While moderate drinking doesn’t equal a health benefit, it also doesn’t seem to raise the risk of death by very much, the authors said. A healthy diet can also help promote your overall health — and potentially lower your risk of developing some of the conditions linked to alcohol consumption, like certain types of cancer does alcohol weaken your immune system and cardiovascular diseases. In one 2011 study that looked at about 1,000 adults in North Carolina, for instance, researchers found that those who exercised five or more days a week were 43 percent less likely to be sick with an upper respiratory tract infection over a 12-week period than those who were largely sedentary.
Similarly to the intestine, the lung epithelial barrier is affected by chronical alcohol abuse as well, contributing to the pathophysiology of acute respiratory distress syndrome or acute lung injury. The interference of the granulocyte/macrophage colony stimulating factor signaling inhibits the macrophage maturation needed for maintenance of epithelial barrier integrity , and the bronchial epithelium ciliary function required for mechanical bacteria clearance has also been reported to be impaired . Acetaldehyde is the toxic byproduct that contributes to tissue damage, alcohol dependence, and addiction (Zakhari 2006). It can also bind to other proteins to form adducts, such as malondialdehyde (MDA) and MDA-acetaldehyde (MAA), which play a key role in the development of liver injury and stimulate antibody responses that further promote liver inflammation and fibrosis (Tuma and Casey 2003). In addition, oxidation of ethanol by CYP2E1 leads to the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS).
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who abuse alcohol are 10 times more likely to develop pneumococcal pneumonia and 4 times more likely to die from pneumonia than nondrinkers (Lujan et al. 2010). 4Similarly, chronic consumption of 18 percent ethanol in water for 31 weeks resulted in impaired antigen-specific CD8 T-cell responses following inoculation with Listeria monocytogenes (Gurung et al. 2009). 4 Similarly, chronic consumption of 18 percent ethanol in water for 31 weeks resulted in impaired antigen-specific CD8 T-cell responses following inoculation with Listeria monocytogenes (Gurung et al. 2009). The alcohol-related decrease in peripheral B cells primarily seems to be mediated by a decrease in the frequency of the B-2 B cells.
Both the innate and the adaptive immune response are critical for effective host defense to infectious challenges. Multiple aspects of both arms of the immunity response are significantly affected by alcohol abuse, as described in the following sections. The gastrointestinal (GI) system is typically the first point of contact for alcohol as it passes through the body and is where alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream. One of the most significant immediate effects of alcohol is that it affects the structure and integrity of the GI tract. For example, alcohol alters the numbers and relative abundances of microbes in the gut microbiome (see the article by Engen and colleagues), an extensive community of microorganisms in the intestine that aid in normal gut function. Alcohol disrupts communication between these organisms and the intestinal immune system.
How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Immune System?
To this end, one study analyzed IL-10, IL-6, IL-18, and tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) levels in 25 non-treating seeking heavy drinkers after they had consumed an alcoholic drink. The researchers reported significant reductions in the TNF-α levels three and six hours after the alcohol consumption. People have been drinking alcoholic beverages for millennia, and alcohol consumption has played an important role throughout human history, being linked to ancient and modern religions, early medicine, and social occasions and celebrations. Although alcohol consumption is socially accepted across many cultures, heavy and prolonged alcohol intake can lead not only to physical dependence but also to devastating long-term health problems. An estimated 18 million Americans have alcohol use disorder (AUD), including alcoholism and harmful drinking (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [NIAAA] 2014).
Additional studies using alveolar epithelial cell layers derived from these alcohol-fed rats found that this permeability defect was inhibited by neutralizing antibodies to TGF-β1 (Bechara et al. 2004). Together, these data suggest that prolonged alcohol intake increases TGF-β1 levels, which during inflammatory responses can be released and activated in the alveolar space, where it can directly impair epithelial barrier properties (Guidot and Hart 2005). As reviewed by Szabo and Saha, alcohol’s combined effects on both innate and adaptive immunity significantly weaken host defenses, predisposing chronic drinkers to a wide range of health problems, including infections and systemic inflammation. Alcohol’s widespread effects on immune function also are underscored in the article by Gauthier, which examines how in utero alcohol exposure interferes with the developing immune system in the fetus.
Impact of Alcohol Abuse on the Adaptive Immune System
Other chemicals in e-liquids seem to suppress your immune response, especially when you inhale them through vaping. Your liver detoxifies and removes alcohol from the blood through a process known as oxidation. When someone is exposed to a virus, the body mounts an immune response to attack and kill the foreign pathogen. Soon after, the World Health Organization (WHO) also suggested that people cut back on drinking, since alcohol can increase the risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19. Heavy alcohol use weakens the immune system, and a weak immune system makes it easier to get sick. However, there are signs that you can look for if you are concerned that your drinking might be affecting your immunity.
Summarized, this makes it difficult to differentiate between altered cytokine actions and altered cytokine release. In an in vitro model of acute inflammation, pretreatment of human lung epithelial cells with alcohol (85 or 170 mM) for 24 or 72 hours reduces IL-8 release upon their stimulation with IL-6. In contrast to the treatment of cells prior to inflammatory stimulation, treating cells with alcohol afterward reduces the IL-8 release significantly after an incubation period of one hour.
Some of the most notable contributors to the innate immune response include natural killer (NK) cells, neutrophils, monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells (DCs). In contrast to brief alcohol exposure, prolonged alcohol exposure completely desensitizes lung airway cilia such that they can no longer beat faster when exposed to inhaled pathogens. This cilia-desensitization effect is known as alcohol-induced cilia dysfunction (AICD). In AICD, prolonged alcohol exposure results in failure to stimulate CBF, thereby desensitizing cilia to activating agents such as beta agonists (Wyatt and Sisson 2001).
- In contrast to brief alcohol exposure, prolonged alcohol exposure completely desensitizes lung airway cilia such that they can no longer beat faster when exposed to inhaled pathogens.
- When the animals were treated with recombinant GM-CSF, alveolar macrophage bacterial phagocytic capacity, GM-CSF receptor expression, and PU.1 nuclear binding were restored (Joshi et al. 2005).
- Dendritic cells, either classical dendritic cells or plasmacytoid dendritic cells, ingest pathogens mainly to produce antigens and present them to effector cells such as lymphocytes .
- The link between exercise and immunity is challenging to study, but researchers have long observed that people who are fit and physically active seem to develop fewer respiratory tract infections.