As the coronavirus sweeps the planet, people are drawing attention to their first and last line of defence: their immunity. A World Health Organisation (WHO) official has issued a warning about turning to alcohol as a coping strategy during the coronavirus lockdown saying that it depletes mental health and physical immunity.
We know that alcohol dulls our ability to think and function clearly, and that it also causes anxiety and stress. (If you are unsure about this watch the free Masterclass HERE).
Alcohol adversely affects our mental health every time we wake up with those feelings of guilt and regret, and right now, we need all the mental strength that we can get. Turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism will further entrench addiction and will reduce your ability to cope well with the challenges that you are facing.
But alcohol damages our health in different ways, and the most significant right now is that it also weakens our immune system and could make us much more vulnerable to viruses.
An article in the New Scientist highlights a study that took healthy white blood cells (involved in front line defence) and exposed half to the equivalent of 4 alcoholic drinks every day for 5 days.
The study showed that alcohol blunted the white blood cells’ defences. When the alcohol-induced cells were exposed to a virus mimic, they produced only a quarter as much of the virus-fighting molecule, called type-1 interferon, as the alcohol-free cells made. Interferon is pivotal to fighting off viruses. At a time when we are all focusing on staying safe from the coronavirus our immune system strength is key.
Recently, Dr Aragona Giuseppe, a general practitioner and medical advisor said that consuming large amounts of alcohol could damage our lung’s immune cells. She said that if there is such damage, it can increase your risk of developing serious diseases like pneumonia, and at the same time it will also make you more vulnerable to viruses like the coronavirus.
She went on to say that “alcohol could adversely affect your gut barrier, which in turn could allow more bacteria to pass in your blood. When this happens, it will deplete your three most important immune system cells, namely, Macrophages, T, and C cells. When there is a suppression of these cells, your immune system will not be very efficient in identifying and eliminating pathogens like the coronavirus.”
Another study from the University of Maryland and Loyola University found that a single episode of binge drinking significantly weakens the body’s immune system. Scientists gave four or five shots of vodka to 15 healthy male and female volunteers with an average age of 27.
Blood tests after 20 minutes showed that their immune system initially ramped up but the levels of infection-fighting white blood cells had plummeted when they tested them again after two hours and five hours.
This is clearly of great concern, and the advice regarding alcohol and health in the face of the coronavirus and contracting covid-19, is not to drink alcohol.
So, what can you do?
Clearly the best thing to do right now, is not drink alcohol at all, to focus on undoing the damage and building immunity. It does take time to build immune defences, so starting right away can only help.
- Stop drinking alcohol. Take that break that you have been promising yourself, face up to the reality that alcohol is damaging your life, and use this time to make the life-changing decision to kick alcohol out of your life once and for all.
- Eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C, E, A, D and Zinc.
- Vitiamin C is found in citrus fruits, I think we all know that, but it is also found in leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale and green peppers.
- Vitamin E is found in almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, as well as bananas, lean chicken, baked potatoes, broccoli, spinach and chickpeas.
- For vitamin A, go colourful with carrots, sweet potatoes, most dark green leafy vegetables, and orange and yellow vegetables and fruits.
- Where most vitamins are best got from foods, vitamin D may be the exception. Here, a little sunshine can do you good, and fatty fish is also a good source of vitamin D. Vegans can look to fortified foods and drinks, and supplements may also a good option.
- Zinc has been shown in studies to gently tap the brakes on the immune response to viruses, and potentially the coronavirus, in a way that prevents out-of-control inflammation that we have been reading about in some Covid-19 cases. All in all, zinc is a big tick for a strong immune system. Good sources of zinc are chickpeas, lentils, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains.
- Get adequate, quality sleep. Once again, alcohol is the enemy when it comes to high quality sleep because it disrupts our natural sleep cycles. This affects our mental wellbeing, and it also lowers immunity. Good quality sleep is one thing experts recommend to ward off the risk of lowered immunity, and drinking alcohol reduces the level of proper, replenishing sleep. See why in this blog and video https://www.thealcoholcoach.com/does-alcohol-help-me-to-sleep/. Without adequate sleep, our bodies make fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, causing a double whammy if alcohol disrupts sleep. Studies have shown that during normal alcohol-free sleep subjects have shown a peak in immune cells’ response to immune challenges, suggesting that replenishing sleep also strengthens the immune response.
- Build in exercise into your daily routine. Exercise is good for mental health and reducing stress levels, and it is also believed to cause a change in white blood cells which boosts immune response.
- Stop drinking. There are no benefits to taking a toxic, immunity depleting drug. The single biggest favour that you can do yourself right now is to break free!
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