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The impact of alcohol on the immune system

Everyone responded to the pandemic in different ways. While some reached for their running trainers, plenty reached for the bottle. With stress, anxiety and boredom all trigger points for drinking, studies have shown that binge drinking increased in certain population groups throughout lockdown.

 But with around 80% of British adults over the age of 16 drinking alcohol, just what impact is that having on the health of the nation?

 

 

How much alcohol is a healthy amount?

First off, it’s best to clarify what is considered a healthy amount of alcohol to consume. The UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) recommend it’s best for men and women to drink maximum of 14 units or less of alcohol each week. Regularly drinking a higher quantity increases the risk of disease or illness due to the adverse effect on the body.

Those seeking to cut down their alcohol consumption should consider having ‘drink free days’ during the week, such as from Monday to Friday. Alternatively making use of tools such as One Year No Beer (oneyearnobeer.com) can help transform your relationship with alcohol.

 

The negative effects of alcohol on your immune system

Over the past year, the importance of a healthy immune system has been well documented. A healthy immune system fights off harmful germs and substances that can cause the body to suffer. However, drinking too much alcohol can have an adverse effect on the immune system that leads to an increased risk of serious infection.

At the most basic level, alcohol weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections. Those who drink almost every day may find that they catch colds or other illnesses more frequently than those who abstain from alcohol. Just one reason for this is that alcohol damages the immune cells and fine hairs in the lungs, limiting their ability to clear pathogens from the airways.

When alcohol is in your system, the body prioritises its metabolisation above other key functions. This is because the body doesn’t have a way to store alcohol, meaning it’s essentially a waste product. It is the liver’s job to detoxify and remove alcohol from the blood, which is one reason why excessive alcohol consumption often leads to liver damage and be the cause of bad bacteria developing in the gut. In some cases, this bacteria migrates through the intestinal wall and into the liver, also causing damage.

Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to numerous illnesses and diseases such as heart problems, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and reduced brain function. A weak heartbeat (cardiomyopathy), irregular beat pattern (arrhythmias) and hypertension are common consequences of having more than four alcoholic drinks a day, with the increased risk of high blood pressure leading to strokes and, in the worst circumstances, death.

 

What is Sober October?

Sober October began in 2014 as a fundraising campaign for Macmillan Cancer Support. It encourages people to go sober for anything from fourteen days to the entire month of October (and longer if they like!). Many use it as a fundraising opportunity, asking friends and family to sponsor them throughout the challenge. If going sober for an extended period is something you’ve considered – whether that’s for health reasons or anything else – Sober October could be a great starting point.

Non-alcoholic alternatives are a handy way to ease any transition into sobriety. They’re becoming more widely available, mimicking the taste of their alcoholic siblings to an ever-growing degree of sophistication.

Ramp up your immune system, give your liver a well-earned rest and delight your tastebuds this Sober October. Here are our top 5 favourite non-alcoholic alternatives to try out:

  1. Thomson & Scott – Organic Vegan Prosecco & Alcohol-Free Sparkling Wine
  2. Sea Arch – Coastal Juniper, Non-Alcoholic Devon Gin
  3. Feragaia – Alcohol-Free Spirit
  4. Highball – Alcohol-Free Cocktails
  5. Jump Ship Brewing – Alcohol-Free Beers

Look out for these amazing drinks that you might just find inside our Healthy Nibbles Christmas Hampers…

 

References

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2017

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7763183/

https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news/new-study-reveals-how-first-lockdown-impacted-alcohol-consumption

https://www.publichealthscotland.scot/media/2983/changes-in-alcohol-consumption-in-scotland-during-the-early-stages-of-the-covid-19-pandemic.pdf

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/6-surprising-ways-alcohol-affects-health-not-just-liver/

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/can-alcohol-hurt-your-immune-system-during-covid-19-outbreak#Drinking-impairs-immune-cells-in-key-organs

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/drinks-to-consume-in-moderation/alcohol-full-story/,

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/6-surprising-ways-alcohol-affects-health-not-just-liver/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/drinks-to-consume-in-moderation/alcohol-full-story/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7907975/

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