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By Boris M | 07 April, 2020 Published in Alcohol Rehab
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The Covid-19 virus has created a difficult situation for humanity in 2020. We are experiencing our most trying time in history right now. The paradox of the situation is that our best way to help is to stay in our homes and do nothing.

For many, this has turned to binge drinking and having “end of the world” or “coronavirus” parties as a coping mechanism.

Unfortunately, binge drinking alcohol is not a healthy idea. Not only is it already dangerous for the body, but it also impairs the body’s ability to combat disease.

This means that if you or your friends are binge-drinking alcohol, you are actually more susceptible to the coronavirus.

How does alcohol damage your immune system

Alcohol deprives the body of the nutrients it needs to fight off invaders. Too much alcohol has the same effect as too much sugar; it weakens the white blood cells’ ability to fight infection. The more alcohol you drink, the more your immune system is affected.

Alcohol also damages gut bacteria crucial for preventing dangerous pathogens from entering the bloodstream. It suppresses the activity of macrophages, ‘T and C cells.’ Macrophages are responsible for identifying viruses, while ‘T cells’ are what kills them.

‘C cells’ are found in the thyroid gland, which is where COVID-19 begins to replicate itself. Therefore, misusing alcohol will not only leave the thyroid and airway vulnerable but the entire respiratory system as well.[1]

Excessive alcohol use damages the immune system specifically around the lungs and upper respiratory area. This happens to be exactly where fatal respiratory diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, and now COVID-19 thrive. When your immune system is weak, the virus is able to pass through your blood virtually undetected and unchallenged.

How much alcohol is safe?

Unfortunately, when it comes to consuming alcohol, there are no “safe” limits. Binge drinking is very dangerous. However, the NHS of the United Kingdom recommends a “low risk” amount of no more than 14 drinks a week.

Note that this amount of alcohol will still leave you susceptible to any viral infection, just at “lower risk.” Even occasional binge drinking, like visiting and drinking with friends once on the weekend, can weaken the immune system for a day or more.

Study shows how binge-drinking affects cells

Gyongi Szabo and colleagues from the University of Massachusetts performed an experiment that showed how alcohol affects our white blood cells. They exposed white blood cells to bacteria- and virus-like chemicals.

However, half of the white blood cells were subjected to alcohol levels equivalent to someone who had been binge drinking daily for a week. When the white blood cells were exposed to the chemicals, they were heavily stunted in their ability to emit virus-fighting enzymes, They also overproduced an inflammatory response chemical known to damage the body’s cell in high doses.

Could drinking alcohol actually help the immune system?

A study done in 2016 observed how alcohol use affects the immune response in three groups of monkeys. The group of monkeys that drank a moderate amount of alcohol held the best immune response results out of all three groups, even the control group.

The University of Cambridge published a review that tried to make sense of this phenomenon of increased immune response after consuming alcohol. It suggested that moderate alcohol usage (which amounts to three to four drinks a day) suppresses the body’s release of cytokines, which initiate the inflammation response.[2]

Inflammation can help the body fight off infection in a specific area. But when in that state for too long, the body begins to destroy itself. The slowed release of cytokines inadvertently solves this issue. However, a “moderate” drinker still consumes three to four drinks per day, which is more than enough to still cause damage to the immune system.

Another study was conducted monitoring the immune system of 15 young adults (with an average age of 27) given four to five shots of vodka. Their immune response was initially promising in the first few minutes but tanked hard hours later.

Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus in the body

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently debunked a growing myth that consuming alcohol could destroy COVID-19 inside the body.

The myth most likely began as health professionals advised people that alcohol-based cleaners like wipes and hand sanitizers can destroy coronavirus on surfaces and on hands. Yet, alcohol cannot kill the virus once it has already entered and spread through the body.[3]

Who is more vulnerable to the dangers of alcohol?

Those suffering from mental and nervous orders, like depression and anxiety, are more likely to turn to narcotics as a way to escape their feelings. If they get their hands on a bottle of alcohol, they can easily be tempted to binge drink. Current or recovering alcoholics are also highly likely to revert back to their familiar habit if they find themselves with cabin fever.

If you know someone who is depressed or is starting to grow a bit quiet over the days, do not hesitate to send a quick message to check up on them. They need your support now more than ever.

Relieving symptoms of social distancing

Humans are social animals. These times of social distancing can be very tough for us. Lack of touch can increase feelings of sadness, loneliness, and emotional distance. We can particularly find it difficult to be stuck in one spot for months on end, unable to work or go out and meet friends and family.

As travel is discouraged, we must turn to alternative methods to raise our spirits. Alleviate feelings of loneliness by connecting with loved ones via video chat. Call them up on the phone the old fashioned way.[4]

With social media sites, we can share entertaining links and informative videos and articles with friends. These little moments give people the hope they need to stay positive about the crisis.

Is it safe to drink alcohol during the coronavirus pandemic?

Although moderate drinking has shown short term benefits to the immune response, binge drinking and daily moderate drinking have been proven to weaken the body’s ability to fight off invaders. It is best to stay away from alcohol altogether during this crisis, only sharing a drink on certain occasions.

Ready to get help?

We offer high-quality rehabilitation & detoxification services tailored to your individual needs.

To discover your road to recovery away from alcohol, call us today on 0800 140 4690.

References

[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-8115521/How-drinking-alcohol-impact-immunity-leave-higher-risk-catching-coronvirus.html

[2] https://www.thehealthsite.com/news/coronavirus-scare-taking-a-hot-bath-drinking-alcohol-will-not-protect-you-from-the-virus-says-who-731146/

[3] https://www.pinkvilla.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/coronavirus-drinking-alcohol-can-prevent-covid-19-find-out-truth-515224

[4] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-51735367

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