Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System

long-term effects of alcohol on the immune system

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Alcohol’s debilitating effects on overall health are common understanding. The very real Long-term effects of alcohol on the immune system, however, is a hard truth many are unaware of. The fact is you’re doing more than harming your vital functions by inflicting permanent long-term health problems. You’re tearing down your immune system by continually indulging in alcohol consumption.

At Jaywalker in Carbondale, Colorado, we detail everything about the long-term effects of alcohol on the immune system and other correlated dangers.

effects of alcohol to immune system

How Does Alcohol Harm Your Immune System?

There are a variety of organic impacts of alcohol on the immune system. Most of which can be reversed simply by absolving drinking from your life entirely. Here are a few of those harmful impacts on your immune system.

Gastrointestinal Impacts

Your gastrointestinal tract plays a vital role in fighting off diseases not just in your gut, but throughout your entire body. That’s because your stomach holds important bacteria that help form T-cells that serve as your body’s defense against foreign invaders.

The presence of alcohol attacks these T-cells, thus minimizing the amount of these disease fighters. To make matters worse, additional T-cells come to the rescue of their brothers to prevent an inflammatory response. This overwhelming focus of T-cells to neutralize alcohol opens up an opportunity for diseases to invade other areas of the body. In turn, your already busy defenses are less equipped to fight off these foreign agents.

Destruction of Antibodies

Another harm caused by excessive drinking is the destruction of natural antibodies the body produces. These intricate disease-fighting cells are produced in the bone marrow and sent throughout the bloodstream to detect and neutralize foreign agents. The long-term effects of alcohol on the immune system destroy these important antibodies, opening an opportunity for life-threatening diseases to invade the body.

Slowed Immune Response

Alcohol not only slows the body’s digestive response, it also slows your body’s immune response. That’s because alcohol makes the body work overtime to neutralize its harmful effects. In turn, this prevents the body’s immune response from fighting off more deadly diseases in other parts of the body.

What are the Short-term Effects of Alcohol?

Alcohol’s short-term effects can last anywhere from hours to several days depending on the amount consumed. The duration and extent of the following side effects vary by individual.


Disorientation is distorted visuals of your circumstance. This causes people and objects to appear blurry, faded, or even seem to move. Alcohol-related disorientation is most prevalent when under the influence. However, it can linger for days beyond the initial effects. This occurs due to alcohol’s dehydrating effects on the brain and body.

Cognitive Impairment

The cognitive functions of your brain are responsible for impulsive memory retention such as recognition and recalling recent events. Cognitive brain functions also hold motor skills, depth perception, and reaction time related to driving. Alcohol attacks your immune functions in such a way that it distorts the reality around you.

According to the NHTSA, an average of 37 fatalities occur every day at the hands of a drunk driver. This statistic makes drunk driving the most dangerous thing to do while under the influence. It remains an ever-increasing statistic of one of the leading causes of death in the US.

Lowered Inhibitions

Natural Inhibitions provide the organic presence of mind to utilize discretion with the utmost clarity. This prevents you from doing things outside of your comfort zone. Alcohol, however, lowers these inhibitions, causing many people to do things they normally would not. This results in severe guilt and regrets that can never be taken back.


One of the most common and unpreventable causes of excessive drinking is hangovers. Hangovers are the period when your immune system goes into hyperdrive to repair the short-term damage done to your body. This causes several uncomfortable side effects. These hangover symptoms vary by individual in severity and length. These hangover side effects consist of headaches, fatigue, nausea, and audio/visual hypersensitivity. Often the greatest method to resolve any hangover is to hydrate yourself.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System?

Over time, alcohol can destroy your body’s functions to the point of no return. This means drinking has done so much harm to your body, it has developed long-term irreversible damage in the form of various health issues. Here are just a few of those long-term consequences.

Liver Disease

Liver disease occurs when your liver has so much damage that it can no longer function at full capacity. This means your body’s immune system has been so compromised, it can no longer protect your liver from the irreversible harms of drinking. Alcohol is the primary cause of liver disease and causes other parts of the body to deteriorate as a result of a lower-functioning liver.


One of the most fatal long-term effects of alcohol on the immune system is the increased risk of acquiring various cancers. When foreign substances like alcohol prevent your bodily defenses, it opens the door for cancer to evade your immune system long enough to become fatal.

Cardiovascular Damage

Continuous alcohol consumption causes irreparable damage to the heart muscle and surrounding valves over time. That’s because drinking weakens the cardiovascular system beyond T-cell repair capabilities. Once heart problems are developed, your body can no longer fight off the damage done. However, reaching out to our dedicated team of sympathetic specialists can help you add years to your life and percent further heart damage from occurring.

Acquiring Mental Health Conditions

The job of your body’s immune system is not only to protect your body. Your immune system also serves as a defense to protect your mind. However, when alcohol is introduced to the body, the slowed immune response can destabilize neuronic frequencies. This mental destabilization leads to a wide range of mental health conditions. Many of which are irreversible. Their symptoms however can be managed and in many cases neutralized by abstaining from drinking and seeking professional help.

How to Repair Your Immune System After Drinking

Thankfully, there are many steps you can take to help restore your immune system and immunity responses. All of the following methods to repair your immune system should be guided and directed by a therapy specialist.

  1. Seek Professional Treatment: Many people who attempt to stop drinking alone, fail to do so. However, even if you do, it does not fully or properly repair your immune system the way a medical professional can. Therefore, the most effective way to recover from alcohol and restore full functionality to your immune system is to seek professional help. Jaywalker has all the greatest recovery tools to get you on the fast track toward sobriety and immune system recovery.
  2. A Healthy Diet: Balanced nutrition is one of the most effective ways to supercharge your immune system to full capacity. This consists of the right balance of fruit, meat, and vegetables to ensure a well-rounded approach to immune system recovery. Most treatments at Jaywalker provide a full-proof diet plan and schedule that can help you maximize immune system response. Please note there is no set timetable for how long immune systems recover from alcoholism.
  3. Hydrate with Tea and Water: One of the greatest methods to help your immune system recover is to infuse a healthy habit of consuming lots of water and tea. Water is the most healthy thing you could feed your body, while tea provides numerous antioxidants and natural immunity benefits. Reach out to a recovery specialist to learn more about how water and tea can help you recuperate from the long-term effects of alcohol on the immune system.
  4. Exercise: Physical activity is the most natural and effective way to boost your overall health and immune response. Studies show that exercise automatically activates a surge of immune cells to pulse throughout the body. This surge can last up to 3 hours after activity, fending off any foreign agents in that period. Furthermore, it improves circulation, which allows your immune cells easier access to fight off diseases.

What are the Tell-Tale Indicators of a Weakened Immune System?

long term effects of alcoholThere are very specific manifestations of a weakened immune system. None of which should be taken lightly. Take immediate action if you notice any of the following indications of a weakened immune system.

  • Frequent Sickness: Everybody falls ill once in a while. However, anybody who gets sick on a semi-frequent basis should seek medical help to get professional reassurance. That’s because repetitive illness could be a sign of a weaker-than-normal immune response, especially if alcohol is involved. Seek a professional diagnosis if you feel your sickness could be the result of a weakened immune system.
  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Gut health and immune system efficiency go hand-in-hand since your gut is responsible for producing vital disease-preventative bacteria. That’s why intermittent stomach problems could be a sign of a deeper issue, such as undiagnosed health conditions or weakened immune systems.
  • Fatigue: A common, yet overlooked indication of a weakened immune system is fatigue. Feeling uncharacteristically tired, especially for no apparent cause could mean your body had a slower immune response. If you experience any fatigue or tiredness that seems out of the ordinary, don’t ignore the warning signs.

Let Jaywalker Restore Your Sobriety and Immunity

The most important decision you’ll make in your recovery is reaching out to a recovery specialist. Not only can you alter the course of your life. You can also reverse the long-term effects of alcohol on the immune system. Speak to a caring representative today to take control of the drink that once controlled you.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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