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How Does Alcohol Affect the Immune System?

A man struggling with alcohol addiction, unknowing of the effects drinking has on his immune health.
Drinking can damage your immune health and leave you vulnerable to illnesses and infections.

Have you noticed any trends with your excessive bouts of drinking lately? For example, you may get a cold or the flu after binge drinking. No, this doesn’t mean that alcohol causes a virus to enter your body. But what it does mean is your drinking can leave your immune system vulnerable.

In this article, we’ll explore how drinking can affect the immune system, how long it can take for your immune system to heal from excessive drinking and how alcohol addiction treatment can help.

Does Alcohol Weaken the Immune System?

Researchers at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside sought to better understand the immune system to try to improve the human response to vaccines and infections. During this study, the researchers allowed monkeys to drink alcohol freely and studied their immune systems’ response.

As funny as it may be to picture monkeys drinking alcohol, the study’s results suggested that mild to moderate drinking may actually improve the immune system. And other studies have also found that mild drinking may even reduce the risk of depression.

Unfortunately, these results don’t mean that alcohol is actually good for your immune health. On the contrary, excessive drinking or alcohol abuse can weaken and eat away at your immune system.

How Does Alcohol Affect Immune Health?

Your immune system is made up of white blood cells that work to fight infections and other diseases. But binge drinking or excessive alcohol consumption can significantly interfere with these white blood cells and their chemical signals, leading to immune system deficiencies and an inability to fight off infections and illnesses.

Excessive drinking can also affect your immune system’s antibodies, which are responsible for “marking” bacteria and viruses for your white blood cells to attack. Too much alcohol in your body confuses your antibodies, causing them to tell your white blood cells to attack healthy cells and make you more susceptible to illness and disease.

Due to a weakened immune system, alcoholism is tied to a range of diseases including pneumonia, cancer, autoimmune diseases and tuberculosis.

How Long Does it Take for the Immune System to Recover from Alcohol?

As scary as this all may sound, the good news is your immune system can recover from the damage caused by alcohol abuse. Cutting out alcohol consumption means your immune system will be able to recover and protect you from colds, the flu, pneumonia and other diseases.

The question is, how long does it take for your immune system to recover? In some cases, immediately stopping drinking can improve your immune health. In other cases where you’ve been drinking excessively for extended periods of time, it can take longer for the damage to be reversed.

The best way to recover from alcohol abuse and give your immune system the opportunity to heal is through credible alcohol addiction treatment.

You Can Build a Life You Don’t Want to Escape From

At The Raleigh House, we have over 10 years of experience helping people recover from alcoholism and achieve lasting recovery. Through our gold standard continuum of care, you can detox from alcohol safely, get to the bottom of your addiction and mental health struggles in residential treatment and learn how to live without alcohol again in outpatient treatment.

And during both residential and outpatient treatment, we’ll introduce you to the pro-recovery diet and proper nutrition. Eating the right foods and learning how to meal plan for yourself once you’re out of treatment can help your immune system recover and keep you protected from diseases and viruses like COVID-19.

To get started or to learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment, fill out our form or contact us today.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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