Have you ever felt like you’re coming down with a cold or sore throat on a Friday night, you go out and party pretty hard only to wake up with a full blown illness the next day? Is this a coincidence? Does alcohol really have anything to do with immunity? Annie Grace answers this interesting question using published articles and research. Find out what illnesses you’re more susceptible to when you over-consume alcohol.
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Alcohol Affects Immunity
Your immune system is your single most powerful weapon against disease and doctors will tell you the same thing. Alcohol affects immunity in multiple ways because germs are always surrounding us and that means we always are using our immune system to fight off disease, whether it’s through our skin or through our membranes or orifices. Our skin protects our body obviously from infection and disease, and if germs make it into the body then we have these two different systems within our immune system.
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We have our innate system, which fends off first time germ exposure. The first time your body is exposed to a certain germ, you have your innate system and then you have your adaptive system. That’s a really cool part that it helps you to build immunities to things because it retains information about prior germ invasion, and defeats repeat attackers much more quickly than the first time. Alcohol actually suppresses both systems. Our immune system that uses something called cytokines, and these are small proteins. They send out chemical messages about infection and they’re … You could call them sort of an early alert system, and alcohol disrupts the production of these. So when it’s working correctly, these cytokines, they alert our immune system to intruders, and our immune system therefore responds with white blood cells that attack and surround and actually swallow harmful bacteria.
Alcohol impairs immunity
Alcohol impairs this. It means that we’re more susceptible to all sorts of disease like tuberculosis and especially pneumonia. There was a recent study that said people who overly consumed alcohol and were addicted to alcohol were more than twice as likely than people who weren’t to die from pneumonia, which is pretty terrifying. It also has been sort of shown that alcohol can increase HIV. There’s some debate about if alcohol lowers our inhibitions and therefore we may have unprotected sex where we otherwise wouldn’t. That hasn’t definitively been sort of shown that one research group did show that there was increased HIV growth rates when alcohol was consumed. The most interesting thing has just come out earlier within the last year or two and this is that just one night of binge drinking actually affects the immune system and it can happen within 20 minutes of ingesting alcohol.
Tune in to the complete podcast to hear more studies on how alcohol affects immunity.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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