You may notice that after nights of heavy drinking, you get pretty sick. While it’s common for people to get hangovers after nights like those, you may even notice things like flu symptoms afterwards, which isn’t necessarily a part of the hangover.
In reality, heavy or consistent drinking can damage and impair your immune system, making you more susceptible to the common cold, the flu, and other diseases. One of the most common reasons why alcohol causes your immune system to fail is that it can lower your overall amount of white blood cells, which are a vital part of your immune system.
These cells are the ones that are responsible for fighting off any diseases that might make their way into your body, but you need to have enough of them. If you don’t have enough, they won’t be able to fight off the disease before it begins to replicate, at which point it will spread and you’ll become sick.
Alcohol also affects the way that your remaining white blood cells act. It impairs them so that they can’t adequately respond to threats like they would normally. This means that they might come across a disease in your body and not fight it or alert other white blood cells to it, allowing the disease to continue spreading without much resistance.
By the time your immune system catches up, it has a much harder fight on its hands, and the recovery will be delayed. In rarer cases, alcohol can also cause the body to defend against itself, through a variety of methods. This causes your white blood cells to go after perfectly normal, healthy body cells that are supposed to be there, causing damage over time. This is a bit rarer than the normal immune system issues, but it can certainly occur over long periods of consistent alcohol consumption.
Fortunately, most of the damage to your immune system only lasts while you continue to drink, meaning that by stopping your alcohol consumption, you’re going to be able to recover what you lost. Even by just limiting yourself to one drink per night, you vastly improve your immune system’s performance. In some studies, researchers have found that having a glass of wine every now and again can even help your immune system work more efficiently, so just be sure to not drink too frequently or too heavily if you want to stay healthy.