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Alcohol and the immune system

Alcohol and the immune system

The relationship between alcohol and the immune system ranged in medical science from recommendations of a glass of wine to raise defenses to its total prohibition. This motivated intense debates and a series of investigations to clarify the issue.

Needless to say, alcoholism is a prevalent scourge with disastrous consequences. It is an addiction that is present at all ages of life and at any latitude on the planet.

The immune system is not exempt from the effects of alcohol, and it is important for people to understand this, so as not to fall into misunderstandings. Sometimes, out of commercial desire, some brands promote certain consumptions that are not healthy.

The negative aspects of alcohol do not only manifest themselves in the long term or in chronic users. We know that this drug is behind traffic accidents, domestic problems and injuries due to fights. But the immune system is also weakened by acute and excessive consumption, slowing down the healing processes, for example.

By knowing how alcohol affects the immune system, we take a step forward in the possibility of reducing the effects of its addiction. In addition, elements are added to treat specific cases where alcoholism favors infections and even the development of neoplasms.

What are the effects of alcohol on the immune system?

The first point of contact of alcohol with the body is the digestive system. Mainly, the mucous membranes of the mouth, stomach and intestine. The latter is a key piece of the immune system to stop pathogenic agents.

In the intestinal mucosa, the internal lining functions as a barrier so that harmful substances do not enter the blood. Alcohol is capable of irritating this mucosa and creating small openings through which microorganisms would leak.

Also, in the gastrointestinal system we have the microbiota, that set of bacteria that inhabit the intestine and behave collaboratively with humans, without making them sick. Alcohol, when it breaks into the intestinal lumen, alters the balance of these microorganisms and decreases their natural defensive function.

And not only the gastrointestinal section is affected, but also the respiratory system. The lungs have mechanisms to sweep mucus and expel microbes to the outside with the movement of small hairs called cilia.

It turns out that alcohol affects the lung immune system by disrupting the movement of cilia. This is not to mention that the white blood cells close to the bronchi become less efficient in alcoholism.

Phases of immune impairment due to alcohol

Alcohol affects the immune system in three different temporal phases, from immediate to chronic indirect. These periods follow one another and even overlap in an alcoholic person.

Acutely, the body's defense cells have a tendency to attack alcohol, considering it an external, unrecognized toxic substance. So, when there is an immune response, there is inflammation; The problem is that alcohol is capable of blocking some inflammatory proteins.

The inflammatory blockade caused by alcohol is complex, but we know that two direct effects are easily noticeable: the epithelia heal more slowly and infections penetrate easily, especially at the lung level.

As time goes by, if we continue to consume alcohol in excessive quantities, the white blood cells become increasingly blocked by the drug. We enter the chronic involvement of the immune system and the possibility of opportunistic infections taking over the organs.

Ultimately there are the indirect effects, that is, those derived from the hormonal and metabolic changes caused by alcohol. The substance is capable of modifying the rhythm and damaging the liver, where multiple hormones are metabolized.

There is no safe dose of alcohol for the immune system.

As far as the immune system is concerned, we can say that science has not found an amount of alcohol consumption that can be considered completely safe. It is essential to be clear about this to avoid falling into commercial deceptions.

Alcoholism is a public health problem, and young people are the most vulnerable risk population. If a person begins their problematic alcohol consumption in adolescence, it is likely that they will suffer from serious immunity problems in early adulthood.

Prevention is the best way to address the situation, and information becomes a key tool. The more we know what science has discovered about the effect of alcohol on the immune system, the more conscious we will be when consuming it.

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