up in a matter of a few drinks. They also do not simply go away when we feel clear-headed again – and they do not require us to feel buzzed to cause damage.

Recent data from various sources has shown that alcohol sales are booming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are on a path to recovery, stay there. Your body will be grateful. If you’re ready to take the next step towards recovery, let us help you. Our 2:1 staff to client ratio creates an environment where you will receive a level of support and attention that would be impossible at the more prominent treatment centers. Contact us today to learn more. 

With all that’s going on in the world, what other steps are you taking to keep your immune system was in peak condition?

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