As the COVID pandemic has caused us to all be stuck at home, many people are looking to pass the time by drinking more alcohol. At the end of March this year, alcoholic beverage sales across the U.S. rose by 55%. Online beverage sales also increased 243%, indicating people are staying home and stocking up. But is increasing alcohol intake a good idea during a pandemic? We sat down to chat with Connie Smolski, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, to understand the relationship behind alcohol and the immune system.
Can alcohol compromise your immune system to a point that you're more vulnerable to virus infections, especially coronavirus?
Yes, it definitely can. Inflammation can compromise your immune system and alcohol causes inflammation. If your health or your diet is such that you already have a high amount of inflammation, then consuming alcohol is not a good idea. If you otherwise stick to an anti-inflammatory diet and don’t have any underlying conditions, then a modest amount of alcohol shouldn’t cause a problem.
Remember alcohol is a toxin, and as soon as you consume it, your body recognizes it as a toxin and prioritizes metabolizing it above anything else. Unlike proteins, carbs or fats, your body cannot store alcohol, so it moves to the front of the line and your liver begins working immediately. If it’s overworked, your immune system will be compromised. The more compromised your immune system is, the more susceptible it will be to any virus, including Covid-19.
How much alcohol is too much? Is there any amount that's safe and won't compromise your immune system?
I personally wouldn’t recommend any alcohol at this point. To me, it’s not worth it and with limited social interaction, I don’t see a need. If alcohol is your primary way of reducing stress during these very stressful times, then perhaps you could look into some stress-reducing options such as exercise, meditation, getting outdoors in nature, enjoying other hobbies and limiting the amount of news you watch can help reduce your stress.
Do sugary drinks make it worse?
Yes refined sugar is highly inflammatory. Spirit cocktails are typically mixed with soft drinks which have a lot of sugar. Make sure to read the labels of pre-mixed cocktails and coolers.
And remember, the sooner you make lifestyle changes to reduce the alcohol and sugar, the sooner your body starts to reap the benefits.