Man refusing to drink alcohol in bar, closeup

Alcohol abuse can have immense impacts on your immune system even if you haven’t been drinking for years on end. A suppressed immune system makes your body more susceptible to infection from viruses and bacteria. This happens due to how the immune system reacts to threats of illness or infection.

There are multiple groups of different cells and proteins within the body that identify and address health threats. When alcohol is present, these systems are unable to function properly leaving your body wide open to infection. The immune system takes time to build up immunity and responses to various viruses and bacteria so the longer you abuse alcohol, the longer you’re unable to fight off common threats.

Timeline for Immune System Suppression Due to Alcohol

It’s often thought that damage from alcohol abuse only occurs once you’ve done so consistently for months or years. The jarring truth is that just one night of drinking can cause your immune system to be suppressed for up to 24 hours.

Long-term impacts to the immune system happen alongside long-term alcohol abuse. In cases where an individual has been drinking heavily over a long period of time, they will find that they are sick more often than their peers even if they are otherwise in better shape.

Infections that you may not typically be at risk for can start to pop up and alcohol-induced inflammation can also occur. If you have other medical conditions, these issues can exacerbate them beyond their normal severity.

How To Know When You’ve Drank Too Much

What constitutes heavy drinking varies between men and women. For men, having more than four drinks per day is considered heavy drinking while the limit for women is three drinks. That being said, even one drink can have negative health impacts.

Fully avoiding the negative health consequences of alcohol can be achieved by simply not drinking anymore. This can be difficult as alcohol has such heavy presence in social settings and as a coping mechanism to deal with stressful situations. If you have an average of one drink a day, you aren’t at as large of a risk of immunosuppression.

The largest contributor to alcohol-induced suppression is binge drinking. Due to the higher amounts of alcohol involved in binge drinking, a long night out can lead to a substantially suppressed immune system for the next 24 hours.

Other Conditions Alcohol Abuse Can Lead To

Not only does alcohol increase your chances of infections, it can cause other negative health conditions and diseases. Some of the most common conditions that can be linked back to alcohol abuse are:

  • Heart and liver disease
  • High blood pressure and strokes
  • Various cancers
  • Trouble with memory
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Dementia

Many of these diseases make sense given how alcohol impacts the body. One often overlooked condition stemming from alcohol abuse is lung disease. Heavy drinkers often report more frequent cases of pneumonia due to the immune system’s inability to fight off infections within the lungs.

When you’re suffering from pneumonia, your body’s response is to send fluids with immune cells to the area of infection in order to isolate and remove it. The concern in these instances is that fluid can fill the lungs and cause you to drown if the infection is not properly treated with antibiotics.

Antibiotics are so important as alcohol has essentially put a stop to any chance of the lungs to naturally rid themselves of bacteria. The accidental inhalation of other fluids such as drinks or vomit can increase the severity of pneumonia infections to often life-threatening levels.

How You Can Help Your Immune System Bounce Back

Your body is extremely capable of taking care of itself but it needs the proper maintenance and energy to do so. After drinking has fully stopped, it’s time to take steps towards your overall health that also increase the strength of your immune system.

What this entails is a lifestyle change free of alcohol, smoking and unhealthy foods. Regular exercise and proper hygiene also help create a proper internal environment for your immune system to repair itself. Setting a nighttime routine to promote better sleep gives your body time to truly rest and heal.

If you’re struggling with alcohol abuse or have more questions about the impacts alcohol can have on your body, America’s Rehab Campuses is here to help. We offer free and fully confidential consultations for you or a loved one you’re concerned about.

All it takes is reaching out to have one of our compassionate team members provide you with the information you need.