How Alcohol Contributes to Systemic Inflammation

How Alcohol Contributes to Systemic Inflammation - The Meadows Texas

By Wesley Gallagher

Inflammation is a normal function of the human body, the immune system’s first reaction to a perceived danger. However, when inflammation occurs too often, it represents a grave health threat.

A number of lifestyle choices can increase your risk of chronic systemic inflammation. Smoking, a diet high in sugar and trans fats, and excessive alcohol consumption are all potential systemic inflammation causes.

What Is Inflammation?

According to Cleveland Clinic, when the immune system initiates inflammation, it sends inflammatory cells to the part of the body where it senses a problem. Soon, proteins and antibodies travel to that area as well, and the level of blood flow to the region increases. This process could take hours or, in cases of acute inflammation, days.

Inflammation sometimes comes with external symptoms such as swelling of the skin, rashes, and redness. However, there might not be any visible signs of chronic internal inflammation. Even so, chronic inflammation often induces symptoms like fever, fatigue, and pain in the chest or stomach.

Systemic Inflammation and Health Consequences

A simple list of symptoms is not enough to encompass the effects inflammation can have on your body. Chronic inflammation can cause lasting harm. It can damage healthy cells, tissues, and organs. It can be a contributing factor in many serious chronic diseases. Chronic systemic inflammation can even lead to genetic mutations that result in cancerous tumors, says U.S. News & World Report.

In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, the World Health Organization ranks chronic inflammatory diseases as the greatest risk to human health, and the prevalence of such diseases is anticipated to steadily climb over the next few decades. 

The World Health Organization ranks chronic inflammatory diseases as the greatest risk to human health, and the prevalence of such diseases is anticipated to steadily climb over the next few decades. 

It is important to note that chronic systemic inflammation is not a specific disease, but a mechanistic process that is the leading cause of chronic diseases, including but not limited to the following:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Allergic asthma 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

These and other diseases linked to chronic inflammation are many of the leading causes of death, so it is not something to be ignored. While there are signs and symptoms that might indicate chronic inflammation, the only way to truly detect inflammation is an evaluation by a doctor. They will likely ask about symptoms, perform a physical exam, and run blood tests to check for signs of inflammation. 

The Link Between Chronic Inflammation and Alcohol

How are inflammation and alcohol consumption connected? It has to do with the relationship between the immune system and alcohol. Over time and in large quantities, alcohol can alter the lining of the intestines and the colon. This inflammatory response to alcohol causes the intestines to become less capable of containing bacteria. Thus, some of the bacteria that live in those organs, a portion of which may be toxic, can seep into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body.

Though not all of those microbes are necessarily harmful, the immune system will still view them all as a threat. Accordingly, it is likely to induce inflammation on a frequent basis, which explains our body’s immune response and alcohol’s impact on it.

A 2010 study of 1,330 random adults in Porto, Portugal published in Alcohol and Alcoholism revealed a connection between higher amounts of alcohol in the body and higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). The liver produces CRP, and it makes more of this protein whenever inflammation occurs. Thus, CRP is an inflammatory marker: The more CRP that’s present in the blood, the more a person has experienced inflammation. 

Hopefully this helps connect the dots for you between inflammatory diseases and alcohol consumption. If alcohol contributes to inflammation, and inflammation contributes to many chronic illnesses, we can logically conclude that alcohol contributes to chronic illness. 

Moderation and Alcohol Abuse Prevention

So, what does the connection between alcohol and inflammation mean for alcohol drinkers? Well, it depends on how much you drink. The reality is that alcohol is a toxin, so any amount can cause inflammation, but moderation can reduce the effects of alcohol on inflammation. 

The Importance of Moderation in Alcohol Consumption

The Mayo Clinic defines moderate alcohol consumption as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. While research over the years has shown mixed results regarding the health benefits of moderate drinking, heavy drinking has no health benefits. And the connection between alcohol abuse and systemic inflammation is strong. So the best thing you can do to reduce alcohol-related health risks is to reduce the amount you drink. 

Strategies for Reducing Alcohol-Related Inflammation

There are other lifestyle changes you can make to reduce alcohol’s impact on inflammation.

Diet Eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and less processed food, refined sugar, and trans fat to help reduce alcohol-induced inflammation.

Exercise – Regular movement lessens inflammation in the body and contributes to weight loss, which is associated with less systemic inflammation. 

Reduce stress – Takes steps to managing your stress level as chronic stress can contribute to inflammation.

Medical treatment – Ask your doctor about supplement or medication recommendations if you have been diagnosed with chronic inflammation or a disease associated with it. 

Reach Out to Us for Help With Alcohol-Related Inflammation

To avoid chronic inflammation, it’s important to set an alcohol limit. But if you are having trouble reducing your intake, The Meadows Texas can help. Through our detoxification and inpatient treatment program, we can help you overcome your chemical dependence on alcohol.

To avoid chronic inflammation, it’s important to set an alcohol limit. But if you are having trouble reducing your intake, The Meadows Texas can help.

Our time-tested treatment model and personalized treatment plans allow each person who comes to our facility to address not merely the outward symptoms of substance abuse and mental health issues, but the underlying trauma behind those behaviors. Addressing the core issues that lead to maladaptive behaviors allows for deep, lasting recovery, not just short-term behavior modification. 

Once you have control over your alcohol intake, you can gain control over your alcohol-induced inflammation as well. The health benefits of this empowerment are truly profound.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse, reach out today to talk to one of our specialists and find out more about how The Meadows Texas can help you start the journey toward recovery.