Diseases Caused by Alcohol Consumption

It’s no secret that alcohol use can cause several diseases and conditions, including immune system suppression. Some of the adverse health effects of alcohol use include:

• Digestive problems
• Dementia
• High blood pressure
• Infectious disease
• Stroke
• Memory and learning problems
• Numerous types of cancer
• Alcohol use disorder
• Liver disease

Although this highlights a few health complications, it’s only a partial list. Alcohol use, especially excessive alcohol consumption, causes many other medical conditions, including kidney and lung problems and an increased risk of infections and injuries.

In a recent study, we surveyed 2,136 participants who had tried to stop alcohol consumption, whether successfully or not, and who wanted to stop drinking alcohol. When asked about the adverse health complications of alcohol use:

• 38% reported depression
• 17% reported liver disease
• 11% reported cardiovascular disease
• 11% reported nerve damage
• 31% reported high blood pressure
• 12% reported scarring of the liver (cirrhosis)
• 7.8% reported cancer
• 15% reported weakened immune system
• 9% reported seizures
• 8.4% reported pancreatitis

Infectious diseases

Since alcohol use weakens the immune system, it makes it harder for the body to fight against harmful germs, increasing the risk of contracting infectious diseases. Hepatitis C and HIV are the two most common and severe infectious diseases associated with alcohol consumption.

While these diseases are contracted through unprotected sex and IV needles, alcohol use impairs judgment and lowers inhibition, increasing the likelihood of getting them.

Lung diseases

Studies show that alcohol can cause lung diseases such as pneumonia, a lung infection that occurs when viruses or bacteria enter the lung. For a person with pneumonia, their immune system attacks the virus by flooding their lungs with immune cells and fluid. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous, causing one to drown. That’s why doctors prescribe antibiotics to offer patients the best chance of surviving pneumonia.

Since alcohol use weakens the immune system, it affects your immune response, making the body take longer to fight against lung infections such as pneumonia. Therefore, people who drink alcohol increase their risk of getting pneumonia and make it harder for the immune system to fight the infection.

Drinking and COVID-19

The coronavirus is a viral infection that causes complications such as pneumonia and inflammation. While there’s little research supporting how alcohol affects the risk of the coronavirus, it’s more likely it makes one susceptible to COVID-19. This is because alcohol use also increases the risk of pneumonia and inflammation.

Unfortunately, with the pandemic’s effects of isolation and boredom, many people have turned to alcohol to relieve stress and pass the time.

Repairing and supporting the immune system after drinking

When you stop drinking, your body focuses on promoting the best immune system possible. According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are several ways you can improve your immune system health. These include:

• Quitting smoking
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Following a diet that’s high in vegetables and fruits
• Exercising regularly
• Following good hygiene
• Getting sufficient sleep
• Reducing stress when possible

With the ongoing pandemic, following health guidelines outlined by the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) is also essential to improving your immune system health.

Ultimately, the best way to repair and support your immune system health is to stop drinking. If you’re having a hard time staying away from alcohol, contact Steps+ today for help.

Does alcohol weaken the immune system?

It’s no secret that your immune system plays an important role in your health and wellbeing. When you fall ill or get an infection, your immune system recognizes the infection and attacks it. While it may take time for the immune system to recognize and fight off the infection, it eventually becomes strong enough and builds up a full response. This allows you to get better as your immune system eliminates the infection.

Unfortunately, excessive alcohol consumption can suppress your immune system, making you vulnerable to infections caused by bacteria and viruses. This raises your risk of several bacterial infections, including UTIs (urinary tract infections).

Since alcohol can suppress your immune system, your body might take longer to recognize and fight off a developing infection. Hence, you may feel worse than you would normally if your body system didn’t contain any alcohol. In extreme cases, such as individuals with a drinking problem, the immune system may fail to overcome the infection because it’s not strong enough. This forces you to treat the infection with antibiotics to prevent the infection from developing further.

What are the short-term effects of alcohol on the immune system?

It’s normal to assume that you can only weaken your immune system when you take large amounts of alcohol. But this isn’t always the case. According to the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), a single episode of alcohol consumption can suppress your immune system for up to 24 hours. Other studies also show that drinking once can weaken your immune system afterwards for a short period.

What are the long-term changes in the immune system of an alcoholic?

Chronic alcoholics risk long-term damage to their immune systems as studies show alcohol can affect every area of the immune system. Although understanding the effects of alcohol on the immune system at a cellular and chemical level is complex and difficult, it’s evident it can create significant immune system problems.

For example, an alcoholic is more likely to develop infections that a healthy person wouldn’t normally get. Additionally, the long-term changes alcohol causes to the body result in inflammation, which wouldn’t normally occur in an alcohol-free body.

How much alcohol is too much?

Alcohol consumption has held and continues to hold an essential role in bonding and social engagement. Unfortunately, it has caused negative outcomes such as addiction and alcohol dependence. Studies on alcohol consumption and the daily “healthy” amount are controversial and unproven. Some suggest that moderate alcohol intake can have positive effects on the immune system, while others encourage light drinking in social settings such as parties.

However, drawing the fine line between heavy drinking and casual drinking can be difficult. According to NIAAA, heavy drinking involves consuming more than three drinks per day for females and four drinks per day for males. But, remember, the more you drink, the higher your tolerance. So, you may find yourself going for a fifth or sixth drink to achieve the same high you got from two drinks.

Ultimately, the most effective way to ensure alcohol doesn’t suppress your immune system is to avoid alcohol consumption altogether. It’s essential to note that light drinkers, who are defined as people that consume less than one drink a day for women and less than two drinks a day for men, are less likely to experience a weak immune system than heavy drinkers. However, staying away from alcohol is the only way to be safe and ensure your immune system remains strong and healthy.

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