Alcohol-and-the-immune-system

Alcohol Awareness Month: Too Much Drink Can Do a Number on Your Immune System

Alcohol can be your friend during cold and flu (and COVID-19) season. Clean hands thoroughly with soap and water, or if you only have hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. For surfaces, a solution that has at least 70% alcohol should keep bugs at bay. But resorting to drinking the hard stuff, that’s not so great for one’s health. Never mind cases of people drinking bootleg liquor in a misguided effort to treat coronavirus. Drinking pure methanol (wood grain alcohol) won’t do a lick of good. It can lead to blindness and even death. Rubbing alcohol is no better. Small amounts can kill a child. It’s poisonous to adults, too. Even inhaling it can be deadly. That’s definitely no healing elixir. Excess alcohol consumption isn’t a friend to the immune system, either. Science says too much can make one more vulnerable to illnesses such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndromes, alcoholic liver disease, and some cancers. It also slows and inhibits recovery from infections and wounds. Drug abuse isn’t good for the immune system either. Long-term abuse of marijuana weakens the body’s defenses, and cocaine hinders immune cell functioning and can speed up the HIV virus. Too much alcohol also robs the body of needed vitamins. To keep your immune system functioning at its best, a few good habits will help:
  • Make sure your diet has plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • If you drink, do it in moderation
  • Get regular exercise
  • Avoid infection by washing your hands regularly and often
A daily multivitamin is a good idea too. Vitamins A and D and zinc help strengthen the immune system. Vitamin C is a popular pick, too, in part because it’s thought to boost white blood cell production. Vitamin C can be found in citrus, red bell peppers and broccoli. Spinach is rich in the stuff as well, along with vitamin A and other antioxidants. Find zinc in shellfish, beans, beef, and fortified cereals. Get vitamin D from swordfish, salmon and tuna, fortified dairy products, and egg yolks. If alcohol or drug use is impacting your day-to-day life in a negative way, whether it’s leading to family strife, job struggles, or health issues, remember that help is out there. Sources cdc.gov – Show Me the Science — When & How to Use Hand Sanitizer in Community Settings cdc.gov – Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations cbsnews.com – 44 People Killed from Alcohol Poisoning in Iran Trying to Ward Off Coronavirus time.com – The History of Poisoned Alcohol Includes an Unlikely Culprit: The U.S. Government ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Alcohol and the Immune System surgeongeneral.gov – Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health drugabuse.gov – What Is Cocaine? health.harvard.edu – How to Boost Your Immune System cdc.gov – Micronutrient Facts healthline.com – 15 Foods That Boost the Immune System

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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