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Can Drinking Give You A Cold?


Woman sitting in bed sneezing into tissue and holding medicine bottle

According to a new study, drinking the night before can negatively impact your immune system the next day. This was true regardless of whether the drinker was prone to hangovers or not. In the study, scientists analyzed immunity levels and systemic inflammation of participants several times the day after they drank. To see if anything changed after a night of booze, they compared these to immunity levels on a control day where participants didn’t drink the night before.



What the Scientists Found

While this study looked at people who get hangovers separately from people who don’t, it found that all drinkers experienced a significant drop in immunity the next day. The reduction in immune fitness was significantly greater for those that were prone to hangovers than those that weren’t. However, the hangover-prone group already had a lower baseline level of immunity. This suggests that hangovers may possibly be a sign of an already-weakened immune system.


Does that mean that as long as you don’t get hangovers, or train your body enough to adapt to hangovers, that you don’t have to worry? No, because even for those that don’t get hangovers, immunity levels fell. Additionally, it is important to note that the study did not look at the long-term effects of drinking on the immune system, so it is unclear if and how this decrease is compounded with long-term drinking.



How Alcohol Impacts Immunity

Your immune system consists of various cell types, each with a specific role in keeping you healthy. Unfortunately, alcohol interferes with the functioning of these immune cells, compromising their ability to perform their vital tasks.


Impact on the Gastrointestinal Tract

The gastrointestinal tract is the first area where alcohol affects your immune system. Your intestines harbor good bacteria that contribute to proper immune system function. These bacteria, among other things, aid in the development of T cells, which are essential components of your immune system.


However, alcohol can disrupt the balance of these helpful bacteria in your gut, reducing their availability to support your immune system. Moreover, alcohol damages the cells in the stomach and intestines, leading to the leakage of bacteria into the bloodstream. This, in turn, can cause sickness and trigger inflammation in the liver, potentially resulting in alcoholic liver disease.


Effect on Antibodies

T cells and B cells, both originating in your bone marrow, are responsible for producing and releasing antibodies into your bloodstream. Antibodies play a crucial role in detecting and eliminating harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses, from your body.


Chronic and heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in the number of T cells and B cells. As a result, there are fewer antibodies available to fight off invaders, weakening your immune system’s ability to defend against infections.



Signs of a Weakened Immunity

If you are concerned about the impact of alcohol on your immune system, there are several signs to watch out for. These signs may indicate that your immune system is compromised and that it’s time to seek professional advice from your healthcare provider.


Some signs of a weakened immune system include:

  1. Frequent colds or infections.

  2. Digestive problems.

  3. Delayed wound healing.

  4. Skin infections.

  5. Persistent fatigue.

Should you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional.



What This Means For Us

This study has important practical implications for individuals who drink regularly. Immunity is essential for maintaining health, preventing and resolving disease, and improving quality of life. Naturally, having compromised immunity makes us more susceptible to disease. So it’s possible that that cold may be due in part to one too many nights out at the bar! It can also leave the body more vulnerable to the effects of stress and fatigue. Furthermore, the dehydration caused by alcohol can put the body in an even more weakened state.


Regular drinking can also lead to a decrease in the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, which in turn can also lead to a decrease in the effectiveness of the immune system. It is therefore important for individuals to be mindful of the amount of alcohol they consume, in order to prevent any negative consequences to their health. Regular alcohol consumption can also lead to long-term health problems, such as liver and kidney damage, an increased risk of certain types of cancer, and heart disease. It is important to be aware of the potential health risks associated with drinking and to find ways to reduce risk.


The good news? Your immune system can recover from the effects of alcohol consumption. By abstaining from alcohol for just 30 days, T cell counts can return to normal levels, helping to restore the strength of your immune system.


Not sure you’re ready to take a break? My coaching program helps clients comfortably and confidently reevaluate their relationship with alcohol and change limiting beliefs that no longer serve them. Click here to see if my program is right for you.

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Marci Rossi

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