Does Alcohol Weaken the Immune System? Yes, If You Drink Too Much

does alcohol compromise your immune system

The gut-derived bacterial components together with LPS activate the immune cells localized in the systemic circulation or in target organs such as liver and brain. This causes the increase in pro-inflammatory components that can lead to alcohol liver disease or increased states of neuroinflammation. They produce immune molecules called antibodies or immunoglobulins that they can either display on their surface or secrete. The antibodies can recognize and interact with antigens, and each B-cell produces antibodies that recognize only one specific antigen.

  1. The dendritic cell (DC), which plays a critical role in T cell activation and initiation of adaptive immune responses, is another innate immune cell affected by ethanol.
  2. The T cells bind to the phagocyte-bound antigens through the help of docking molecules, called T-cell receptors.
  3. The best treatment plan will vary depending on what, exactly, is compromising a person’s immune system, Dr. Weisenberg says.
  4. IL-2 is one of the most important T-cell–produced cytokines; it promotes the proliferation and survival of certain T-cell subpopulations.

The Immune System through the Lens of Alcohol Intake and Gut Microbiota

does alcohol compromise your immune system

“With COVID-19, alcohol is likely to interfere with an individual’s ability to clear SARS-CoV-2 and cause people to suffer worse outcomes, including ARDS, which commonly results in death,” Edelman said. If you’re unfamiliar, inflammation is what naturally occurs when your immune system goes into action. The redness and swelling that you see is the result of your body sending more blood to provide nutrients to the site of injury. 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.

Effects of Alcohol on Tumor Growth, Metastasis, Immune Response, and Host Survival

does alcohol compromise your immune system

These cells circulate in the blood or reside in special lymphoid tissues (e.g., the spleen, lymph nodes, and tonsils), where they can encounter antigens and initiate an immune response. Someone who drinks a large number of alcoholic beverages on one occasion or drinks frequently may experience hangover symptoms such as nausea, headache, and dehydration. However, alcohol can also weaken the immune system, cause serious health conditions and make the body more vulnerable to infections and viruses. Alcohol immunosuppression can cause someone to catch a simple cold easier than other people or develop a more serious condition such as cancer or septicemia. B cells, responsible for producing antibodies, also exhibit functional impairment in the presence of alcohol.

How Much Alcohol Is a Problem For Your Immunity?

Often, investigators stimulate with LPS after pre-exposure to ethanol to mimic inflammation observed in trauma patients with high blood alcohol levels and explore the alterations in immunity that lead to frequent subsequent infections among this group. Alcohol abuse suppresses multiple arms of the immune response, leading to an increased risk of infections. The course and resolution of both bacterial and viral infections is severely impaired in alcohol-abusing patients, resulting in greater patient ecstasy addiction and abuse morbidity and mortality. Multiple mechanisms have been identified underlying the immunosuppressive effects of alcohol. Analyses of alcohol’s diverse effects on various components of the immune system provide insight into the factors that lead to a greater risk of infection in the alcohol-abusing population. Some of these mechanisms are directly related to the pathology found in people with infections such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and pneumonia who continue to use and abuse alcohol.

How alcohol impacts the gut

A study conducted in 2015 showed that blocking TLR4 function most of the neuroinflammatory effects produced by ethanol were diminished [104]. In another study, adolescent mice that consumed ethanol intermittently (3 g/kg) for two weeks, showed that this consumption pattern leads to an activation of TLR4 signaling pathways, an up-regulation of cytokines and proinflammatory mediators, in addition to synaptic and myelin alterations. TLR4-deficient mice prevented such neuroinflammation, synaptic and myelin 6 ways to lower high blood pressure without using medication alterations, as well as long-term cognitive alterations [105]. Numerous sources of evidence gathered from experiments carried out in rodents show that modifications in the composition of gut microbiota impact in the brain functions and behavioral aspects [65], including the predisposition to high alcohol consumption [66]. Leclercq et al. [67] found a correlation between leaky gut and inflammation with modifications in scores of depression, anxiety and social interactions in alcohol craving.

does alcohol compromise your immune system

The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. surgeon general have warned people to avoid drinking too much alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those who have a risk factor for COVID-19, like heart disease or diabetes, he recommends drinking even less. Past data shows binge drinking can have a massive effect on 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.

What Are the Immediate and Long-Term Health Benefits After You Stop Drinking Alcohol?

The adaptive immune system, composed of T cells and B cells, is not spared from the detrimental effects of alcohol. T cells have been shown to be particularly susceptible to alcohol-induced dysfunction. Chronic alcohol consumption impairs T-cell activation, proliferation, and cytokine production, affecting both the CD4+ helper T cells and CD8+ cytotoxic T cells. This dysfunction can lead to a decreased immune response to pathogens and a decreased ability to control the proliferation of infected cells (Cook et al., 2007). Similarly, an increased percentage of CD8 T cells expressing HLA-DR and CD57 was reported in the group of male alcoholics with self reported average alcohol consumption of approximately 400g/day for approximately 26 years (Cook, Ballas et al. 1995).

If pathogens manage to bypass the innate immune system, macrophages will attack them. Macrophages will also produce substances called cytokines, which increase the inflammatory response. As discussed above in the gene expression studies, the mechanisms by which ethanol exerts dose-dependent effects on the immune system could also include modulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which tightly regulates the stress response, in turn affecting immunity. Response to different stressors is mediated by several neural circuits that converge on the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus (Myers, McKlveen et al. 2014). The PVN regulates pituitary hormone production, including adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which binds to melanocortin type 2 receptors in the adrenal cortex to induce steroidogenesis in distinct layers (Dringenberg, Schwitalla et al. 2013).

It causes pus to accumulate in the respiratory system’s pleural cavity, the space between the chest cavity’s inner wall surface and the lungs. Since pneumonia is an infection inside the lung, a person can gradually cough it out. Empyema occurs outside of the lungs, so doctors must remove it via surgery or by draining it with a needle. Alcohol use can cause respiratory complications such as pneumonia, empyema, respiratory syncytial virus, tuberculosis, lung abscess, and adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). And prolonged alcohol use can lead to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. That’s because your body already has processes in place that allow it to store excess proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Nevertheless, unless their illness is far advanced, alcoholics theoretically should respond just as well as nonalcoholics to medical therapy. Indigent and homeless alcoholics actually have a poorer prognosis than others with TB, however. The primary reason is not a worse response to medications but a relative lack of cooperation in taking them. The same disorganized life circumstances that delay treatment seeking also impede taking regular doses of medication.

“Immune system recovery depends on how long you have been drinking, how much and how much damage you have done to your liver. Although your immune system may recover over time, at some point, liver damage becomes irreversible and your immune system will not recover.” “The only remedy for an immune system damaged from drinking alcohol is to stop drinking. If you are not able to drink in moderation, you should avoid alcohol,” Dasgupta says. That can put you at risk for long-term disease, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Even a short bout of binge drinking leaves you at higher risk for infection for about 24 hours.

In conclusion, alcohol has a profound effect on the immune system, leading to impaired function of both the innate and adaptive immune responses, disruption of immune balance, chronic inflammation, and gut microbiota dysbiosis. These effects collectively increase the individual’s susceptibility to various infections and diseases. In contrast to the inhibitory effects of acute alcohol treatment (up to 24 hours), prolonged exposure of human (men and women) peripheral blood monocytes to 25mM ethanol for 7 days increased LPS-induced TNF-α production without affecting IL-10 production (Pang, Bala et al. 2011).

Particularly important are the epithelial immune barriers of the reproductive, GI, and respiratory tracts. Several lines of evidence suggest that alcohol abuse significantly disrupts the GI and respiratory tract immune barriers. common medications used for drug and alcohol detox Alcohol alters the makeup of your gut microbiome — home to trillions of microorganisms performing several crucial roles for your health — and affects those microorganisms’ ability to support your immune system.

In Sprague Dawley rats exposed to 25% (w/v) ethanol via intragastric gavage every 8 hours for 4 days, increased activation and proliferation of microglia as evidenced by morphological changes and BrdU incorporation were observed in the hippocampus (McClain, Morris et al. 2011). Changes persisted at least 30 days after alcohol exposure suggestive of longlasting consequences of ethanol on microglia function (McClain, Morris et al. 2011). There is also evidence that ethanol-induced microglia activation is mediated by signaling through TLR4 (Fernandez-Lizarbe, Pascual et al. 2009). A second study by Joosten et al. also analyzed gene expression profiles in PBMCs isolated from 24 healthy male subjects who consumed 50mL of vodka with 200mL orange juice or only orange twice daily for 4 weeks during dinner (considered to be moderate). Pathways involving antigen presentation, B and T cell receptor signaling, and IL-15 signaling were altered with moderate vodka consumption (Joosten, van Erk et al. 2012).

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