Does Alcohol Lower Your Immune System? A Detailed Guide

Do you know the effects of alcohol on the internal organs of the body? Follow this article to understand the impact of alcohol on your body and find out how alcohol lowers your immune system.

When somebody drinks alcohol, the first thought that crosses our mind is of hangover and unconsciousness. Still, alcohol entering our body does more damage to it than just putting our body in a state of unconsciousness. It deals with all the functionalities of our internal body and weakens the immune system.

A weakened immune system makes it difficult for the body to fight against all the foreign bacteria and viruses entering our body. One should find out how this happens and how our body responds to it to better understand our health so that we can take proper measures against its harmful effect. An individual should know the capability of one’s body and the warning signs that a human body gives in an unwanted situation to deal with it in a better way.

This article will help you go through all the aspects of alcohol drinking, including its effect on our physical health, psychological health and how does all that contribute to making your body more prone to diseases and infection so that you can understand how does alcohol lower your immune system and what one should do to retrieve back a strong immunity.

Does alcohol lower your immune system?

Heavy drinking weakens your immune system, making you more prone to diseases and illnesses. Our body consists of different types of cells to safeguard the body from harmful germs attacking us and making us ill.

All alcohol drinkers, be it on an acute level or heavy level, have to face the consequences in the form of their organs and antibodies getting affected. However, age is a factor contributing to the effect of alcohol, and for that reason, the majority of countries do not allow children below 18 years to drink alcohol. Along with children, older people are less tolerant of the effects of alcohol because the functionality of our body organs weakens as we get older.

The human body is built in a way that different proteins and cells identify if there are any health threats present in our body. This ability to recognize health threats and work against them gets affected with continuous intake of alcohol, and the body becomes prone to diseases and infections. Excessive alcohol consumption is called alcohol abuse, and it leads your body to a slower immune system, so your body responds quickly to viruses and bacteria. The longer a body is abused by alcohol, the more time it will take to build immunity.

Alcohol consumed even in small amounts leaves harmful effects on our bodies, but immense intake of alcohol can have visible short and long-term results.

Short-term effects

The immediate changes in our body after the consumption of alcohol are called short-term effects of alcohol. The most apparent short-term effect of alcohol consumption is the state of Hangover. Alcohol triggers many reactions taking place in our bodies which contribute to hangovers. The hangover intensity depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and the metabolism rate of an individual.

The first part of our body getting affected due to alcohol consumption is our brain. It changes the standard functionality of the brain, and it further makes changes in other physical functionalities. The short-term psychological effects of alcohol include impaired cognitive ability, memory loss, unstable emotions, loss of bladder control, and agitation.

If a person has consumed a large amount of alcohol, then the hangover will be severe, and unconsciousness will last for a long time, but if he has consumed a small amount of alcohol, then the intensity of the hangover will not be very severe, and unconsciousness will be recovered in a shorter time. Along with the affected functionality of the liver due to it being overloaded with binge drinking, our body further can go through anemia, dizziness, nausea, unsteadiness of feet, changes in appetite, and respiratory depression.

However, the intensity of these above-mentioned effects depends on a number of factors, such as the quality of alcohol being consumed, the age of the drinker, the quantity of alcohol, and the gender and hydration level of the drinker. There is also a risk of alcohol poisoning if a person has an immense amount of alcohol that his body cannot tolerate. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include slow breathing, pale skin, seizures, and constant passing out. In such a case, instant medical treatment is required.

Long-term effects

Long-term effects develop in the body slowly as it takes time to get severe and show visible symptoms. Your body gives you warning signs about the negative changes occurring in the body, but if you avoid those warning signs, then there is a risk of long-term harmful effects. A person who gets addicted to alcohol and drinks it on a regular basis might be able to deal with the short-term effects of alcohol, but his body will face the long term effects of it.

The main ingredient of alcohol is ethanol which works as a poison for the brain, as a result of which there is a high risk of irreversible brain damage. The consistent intake of ethanol can increase the risk of CNS depression which leads to uninhibited and impaired sensor and motor functions of the body.

Another brain abnormality related to alcohol is Wernicke-Korsakoff’s syndrome, also known as Karsakoff’s amnesic syndrome. In this condition, our body suffers from a deficiency of vitamin B1 due to the continuous intake of alcohol. As a result of which, our brain functions get affected. Immediate treatment of this syndrome can help your body recover, but if it is left untreated in the early stages, there can be a risk of lung infection and blood poisoning.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption contributes to more than two hundred diseases in the world. To put an end to those diseases, it is important to refrain from heavy alcohol consumption. Consecutive alcohol intake can also disturb the other activities of life because your body depends on alcohol, and you are unable to perform basic activities of life such as driving, self-hygiene, relationship dealing, etc.

Immune system

Our body is built with a network of cells and tissues that help our body grow and fight against the substances that can harm the organs and makes it difficult to perform their duties in our body. This is a constant effort of the body to defend itself from the invaders making it difficult for the body to function in a healthier way. There are two significant types of immunity systems that the human body contains:

Innate Immune system

It is a non-specific immune system that performs equally in all parts of the body. The first resistant barrier that germs come in contact with is the innate immune system which fights the germ and destroys it so that it does not spread and harm the organs’ functionality. The closed surface of our skin is already a barrier between the outside chemicals and our internal organs, but the substances and enzymes present in our body also protect the body from germs.

This defense is either present on the skin or the outer membrane of the cells. For example, when a person gets a cut on the skin, it is possible that the germs try to enter the body through the cut, but the immune system fights these germs and refrains them from entering the body. Another example is Cilium protecting our body from harmful external substances.

Every individual is born with this innate immune system, and it stays functional till a person dies. Its strength may vary from person to person, depending on his health.

Adaptive immune system

If the innate immune system is unable to destroy the germ, then the adaptive immune system gets activated. It analyzes the germ when it enters the body and then identifies if it is harmful so that it can further target the exact germ that is affecting the functionality of the organs. If a bacteria or germ enters our body for the first time, this immune system may take some time to fight against it, but if the same bacteria tries to attack our body again, it will quickly fight against it.

This immune system consists of T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes present in our tissues and the antibodies present in different parts of your body. The T lymphocytes detect the harmful bacteria entering our body and alert the other immune cells to work against them. It is also the cell that remembers the bacteria type and hence takes no time to detect it if it enters again. The T lymphocytes then alert B lymphocytes in our body so that they multiply and transform into plasma. The plasma produces antibodies that fight against the bacteria.

Effects of drinking on human organs

Alcohol enters our body and comes in contact with multiple parts. It reacts differently on multiple organs of our body, leaving its harmful effects on all those parts. Some of its effects are listed below:

Digestive system

Alcohol enters our body through the mouth and goes into the digestive system. The bacteria present in our intestine help in making antibodies, but when alcohol comes in contact with these bacteria, it affects them. These bacteria numbers decrease, which eventually weakens your immune system. Inflammation is the natural process that helps your immune system because the body sends more blood to the cells through which proteins are transferred to the area fighting against germs.

This natural process gets affected by drinking alcohol. The bacteria present in the intestine get leaked to the liver, as a result of which unnecessary inflammation occurs, and it weakens the liver. This is the reason why an alcoholic person’s liver is very weak, and he is more prone to liver diseases than a non-alcoholic person.

Weakens antibodies

Antibodies in every living being work against harmful substances entering our body so that the body can function without any disturbance by any virus or harmful bacteria. These antibodies are produced with the help of T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes as B lymphocytes multiply and make plasma. These cells get heavily affected by alcohol consumption, and their quantity gets affected, which makes it difficult for the body to make antibodies quickly and fight against harmful bacteria.

It becomes easier for the pathogens to enter our body and spread across it because the defense mechanism of our body against all diseases, including viral and bacterial infections, gets slower.

Harms upper airway of the respiratory system

The respiratory tract also gets affected due to alcohol consumption. The immune cells present in the respiratory tract of our body, such as alveolar macrophages and neutrophils, get weakened and are unable to perform the expected ciliary function, as a result of which our body becomes more prone to all pulmonary and respiratory diseases.

Weakens recovery from physical trauma

Alcohol attacks the immune homeostasis in our body, as a result of which our body finds it difficult to work against various types of physical traumas. People having PTSD are more inclined towards alcohol consumption because of the restlessness in their life, but this alcohol increases their trauma. Although alcohol distracts them from their problems for a short period of time, it makes their PTSD symptoms worse.

If a person is already going through PTSD and also is a binge drinker, then he might suffer from additional problems of long-term physical pain and panic attacks.


The cells in our body are called neurons; they control all the functionalities of the human body by communicating with each other through chemical messages. These chemical messages are called neurotransmitters which further bind to proteins called receptors. Different types of receptors perform different duties in our bodies. One such receptor, called the glutamate receptor, is responsible for memory and learning.

When a person consumes alcohol in large quantities, ethanol present in alcohol blocks this glutamate receptor and affects its functionality, as a result of which the memory and learning of an individual are disturbed. This leads to a memory loss condition called amnesia.

Motor skills

The cerebellum is present at the back of our brain and plays an important role in the motor coordination of our body. The functions of the cerebellum get disrupted with heavy intake of ethanol; hence it gets difficult for the person to walk in a straight line or drive a car. All the activities requiring motor coordination get affected by alcohol consumption because it contains ethanol.

The continuous intake of ethanol also affects the neurons that deal with the dopamine of the brain, so the brain becomes less restrained. This leads to a state called “alcohol myopia,” which makes the person focus on his immediate desires as the person is unable to see the bigger picture of the situation. An alcohol drinker loses control over his desires and can put himself in an unwanted position because of momentary desires.

Slower wound healing

An alcohol drinker’s wounds will take longer to heal as compared to a non-alcohol person. A variety of nutrients are required to heal the wounds of a living body, but with heavy alcohol consumption, these nutrients are secreted from the body and deprive the body of these essential nutrients. This is one of the reasons for the slow healing of wounds in an alcoholic person.

Moreover, alcohol damages the pancreas in our digestive system. The pancreas’s function to secrete insulin gets weakened, and it further elevates the sugar level of the body. The increase in sugar level narrows the blood vessels of the body, as a result of which blood flow of the skin slows down; hence it takes longer for a body to heal the wounds.

Distract body from other functions

The human body does not have a system to store alcohol the way it stores fats and carbohydrates, so when a person consumes alcohol, the whole body focuses on breaking it down so that it is metabolized as soon as possible.

For example, if a body has to heal, it will take more time to heal it because the body’s priority will be to send the alcohol to the liver, so it gets metabolized. If a person has consumed a large amount of alcohol, the body will take longer to metabolize it, and other bodily functions may suffer.

What are signs that you are drinking too much alcohol?

It is better to avoid alcohol completely to live a healthier life, but for an alcohol addict, it can be difficult to quit drinking completely. Such people can gradually work on it. In the early stages, they should lessen the intake of alcohol which can eventually help them quit it completely. There is a limit to which your body can handle the alcohol, and it varies from person to person depending on age, gender, and immunity.

If a man drinks more than four drinks, then it will be considered alcohol abuse, and immediate actions are required to control it. However, the capacity of the female body to handle alcohol is weaker than the male body. Where a man can take four drinks, this quantity is excessive for the female body as a female body can handle three drinks a day.

How long does the immune system take to recover from alcohol?

It is possible to bounce your body back to its natural immunity after going through alcohol abuse. While alcohol consumption disrupts the natural mechanism of your body, some maintenance and care are required to put it back in its natural form.

It will take 24 hours of alcohol consumption for the body to start fixing it back. If a person has been drinking an immense amount of alcohol for a long time, then gradual corrections from the damage can be seen within a few months of controlling it. All the damage to the cardiovascular system of your body because of alcohol will also be healed within a few months of its abstinence.

A person needs to change his lifestyle to strengthen his immunity. This lifestyle change includes proper internal and external hygiene, healthy regular exercise, and a proper sleep cycle. Your diet change can have a great impact on your immune system. A person should lessen the intake of sugar so that the response time in their white blood cells becomes faster. Moreover, adding vegetables such as cabbage and broccoli to your diet can show rapid growth in immunity. All the vegetables and fruits can strengthen your body’s organ’s functionality.

Inflammation is one of the outcomes of alcohol consumption, but regular exercise can help reduce this inflammation in your body. Additionally, regular exercise can nourish the immune markers in your body so that it can respond to foreign bacteria in an efficient way. A proper nighttime sleep cycle can give your body time to rest and heal.


Alcohol is harmful to the human body because of several reasons, but when it is consumed in an immense quantity, then this becomes alcohol abuse, and the risk of it harming our body also increases. It attacks different parts of the human body, including cells that work to safeguard our body from harmful diseases so that the body can grow in a healthy way. Alcohol disrupts the innate immune system of our body and makes it prone to hundreds of conditions as it enters into the digestive system and leaves its impact on all the parts of our body, including the brain.

It is important for everyone to keep track of their alcohol consumption and try to refrain from it as much as possible for a better and healthy environment. It is, however, not impossible to control alcohol addiction, and with a healthy diet and proper exercise, one can give back to the body what is stolen from it because of alcohol.