What You Should Know About the Relationship Between Alcohol and Inflammation

By Jennifer McDougall

Alcohol is well known for its ability to cause inflammation, but did you know that it also causes a form of chronic inflammation that can be harmful? Inflammation is an ordinary and necessary process in the body. Still, when it becomes excessive or chronic, it leads to various health issues, including heart disease, arthritis, and many other problems.

What You Should Know About the Relationship Between Alcohol and Inflammation
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This article will discuss what causes alcohol-related inflammation and what you can do about it. We will also discuss the different types of alcohol most likely to cause this reaction and how drinking too much could affect your health.

Alcohol can cause inflammation.

You may have heard that alcohol can cause inflammation, but you might not know what that means. Inflammation is your body’s natural response to infection or injury and can result in pain, swelling, and redness. Inflammation can also be a sign of an underlying disease, like arthritis, so it’s essential to understand how alcohol affects your body on a cellular level.

Alcohol can hurt inflammatory diseases.

Alcohol is a risk factor for psoriasis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also worsen Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and primary sclerosing cholangitis (a rare inflammatory bowel disease). In some cases, excessive alcohol consumption can permanently damage your liver or pancreas, which produces essential enzymes that help fight against chronic inflammation.

Alcohol can cause or worsen autoimmune disorders.

Autoimmune disorders are a group of diseases in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its cells and tissues. When you have an autoimmune disorder, your body’s immune system thinks that some part of your body is dangerous, producing antibodies to attack it. Unfortunately, these antibodies attack healthy tissue by mistake, causing inflammation, which leads to symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, and muscle weakness, among other things.

Which Autoimmune Disorders Are Linked with Alcohol?

Alcohol has been linked with many different types of autoimmune disease, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), lupus erythematosus (SLE), multiple sclerosis (MS), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (HTy) and Graves’ disease.

Alcoholic liver disease is the leading cause of cirrhosis in the US.

It’s also a significant factor in chronic hepatitis, pancreatitis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). Alcoholic liver disease is estimated to be responsible for 10% of all cancers diagnosed worldwide.

According to the CDC, alcoholic liver disease accounts for approximately 1% of deaths among working-age adults annually; this number jumps to 6% when considering death rates from cirrhosis alone. In addition, smoking increases your risk of developing or worsening alcoholic liver disease by up to five times as much as other types of cancer or heart disease.

Alcohol is a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon or rectum, is the third most common type of cancer in the United States and kills over 50,000 Americans annually. Research suggests that drinking alcohol can increase your risk for colorectal cancer by up to 30 percent, depending on how much you drink and the age at which you begin drinking.

The link between alcohol and inflammation is clear. Alcohol causes inflammation in all tissues, including those lining your gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). Chronic inflammation has been linked with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes; however, it also plays a role in some types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer, by promoting tumor growth through several mechanisms.

The benefits of moderate drinking are overstated.

While it’s impossible to say that moderate drinking has zero health benefits, those benefits are likely overstated. For example, while some studies have found associations between moderate drinking and a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and mortality from all causes, others have not. In addition, a recent review of the literature by The Lancet found that “evidence on alcohol consumption about all-cause mortality is inconsistent.” At the same time, an editorial accompanying the study stated: “The association between alcohol consumption and mortality is influenced by many factors, including quality of life and substance use disorders.”

Furthermore, this editorial says, “In general... the benefits of moderate drinking are not proven.” So if you’re looking for clear evidence that your daily glass of wine will improve your health, you won’t find it here.

The more you drink, the more your overall health suffers.

According to the CDC, alcohol is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. In addition, heavy drinking increases your risk of developing many diseases, including liver damage, heart disease, and stroke. Alcohol abuse can also lead to cancer and mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

You shouldn’t drink alcohol if you have any inflammatory disease or condition. Please note that there are many other ways to lower stress levels besides alcohol consumption, so consider those options before reaching for that next glass of wine.

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