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Drinking in the times of Covid-19

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As people turn to a comforting drink in light of confinement, it is useful to delve into how drinking alcohol impairs your immune system, and what can be done about it. 

 

Even though pubs, bars, and clubs are closed, and people are confined to their homes, the demand for sippers has not abated – UK sales of alcohol increased by up to 66% in parts of March compared to the previous year, reported the Economist. (1)

 

People are drinking indoors to pass the time, to abate boredom, as morale boosters, and to maintain sanity by harking back nostalgically to previous patterns of socialising. Whether with your housemates or on a video call with friends – a drink has made for an excellent accessories. There’s even a name for it – ‘On-nomi’ – a Japanese trend for drinking online, turning your self-isolation room into a personal pub. (2)

 

However, it’s key to note that drinking alcohol can weaken your immune system and leave you more vulnerable to infection…

 
How alcohol affects your immune system
 

Alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury. 

There are many ways in which alcohol does this. (3)

 
Firstly, alcohol shakes up the makeup of your gut bacteria, your microbiome which is home to trillions of microorganisms performing many essential roles for your health. Relevant here is that it affects those microorganisms’ ability to support your immune system. (3).
 
Drinking alcohol also appears to damage the immune cells lining your intestines – these cells cells serve as part of the first line of defense against bacteria and viruses. Damage to those cells means that pathogens have an easier time crossing into your bloodstream. (3).
 

Drinking also throws your immune system out of balance – as shown in a study that found binge drinking had the effect of decreasing the number of white blood cells (monocytes) – which fight infections – in the hours after peak intoxication, which effectively means a weakening of your immune system. (4)

 

This all comes to say that drinking has the effect of decreasing the defensive mechanisms your body needs to fend off threats to your system – be that a bacterial or viral infection.

 
Alcohol also indirectly impairs your immune system by affecting sleep
 

Though many still have a glass to lull them to sleep, it has long been known that alcohol might make you drowsier, but decreases the quality of your sleep.

This effect is seen at any level of alcohol consumption. A large Finnish study covering 4,098 men and women aged between 18 and 65 highlights this. Even as little as one drink was shown to impact sleep quality – it decreased the physiological recovery normally provided by sleep by 9.3 percent. Moderate alcohol consumption lowered restorative sleep quality by 24 percent, and high alcohol intake by as much as 39.2 percent.(5) You could sleep 8 hours – however with a 40% decrease in the quality of your sleep, you will likely feel as if you only slept 4.8 hours. No wonder you wake up exhausted after a heavy night…

 

Not to mention the fact that when you’ve had a few drinks you are likely to go to sleep later than you usually would anyways as you ignore your normal bodily cues to sleep in order to socialise or otherwise – which in itself will most likely decrease the physical hours you will sleep (if you have to wake up at a certain time), alongside the effects of sleep displacement on your circadian rhythm, leaving you feeling even more tired.

 

How does this relate to immunity?

 A decrease in the quality and/or quantity of your sleep has dramatic effects on your immune strength. A study found that participants with less than 7 hours of sleep were 2.94 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 8 hours or more of sleep. (6) Not a statistical blip – 3 times more likely to catch a virus! And even more dramatic regarding quality, which correlates to sleep efficiency: participants with less than 92% sleep efficiency were 5.50 times more likely to develop a cold than those with 98% or more efficiency. 5.5 times more likely to catch a virus! (6)

 
What to do about it 
 
How to maintain sanity and a semblance of a normal social life with a civilised drink, if it risks weakening your immune system at a time when you need every bodily defence you can muster?
 
How convenient – SURVIVOR contains a number of ingredients which have EFSA-approved health claims around supporting your immune system. These include strong doses of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Copper.
 
Given how important sleep quantity and quality is for immune health, not only is it key to do the obvious – to sleep sufficiently – it is also highly relevant that we are also authorised to make health claims around supporting reduction of tiredness and fatigue – Magnesium, Vitamins B2, B6, B12, and C. Ingredients such as Magnesium (see our article ‘Marvellous Magnesium’), L-Taurine (see our article ‘Tremendous Taurine’, and L-Theanine are particularly powerful as well in counteracting alcohol’s effect on our quality of sleep.
 
Given the importance of the gut microbiome as a modulator of immune strength, and the way in which alcohol comes about to alter it, a study suggested that dihydromyricetin, one of our main ingredients through Ampelopsis grossedentata (Vine Tea Extract, which has 99% vine tea purity) could not only protect the gut biome from alcohol damage, it could also dramatically reverse ethanol-induced alterations in the intestinal microbial flora and decrease the generation of gut-derived endotoxin. (8) This is incredibly promising.
 
So make sure to take SURVIVOR following your Quarantini or Confinement-Colada to keep your immune soldier cells in full fighting form!
 
References
 
 
(2) ‘Japanese trend for drinking online, turning your self isolation room into a personal pub.’ Metro Online. 17 March 2020. https://metro.co.uk/2020/03/17/nomi-new-japanese-trend-drinking-online-turning-self-isolation-room-personal-pub-12409713/?ito=cbshare
 
(3) Sarkar et al. (2015). ‘Alcohol and the Immune System.’ Alcohol Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/
 
(4) Afshare et al. (2015). ‘Acute immunomodulatory effects of binge alcohol ingestion.’ Alcohol. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0741832914201868?via%3Dihub
 
(5) Pietilä et al. (2019). ‘Acute Effect of Alcohol Intake on Cardiovascular Autonomic Regulation During the First Hours of Sleep in a Large Real-World Sample of Finnish Employees: Observational Study.’ JMIR Mental Healthhttps://mental.jmir.org/2018/1/e23/
 
(6) Cohen et al. (2009). Sleep habits and susceptibility to the common cold. Arch Intern Med. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19139325
 
(7) ‘How does alcohol affect your sleep?’ Medical News Today. 7 May 2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321731
 
(8) Qiu, P. et al. (2019). ‘Semen hoveniae extract ameliorates alcohol-induced chronic liver damage in rats via modulation of the abnormalities of gut-liver axis.’ Phytomedicine 52, 40–50 (2019).
 

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