How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Immune System?

The ability of does alcohol weaken your immune system to alter both innate and adaptive immune defenses inevitably impacts how the immune system of even a moderate alcohol drinker can respond to infections. According to research, alcohol can affect the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, weakening one’s immune system and lowering the count of white blood cells, which are essential in combating infections.


In contrast, in humans an increase in absolute values of the CD3+ lymphocytes has been recently found after 30 days of moderate beer consumptionReference Romeo, Warnberg, Nova, Díaz, González-Gross and Marcos 11. Although the first study was made in animals, and the second in humans, the results suggest that the effect of alcohol intake on T lymphocyte subsets may depend on the amount consumed. If you drink every day, or almost every day, you might notice that you catch colds, flu or other illnesses more frequently than people who don’t drink. This is because alcohol can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections.

Cold, Flu, & Cough Home

Fatty liver, early stage alcoholic liver disease, develops in about 90% of people who drink more than one and a half to two ounces of alcohol per day. So, if you drink that much or more on most days of the week, you probably have fatty liver. Continued alcohol use leads to liver fibrosis and, finally, cirrhosis. Alcohol–immune interactions also may affect the development and progression of certain cancers. Meadows and Zhang discuss specific mechanisms through which alcohol interferes with the body’s immune defense against cancer.

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When a person drinks alcohol, their body metabolizes it into acetaldehyde,a chemical that can damage DNAand prevent the body from repairing it. Since DNA controls cell function and growth, damaged DNA can cause cells to grow uncontrollably and develop tumors. With regard to cell-mediated immunity, a reduction in CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ cell numbers has been found after chronic alcohol administration in male ratsReference Boyadjieva, Dokur, Advis, Meadows and Sarkar 19.

Short Term Effects of Alcohol On the Immune System

This mode enables people with epilepsy to use the website safely by eliminating the risk of seizures that result from flashing or blinking animations and risky color combinations. If you or a loved need to safely detox from drugs or alcohol, contact Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center Today. Most often, a dry or sore throat is not severe enough to warrant medical attention but does have unusual symptoms such as triggering an itch on your tongue. If you are addicted to alcohol and think you may have contracted a virus, stay away from others in public until you know for sure.


They note, too, that a fully functioning immune system is vital to the success of conventional chemotherapy. The clinical management of all of these conditions may be more challenging in individuals who misuse alcohol because of coexisting immune impairment. Infections occur when a virus or bacteria invades the body and multiplies, producing more and more of itself. The immune system is a complicated group of cells and proteins that recognize invading bacteria or viruses and destroy these infections. Alcohol disrupts the immune system and makes people more likely to develop an infection.

Alcohol and the Immune System: Why You May Want to Stay Dry This Winter

The immune system is susceptible to even small changes in the body’s chemical balance. Long-term alcohol abuse can trigger autoimmune disorders, such as insulin-dependent diabetes and liver disease. Alcohol is known to cause inflammation in the body, leading to an immune deficiency. Drinking alcohol to excess weakens your immune system and makes you more prone to COVID-19, and it also lengthens its duration. Drinking alcohol in excess may also cause stomach problems, liver damage, pancreatitis, high cholesterol levels, heart disease, and stroke due to blood flow loss and low blood pressure.

Does alcohol affect recovery from cold?

Drinking alcohol can weaken your body's ability to fight off infection. A weakened immune system can make your body more susceptible to getting sick and slow down recovery. Another way that drinking alcohol while sick can prolong your recovery is by interrupting your sleep.

When it comes to immunity, drinking any alcohol puts you at higher risk of getting sick. Drinking on even one occasion can have negative effects on your immunity – for example, by interfering with healthy sleep, which is known to protect against infection. Alcohol has also been found to damage the white blood cells themselves. Specifically, excessive drinking can change the structure of macrophages and T-cells (white blood cells that stimulate the production of other white blood cells, called B-cells, that destroy foreign invaders). You may have noticed that after a long period of excessive drinking, you catch colds more frequently.

Alcohol and the Immune System — What You Should Know

Some of the most notable contributors to the innate response include natural killer cells, neutrophils, monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells . For those who have a risk factor for COVID-19, like heart disease or diabetes, he recommends drinking even less.