Alcohol inflammation diagram

Alcohol and Inflammation

 Inflammation and alcohol’s relationship has attracted much interest in recent years. It’s not just the link with COVID complications either. There is increasing noise in the scientific community that alcohol could be key to many illnesses and infections. 

Inflammation is an immune response to something the body views as a threat or a toxic substance. Alcohol fits this bill perfectly. The impact of this inflammatory response on the body is multiple and widespread.

Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation?

Yes, alcohol can both cause and worsen inflammation throughout your body. Ethanol is inflammatory when it comes into physical contact with tissue and in the way your system processes it. The burning sensation you get when you drink straight spirits is an example of contact inflammation. Your liver metabolises and eliminates ethanol; this process also uses up vital NAD and other important nutritional and mineral components responsible for dealing with general inflammation. Drinking too much regularly can deplete these levels and leave inflammation to run rampant in your body.

Throat Inflammation and Alcohol

The first parts of your body to receive alcohol are your mouth, oral cavity and throat. The effect of exposing these to harmful chemicals such as alcohol is damage to the cells. This means how cells divide, absorb toxic chemicals and repair are all negatively affected when we drink. 

These factors can cause inflammation and lead to throat and mouth cancer. This kind of damage is direct, contact-based and leads to this kind of inflammation that is localised.

Much of the inflammation is caused by dehydration, as alcohol is a diuretic. This means you can wake up the next day with your throat dried out and your vocal cords struggling. 

Alcohol also affects the immune system and can make you more likely to contract viral throat infections. This can also lead to inflammation and more serious conditions. 

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Stomach and Bowel Inflammation from Alcohol

Alcoholic gastritis is inflammation or damage to the lining of your stomach. This is also caused by several other things, including stress, infections, trauma and smoking. However, alcohol is one of the most common causes, likely due to being so widespread. 

The process is not immediate but happens slowly over a long period of drinking too much too often. This slow increase in symptoms can lead to it being ignored until it becomes uncomfortable. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Losing your appetite
  • Burning stomach pain after eating and drinking 
  • General pain in your chest 
  • Blood in your stool 
  • Throwing up blood
  • Diarrhoea 

NAD and Inflammation

NAD (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a key element in our bodies’ energy metabolism. It aids in the transfer of energy and helps reduce inflammation. This is particularly important in the kidneys and liver, which are affected by alcohol. 

When converting alcohol into acetaldehyde so it can be processed and eliminated from your body, the liver uses up NAD enzymes, leaving levels low the more frequently you drink.

There are several ways to increase NAD levels in your body, from diet to supplements. Doing this can improve your metabolism, compensating for the immune problems caused by drinking too much.

Alcohol, Inflammation and Illnesses

One of the most commonly searched questions about coronavirus is ‘Can I drink with Covid?’. This may be a hopeful indicator of reducing the severity of the symptoms of the disease that brought the world to a standstill. It also suggests that many people choose to drink even though it might hamper their recovery.

If you feel like you cannot stop drinking even when you are sick, it might be time to consider stopping or cutting down.

Covid isn’t the only illness made worse by drinking. Studies show that problems in the heart, liver, kidney, ulcers, cancer and even broken bones can be made much worse by the inflammation from drinking. 

One of the worst conditions to drink with is chronic inflammation, which drinking-related medical conditions can also cause. 

Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation

Binge drinking is the most common cause of acute alcohol-related inflammation. This results in hangover symptoms such as dehydration, headaches and an upset stomach. It can also mean swelling and puffiness, as well as red skin. 

You can often get this kind of inflammation even if you don’t drink. If you stop drinking, it should stop after a few days. 

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can happen when you drink too much over an extended period, months or even years. Inflammation is an issue that can only be resolved by removing the cause and recovering slowly. 

If you continue drinking, this means the inflammation will only get worse. Your body will change, producing more proteins that cause inflammation to spread throughout the body. This leads to a consistently inflamed system. 

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What to do About Alcohol Inflammation

Taking away the cause of the inflammation is the first step, which means stopping or at least severely cutting down on alcohol. 

It will take time to ease the effects of drinking, especially chronic inflammation. Rest is vital to recovery.

You can improve your recovery by staying hydrated, eating well and taking alcohol detox supplements. Increasing your NAD levels can help with general inflammation from your liver, using up this enzyme to metabolise alcohol and expel it from your body.