Alcohol’s Effects on the Body National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism NIAAA

Individuals with AUD are often deficient in one or more essential nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, and thiamine (Hoyumpa 1986). These micronutrients have been shown to play an important role in immune system homeostasis and response to infection (Mora, Iwata et al. 2008). A weaker immune system will have a harder time fighting off common infections cocaine crack (such as a cold), as well as HIV-related infections. A weaker immune system also increases the chance that you will experience more side effects from your HIV medications. There is some evidence that sorrow, especially if lasts a long time, can depress your body’s immunity. The effect can linger for 6 months, but may go on longer if your grief is deep or doesn’t ease.

  1. We could hypothesize that by reducing the gut bacterial load, lower amounts of bacterial components would reach the systemic circulation, leading to reduced activation of pro-inflammatory components.
  2. The rest of the SCFAs reach the circulatory system via the superior or inferior mesenteric vein, reaching the brain and crossing the blood–brain barrier thanks to monocarboxylate transporters thus being able to act as signaling molecules between the gut and the brain [74].
  3. Alcohol–immune interactions also may affect the development and progression of certain cancers.
  4. After a child reaches the age of three, the bacterial composition of gut microbiota remains reasonably stable and is unique to everyone depending on different factors like genetics, diet, and different environmental factors.
  5. The second phase, the development of immunity to the pathogen, is mediated by T cells and B cells.
  6. Your body releases certain proteins that help the immune system, called cytokines, only during sleep.

The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: Alcohol Effects on the Composition of Intestinal Microbiota

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. The number of B-1a cells also seems to decline, but this decrease is accompanied by a relative increase in the percentage of B-1b cells (Cook et al. 1996). The loss of B-2 cells may explain why alcoholics often cannot respond adequately to new antigens. The relative increase in B-1b cells also may lead to autoantibody production, especially of the IgM and IgA classes (which is discussed below). Alcohol also interferes with the function of regulatory T cells, whose role is to prevent the immune system from mistakenly attacking the body’s own cells. This disruption in immune system regulation, coupled with heightened inflammation, creates an environment conducive to the development or exacerbation of autoimmune diseases as the body’s immune defenses turn against its own tissues.

Effects on B-Cells

This recovery process highlights the resilience of the immune system when freed from the suppressive effects of alcohol. While many people believe that alcohol weakens the immune system in dose-dependent effects, the fact is that even moderate consumption of alcohol can cause adverse effects. But even moderate alcohol intake can compromise immune responses, making people more susceptible to infections. Chronic as well as acute alcohol consumption also reduces the ability of phagocytes to ingest and break down pathogenic bacteria.

Immunity-Boosting Foods

Alcoholics frequently suffer from infectious diseases and have increased rates of some cancers, indicating that alcohol impairs the immune system, which protects the body against this type of damage. Alcohol interferes with the functions of many of the cells and molecules that are part of the immune system. For example, alcohol inhibits the functions of the cells that ingest and destroy invading microorganisms (i.e., neutrophils, monocytes, and macrophages). Both acute and chronic alcohol exposure also alter the production of signaling molecules that help coordinate the immune response (i.e., cytokines). Finally, alcohol adversely affects the functions of the cells that mediate the immune response against specific microorganisms and long-term immunity (i.e., T cells and B cells). As a result, alcoholics have an increased susceptibility to diseases caused by bacterial infections, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Macrophages and Alcohol-Related Liver Inflammation

During an overwhelming inflammatory response, however, neutrophils, lymphocytes, and other tissue cells also can be sources of inflammatory cytokines. Excessive levels of these cytokines may cause tissue damage, whereas reduced levels may result in an insufficient immune response. Numerous studies have demonstrated alcohol-related impairment of T-cell responses to various challenges. In other studies, chronic alcohol feeding impaired Th1 responses to a hepatitis C virus protein, a defect that was hypothesized to result from impaired secretion of IL-2 and GM–CSF by dendritic and T-cells (Geissler et al. 1997). This alcohol-induced defect in Th1 immunity correlates with suppression of IL-12 secretion by macrophages and dendritic cells (Waltenbaugh et al. 1998).

A study conducted in 2015 showed that blocking TLR4 function most of the neuroinflammatory effects produced by ethanol were diminished [104]. In another study, adolescent mice that consumed ethanol intermittently (3 g/kg) for two weeks, showed that this consumption pattern leads to an activation of TLR4 signaling pathways, an up-regulation of cytokines and proinflammatory mediators, in addition to synaptic and myelin alterations. TLR4-deficient mice prevented such neuroinflammation, synaptic and myelin alterations, as well as long-term cognitive alterations [105]. Consequently, in the absence of appropriate IFN-γ stimulation in alcoholics, a preferential induction of the humoral immune response could occur.

Alcoholics may be especially unlikely to cooperate with treatment if they perceive medical staff as a threat to their drinking—a likely scenario given the dangers of combining TB medication with alcohol. Caregivers should bear in mind that TB is a serious public health hazard and give first priority to resolving a patient’s TB over addressing his or her alcoholism. By providing alcoholic TB patients older adults national institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism niaaa with friendly, nonthreatening support, caregivers may improve the chances for complete TB treatment and, possibly, succeed in helping the patient accept the need for alcoholism treatment as well. For alcoholics, especially those who are indigent or homeless, several social and behavioral factors converge to increase their vulnerability to TB and to hinder their recovery from the disease.

“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. Seven-eight hours of sleep reduces the risk of infection and chronic inflammation. “If you have a family history of alcohol abuse, or are at risk, or have been an abuser in the past, we are not recommending you go out and drink to improve your immune system,” says Messaoudi.

This is not the first study to show the potential benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that consuming a glass of wine a day may reduce the risk of depression, while other research suggests a compound found in red wine could help treat cancer. “These surprising findings indicate that some of the beneficial effects of moderate amounts of alcohol consumption may be manifested through boosting the body’s immune system.

In particular, the levels of antibodies against liver-specific autoantigens are increased in patients with alcoholic liver disease and may promote alcohol-related liver damage. Finally, chronic alcohol exposure in utero interferes with normal T-cell and B-cell development, which may increase the risk of infections during alcohol withdrawal timeline both childhood and adulthood. Alcohol’s impact on T cells and B cells increases the risk of infections (e.g., pneumonia, HIV infection, hepatitis C virus infection, and tuberculosis), impairs responses to vaccinations against such infections, exacerbates cancer risk, and interferes with delayed-type hypersensitivity.


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