Author: Gary Jackson

Focus On: Alcohol and the Immune System PMC

“Some people think of the effects of alcohol as only something to be worried about if you’re living with alcohol use disorder, which was formerly called alcoholism,” Dr. Sengupta says. Heavy drinking can also lead to a host of health concerns, like brain damage, heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver and even certain kinds of cancer. 2The different immunoglobulin classes are involved in different aspects of the immune response. However, all immunoglobulins produced by one B-cell and its daughter cells specifically recognize the same antigen. Chronic drinking — for 12 to 15 years — can lead to a reduction in the number of T cells.

  • “Those at increased risk should cut down or abstain from alcohol because every little thing an individual can do to improve the health and reduce risk is worth it at this point, even if the evidence is not entirely clear,” Mroszczyk-McDonald said.
  • Following chronical excessive alcohol intake, the intestinal barrier becomes “leaky” by altered tight junctions of epithelial cells.
  • “Drinking alcohol in large quantities even just for a short period of time — like binge drinking — can be bad for your health and your immune system,” says Favini.
  • Upon ethanol administration, the NF-κB–DNA binding increases and the transcription of various target genes is induced, including chemokines (CCL2), pro-inflammatory cytokines (TNFα, IL-1β, IL-6), and pro-inflammatory oxidases (NOX, COX, iNOS) or proteases (TACE, tPA) [48,49].
  • It’s important to remember that alcohol can prevent the absorption of nutrients that your body needs, and a balanced diet can improve your immune system and overall health.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. surgeon general have warned people to avoid drinking too much alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In addition to the Th1 response, alcohol appears to interfere with the Th17 response.

These molecules enter the circulation to the liver where they activate endothelial and stellate cells as well as hepatocytes, resulting in a chronic inflammatory environment aggravating organ injury. In addition to compromising the immune cell function, chronic drinking and binge drinking can damage functions in the lungs, the gut and the blood-brain barrier. Normally, the lungs and gut, like our skin, offer a physical and immunological shield against infection. The first cells to respond to pathogens are usually those that also have the ability to directly and independently neutralize and kill the microbes by, for example, phagocytosis or ROS.

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

The white blood cells, tissues and organs that make up our body’s immune system are designed to fight off infections, disease and toxins. Certain immune system cells — T cells and B cells — originate in your bone marrow. Antibodies detect and get rid of substances that are harmful to your body, including bacteria and viruses.

  • These molecules enter the circulation to the liver where they activate endothelial and stellate cells as well as hepatocytes, resulting in a chronic inflammatory environment aggravating organ injury.
  • Coli (intraperitoneally), display a decrease in the systemic CXCL9 release, increased IL-10, and lowered IL-6 and IL-12 production after 17 hours.
  • In addition to the well-known risks of drinking too much, they noted that chronic drinking can do serious damage to your immune system over time.
  • Potential target points for (i) acute alcohol and (ii) chronic alcohol in inflammatory tissue.

However, alcoholic patients frequently have abnormally low levels of complement in the blood. In addition, animal studies have indicated that acute alcohol intoxication can decrease complement activation in response to tissue injury resulting from disruptions in blood supply (i.e., ischemic injury). In contrast, chronic alcohol intake can activate the complement response (Roychowdhury et al. 2009), both by inducing the biochemical pathways that lead to activation of the complement cascade and by suppressing processes to terminate or regulate the cascade (Bykov et al. 2007). The induced innate humoral response plays a critical role in clearing or containing infection while an adaptive response develops. It is characterized by the release of mediators of inflammatory reactions, such as cytokines and chemokines, as well as activation of the complement cascade.

Heart health

Alcohol also causes damage to the cells in the outside layer of your stomach and intestines. As a result, bacteria may leak from the GI tract into your bloodstream, which can itself make you sick. Also, bacteria that escape this area can change the immune system in your liver, which can lead to inflammation and, potentially, alcoholic liver disease. And it’s not just that you’re more likely to get a cold — excessive drinking is linked to pneumonia and other pulmonary diseases.

does alcohol compromise your immune system

That dual action predisposes heavy drinkers both to increased infection and to chronic inflammation. These articles detail how alcohol affects the immune system and how researchers are harnessing this knowledge to help prevent and treat alcohol-related harm. “The good news is that earlier stages of steatotic liver disease are usually completely reversible in about four to six weeks if you abstain from drinking alcohol,” Dr. Sengupta assures. With continued alcohol use, steatotic liver disease can lead to liver fibrosis.