Impact of Alcohol Abuse on the Adaptive Immune System PMC

does alcohol lower your immune system

But drinking can weaken this system, leaving us vulnerable to infections and diseases. Even drinking a little too much (binge drinking) on occasion can set off a chain reaction that affects your well-being. Lowered inhibitions can lead to poor choices with lasting repercussions — like the end of a relationship, an accident or legal woes. Each of those consequences can cause turmoil that can negatively affect your long-term emotional health. Having a glass of wine with dinner or a beer at a party here and there isn’t going to destroy your gut.

  • The human gut is the largest organ with immune function in our body, responsible for regulating the homeostasis of the intestinal barrier.
  • IFN-γ downregulated the expression of several genes related to lipogenesis and fatty uptake including Srebp-1, Fas, Acc, Gpat, Scd1, and Fat (82).
  • Alcohol also causes damage to the cells in the outside layer of your stomach and intestines.
  • Similarly, more work is needed to determine whether alcohol inhibits specific aspects of B-cell differentiation, such as immunoglobulin class switching and cell survival.
  • Numerous studies have demonstrated alcohol-related impairment of T-cell responses to various challenges.

Circulating Factors

Another aspect of cell-mediated immunity that is affected by ethanol consumption is the delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) response. DTH refers to a cutaneous T-cell–mediated inflammatory reaction that takes 2 to 3 days to develop. One early study (Lundy et al. 1975) showed defects in cell-mediated immunity in male alcoholic patients admitted for detoxification, in response both to a new antigen and to an antigen to which they had previously been exposed. A more recent study (Smith et al. 2004) reported that a negative correlation existed between the amount of alcohol consumed by the participants and the size of DTH skin test responses to a specific antigen (i.e., keyhole limpet hemocyanin).

does alcohol lower your immune system

Short-term effects of alcohol on the immune system

  • Not only does the immune system mediate alcohol-related injury and illness, but a growing body of literature also indicates that immune signaling in the brain may contribute to alcohol use disorder.
  • Besides in the liver, the enzymes involved in the oxidative metabolism of alcohol also are present in the intestinal mucosa and intestinal bacteria also produce acetaldehyde in the gastrointestinal tract [41].
  • Individuals with AUD are often deficient in one or more essential nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, and thiamine (Hoyumpa 1986).
  • If alcohol continues to accumulate in your system, it can destroy cells and, eventually, damage your organs.

Chronic alcohol consumption results in lymphopenia with a loss in circulating T cells and B cells. The decrease in T cells is accompanied by increased homeostatic proliferation, which in turn leads to increased T-cell differentiation, activation, and conversion to the memory phenotype. Impairment in T-cell recruitment also was observed in mouse models of chronic alcohol exposure. Despite reduced B-cell numbers, people with AUD exhibit increased serum concentration of IgA, IgG, and IgE. This increase in circulating Igs correlates with increased levels of antibodies directed against liver antigens and byproducts of oxidative damage. Finally, alcohol exposure in utero significantly interferes with the development of T cells and B cells, which ultimately might increase risk for infections during adulthood.

Effects on T-Cell Numbers, Phenotype, and Activation

  • Extremely heavy drinking — about 30 drinks per day — can throw off the balance of immune system cells.
  • These observations suggest that immune defects seen in individuals with AUD could also be mediated by nutritional deficiencies in addition to barrier defects and functional changes in immune cells.
  • These articles detail how alcohol affects the immune system and how researchers are harnessing this knowledge to help prevent and treat alcohol-related harm.
  • This damage to the permeability of the intestinal membrane allows bacteria and their components to enter the blood tissue, reaching other organs such as the liver or the brain.
  • Additional studies in rodents assessed the effects of alcohol on the effectiveness of bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination, which protects against tuberculosis.

Integrating gene expression patterns with gene regulation could reveal novel insight into specific pathways that are dysregulated with alcohol abuse and could explain the increased susceptibility to infection. These insights could lead to interventions to restore immunity, such as reversing changes in histone modifications and DNA methylation patterns or modulating expression levels of miRNAs. In addition, such studies could reveal the pathways that are modified by moderate alcohol consumption to enhance immune response to vaccination. The dendritic cell (DC), which plays a critical role in T cell activation and initiation of adaptive immune responses, is another innate immune cell affected by ethanol.

The consequences of impaired gut structural integrity are significant (see figure 1). Several studies have also shown that the lungs are highly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. For example, alcohol can reduce the ability of respiratory epithelium cells to remove mucous from the lungs, which can directly damage lung does alcohol weaken your immune system tissue and weaken the proper functioning of the lungs over time. Although this chronic weakening of lung function may not cause any immediate symptoms, these effects can manifest when a severe respiratory infection occurs. Chronic drinking — for 12 to 15 years — can lead to a reduction in the number of T cells.

does alcohol lower your immune system

Your body releases certain proteins that help the immune system, called cytokines, only during sleep. Alcoholic beverages are energy dense and often become the primary energy source in those with AUD, leading to malnutrition. Individuals with AUD are often deficient in one or more essential nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folate, and thiamine (Hoyumpa 1986). These micronutrients have been shown to play an important role in immune system homeostasis and response to infection (Mora, Iwata et al. 2008). An army of antibodies — Another subsystem of the immune system is called adaptive immunity.

Alcohol and HIV Effects on the Immune System

LPS (lipopolysaccharide), Gram-negative bacteria membrane main product, and other bacterial metabolites reach the liver via the portal vein where they are enabled to induce the activation of the inflammatory processes. A study in rats has shown that only two weeks of alcohol administration disrupts the intestinal barrier and after two weeks more, liver injury occurs [62]. In the liver, gut-derived molecules interact with the hepatocytes, parenchymal cells, and immune cells causing injuries including hepatic steatosis, hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma [63].

Moderate alcohol consumption and the immune system: a review

  • Some systems, like the nervous system may be altered in subtle ways that alter behavior (75).
  • These molecules enter the circulation to the liver where they activate endothelial and stellate cells as well as hepatocytes, resulting in a chronic inflammatory environment aggravating organ injury.
  • Only select substances can cross the intestinal barrier and move into the liver, the bile ducts and the portal vein being the major connection points between the liver and microbiome [31].

This phenomenon was not observed in a TLR4 mutant mouse, indicating that the acute phase response is mediated by TLR4 (Pruett and Pruett 2006). Ethanol modulates the function of monocytes, immature innate immune cells that circulate in the blood until recruited into tissues, in a dose and time dependent manner. Monocytes express Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4, which is the PRR responsible for recognizing the endotoxin LPS on the surface of Gram negative bacteria.

does alcohol lower your immune system

Alcohol-induced changes in tight junctions cause increased intestinal leaks that lead to translocation of bacteria-derived products such as lipopolysaccharide (LPS). These molecules enter the circulation to the liver where they activate endothelial and stellate cells as well as hepatocytes, resulting in a chronic inflammatory environment aggravating organ injury. Alcohol consumption does not have to be chronic to have negative health consequences.

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