Drinking alcohol can weaken your immune systemMarch 24, 2020
In uncertain times like these, it can be tempting to reach for a bottle.
We’re all anxious, we’re all stuck inside, parties are pretty much cancelled – maybe it’s time to work your way through your entire drinks cabinet while horror scrolling the timeline for the latest news.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t a great idea.
Not only is using alcohol as an anxiety antidote really bad for your mental health, experts also say that too much booze can weaken your immune system.
Which is exactly the opposite of what we want in the middle of an unprecedented global pandemic.
While we’re all trying to keep healthy by washing our hands, eating well and staying active, it’s probably also worth going easy on the sauce. If not for yourself, then for the more vulnerable people in your life.
You know how rough and run down you feel when you’ve had a heavy weekend of boozing. More than a hangover, after consecutive nights of drinking you probably find that you’re more prone to picking up coughs, colds and infections – and that is no coincidence.
‘Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol could cause damage to immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system,’ explains Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor, ‘which in turn can increase the risk of developing diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and respiratory distress syndrome, not to mention making you more susceptible to viruses.
How to limit your risk when drinking alcohol
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:
men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
Spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
If you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
The NHS makes it clear that there is no ‘safe’ limit when drinking alcohol. The measures above are considered ‘low-risk’.
‘Alcohol can also affect the gut barrier allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood, this, in turn, causes a depletion of the three most important kinds of cells in your immune system, Macrophages, T and C cells.’
Macrophages are your body’s first line of defence against disease. They destroy anything that isn’t supposed to be there and make your body aware if pathogens are present.
T cells are antibodies to specific illnesses. Your T cells already know how to kill those specific kinds of viruses. When these cells are suppressed, your immune system is less efficient at identifying and destroying pathogens.
Alcohol addiction and regular heavy drinking is obviously really bad for your body in many ways, but even occasional binge drinking sessions can temporarily knock out your immune system – yes, that means the bottle and a half of wine you drank on Saturday night.
Even a temporary impact on your immune system can be dangerous at a time when we are all trying to be extra careful about avoiding germs. So, your best bet is to cut back on the booze until the worst of this is over.
Your body will be stronger, healthier and ready to fight off illness – and you’ll be less likely to contract illness in the first place if you haven’t been drinking.
It’s all about giving yourself the best possible chance of staying healthy.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a glass of wine every now and then, you still need to find the little pleasures in these dark days.
If you’re struggling with your mental health at the moment, you’re not alone. Speak to someone and seek help. Get outside if you’re healthy, stay active and keep in contact with your friends and loved ones.