How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Immune System?

alcohol weakens immune system

Tuberculosis infection and produce interferon γ (INF-γ), an important cytokine that stimulates cell-mediated immunity (Junqueira-Kipnis et al. 2003). Alcohol consumption in mice reduces the in vitro killing capacity of NK cells compared with control animals not exposed to alcohol (Meadows et al. 1992). In the human body, the gut represents the organ with the largest surface area (approximately 32 m2) [2] as well as the one with the highest number of microbes, especially in the colon, where the density of bacterial cells has been estimated at 1011 to 1012 per milliliter [3]. 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. A healthy gut microbiota is characterized by its richness and diversity in its composition [4]. Nevertheless, studies have shown that the normal gut microbiota comprises mainly Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes as the dominant phyla, followed by Actinobacteria and Verrucomicrobia.

Moderate alcohol consumption and the immune system: a review

  • The antibodies can recognize and interact with antigens, and each B-cell produces antibodies that recognize only one specific antigen.
  • In addition, production of IL-10 in response to TLR2/6 stimulation was increased (Pruett, Zheng et al. 2004).
  • Not only will drinking alcohol reduce your immune system’s strength, but alcohol also has a dehydrating effect.

If you’re concerned about someone who drinks too much, ask a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice on how to approach that person. The intestinal mucosa plays an important role in alcohol metabolism, as the epithelial surface incorporates alcohol into the blood system by passive diffusion, which accounts for approximately 80 percent of alcohol absorption (Norberg et al. 2003). Early physicians recognized since the 1800s that alcohol produced not only impairment of the senses but also higher predisposition for tuberculosis. William Osler, the father of scientific medicine, reported in 1905 that patients who misused alcohol had higher predisposition to pneumonia (Osler 2001). 3 The hypothalamic–adrenal–pituitary axis is a hormonal system that primarily is involved in the stress response. Activation of this system culminates in the production and release of corticosteroid (i.e., cortisol in humans and corticosterone in rodents) from the adrenal glands, which then act on various tissues to mediate the stress response.

alcohol weakens immune system

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  • The trillions of microbes in your colon and large and small intestines are critical to proper digestion.
  • Once the integrity of the gut mucosa is impaired, LPS enters the portal circulation contributing to enhance the inflammatory changes in other organs such liver and brain.
  • HLAs are proteins found on the surface of various cells that present antigens to the TCR on T cells to induce an immune response.
  • Decreased expression of miR-204 with CHD correlates with enhanced pro-inflammatory phenotype observed with CHD post LPS63.
  • From there, they migrate into the airspace within the alveoli to the sites of microbial invasion.
  • Another study conducted in humans with self-reported average alcohol consumption of approximately 400 g/day also found an increase in the percentage of both CD45RO+ memory CD4 cells and CD8 cells (Cook et al. 1995).

For example, alcohol can reduce the ability of respiratory epithelium cells to remove mucous from the lungs, which can directly damage lung tissue and weaken the proper functioning of the lungs over time. Although this chronic weakening of lung function may not cause any immediate symptoms, these effects can manifest when a severe respiratory infection occurs. Alcohol consumption does not have to be chronic to have negative health consequences. There is evidence in a number of physiological systems that binge alcohol intake complicates recovery from physical trauma (see the article by Hammer and colleagues). Molina and colleagues review research showing that alcohol impairs recovery from three types of physical trauma—burn, hemorrhagic shock, and traumatic brain injury—by affecting immune homeostasis. Their article also highlights how the combined effect of alcohol and injury causes greater disruption to immune function than either challenge alone.

Impact of AUD on T Cells

However, after approximately 7 days, the patient was more alert and cooperative, but it was not clear what led to the improvement. Additional studies in rodents assessed the effects of alcohol on the effectiveness of bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination, which protects against tuberculosis. The studies found that when animals consumed ethanol before BCG vaccination, they were not protected against a subsequent pulmonary challenge with does alcohol weaken your immune system M. In contrast, mice that consumed ethanol after the BCG vaccination were protected against a subsequent M. Taken together, these data suggest that chronic ethanol exposure interferes with immunity to new antigens but not with immunity established before alcohol consumption. Although TB is treatable with antibiotics, the prevalence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB) is on the rise and has been reported worldwide (WHO 2014).

Another fundamental component contributing to alcohol’s effects on the lungs is oxidative stress and the resulting alterations in alveolar macrophage function. As mentioned previously, alveolar macrophages are key components of both innate and acquired immunity against invading pathogens in the lung. After mucociliary clearance, these cells are the next line of cellular defense against invading pathogens through their phagocytic, microbiocidal, and secretory functions (Rubins 2003). Chronic alcohol ingestion decreases alveolar macrophage function by inhibiting the release of cytokines and chemokines as well as other factors essential for microbial killing and immune response (Franke-Ullmann et al. 1996; Omidvari et al. 1998). Alcohol-induced alveolar macrophage dysfunction likely occurs primarily as a result of alcohol-induced increases in oxidative stress, which is reflected by depletion of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH) in BAL fluid (Brown et al. 2007; Yeh et al. 2007).

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