Alcohol Misuse Affects Immune Response

The clock is running down on 2021 and as we look forward to 2022, with some uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic, focusing on health and wellbeing can be empowering.  As important as vaccinations and other safety measures are to prevent illness, lifestyle choices are also key to supporting a healthy immune system and alcohol misuse can make the body more susceptible to viral infections including COVID-19. 

Thinking of having a dry January, abstaining from alcohol?  You may be on to something that will benefit your health in several ways.  According to a recent Los Angeles Daily News report, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse recently announced that alcohol misuse not only increases the risk for liver disease, heart disease, stroke, depression, and certain cancers, but it can also lower the body’s defenses against viral infection. 

Several studies found that alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic, with more people drinking heavily during lock-downs.  As COVID-19, with the new Omicron variant, continues to infect large numbers of people, it’s clear that we aren’t out of the woods yet.  With the rapid spread of Omicron, flights are being cancelled and restaurants are forced to close when infected staff must quarantine.  Many people are back home, trying to enjoy the holiday season while staying healthy. 

Although a small amount of alcohol may offer some health benefits, drinking more than one drink per day for women, and two drinks for men can lead to many serious health problems. The good news is that one of the growing food and drink trends for the New Year is the availability of non-alcoholic beverages that mimic the taste of spirits, beer, wine, and seltzer.  People who either don’t drink alcohol or want to change their drinking habits can still enjoy a festive mocktail. 

Many people drink more heavily to help cope with stress, sleep problems, or boredom but over time, excessive alcohol consumption can worsen these same issues.  Alcohol can also interact with certain prescription and over-the-counter medications.  If you are concerned about your drinking habits and need help, there are many peer support groups and behavioral therapies available online and in person.  Visit the NIAA to learn more or call 211 for free community and social service information.  For holiday mocktail recipes everyone can enjoy, follow this link to The Spruce Eats.