Alcohol’s intimidating effects on the immune system

There has been a dramatic rise in alcohol abuse in the last couple of years. It has spiraled into a global epidemic that is not only responsible for the loss of man days but is also responsible for increased spending both in terms of time and money on health care. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 3.3 million deaths happen worldwide because of alcohol consumption. There are also incidents like automobile accidents and unexpected fights caused by excessive alcohol intake. While it is apparent that long-term alcohol consumption has a damaging impact on the pancreas and the liver, the side effects of alcohol abuse on the immune system are not much talked about.

The effect of alcohol on the immune system is almost immediate. There is an immediate disruption in cytokine production, either flourishing in numbers or dropping in count. This lowers the ability of the body to fight germs within 24 hours after consuming alcohol. The body becomes vulnerable to infections by viruses, bacteria and a host of other pathogens. Chronic alcoholics are not only more vulnerable to coughs, colds, pneumonia and other infections, they are also more likely to catch the HIV virus.

How alcohol affects functioning of innate and adaptive immune systems

The body’s immunity comprises of the innate and the adaptive systems. The innate immune system comprises the interferons released by the white blood cells or monocytes, natural killer cells and cytokines. The adaptive immune system, on the other hand, comprises the T and B lymphocytes and the antibodies. While the innate immune system, the body’s first line of defense, exists in the body, the adaptive or the body’s second line of defense is formed after an infection. A prior exposure to an antigen is required for this to get active.

  • When antigens invade the body, the monocytes or white blood cells swing into action. These quickly devour the foreign particles.
  • The killer cells are type of white blood cells which play an important role in the destruction of viruses and cancerous cells.
  • Antibodies are proteins that are produced in response to an attack. Antibodies and free radicals play a critical role in defending the body against infections.

Alcohol adversely affects both the innate and the adaptive immune systems. It interferes with the production of T cells and impairs the ability of natural killers to attack and destroy tumor cells. One of the studies confirmed that chronic alcohol abuse significantly impacts T-cell functioning and disrupts the balance between various T-cell types. An old study by Gyongyi Szabo of the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester also proved that the antigen fighting ability of the immune system, consisting of the white blood cells, the T and B cells and cytokines are considerably lower in chronic drinkers. Also there was a perceptible decrease in the resistance of monocytes in fighting infections and diseases after alcohol intake.

Seek help for alcohol addiction

Alcoholism is a malaise that can be prevented through timely interventions in the form of therapies, counseling sessions, mutual support groups and medication that can halt the damage from spreading further. One should not delay treatment or things can get out of hand and treatment can become difficult.

If you or your loved one is trying to overcome alcohol addiction, contact the Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California to lead a healthy and a happy life. We can also help you find best alcohol addiction treatment centers in California. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 or chat online for further information on the finest alcohol rehab centers in California.

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