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Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation?

Alcohol is a popular substance and is often consumed without a second thought. Humankind has been making alcohol for at least 12,000 years. Unfortunately, alcohol and inflammation often go hand in hand. This is especially true when alcohol is used for long periods of time or in excess. 

Many people believe that drinking alcohol causes tissue damage and bruising. Some even claim that alcohol makes the body more susceptible to outside pathogens. 

Harmful use of alcohol is accountable for 7.1% and 2.2% of the global burden of disease for males and females respectively. Alcohol is also the leading risk factor for premature mortality and disability among those 15 to 49 years of age, accounting for 10 percent of all deaths in this age group. 

Alcohol can also contribute to ice-pick-like bruises which are small, yet deep. These kinds of bruises have visible dots at the bottom of them which sometimes look black on the surface of the skin. Ice pick scars may take a few weeks or months to heal and may be permanent if left untreated.

Alcohol can even cause the body to become dehydrated. This causes the body to feel fatigued. There are many reasons why alcohol might cause such problems. 

Alcohol can be found in some adult beverages such as beer, wine, or liquor. Drinking alcohol causes dehydration, which causes cell damage leading to swelling. Thus, alcohol and swelling go hand in hand. 

The swelling of cells is known as cellular or interstitial edema. This is where more fluid than normal enters.

What Defines Inflammation?

Inflammation is defined as the body’s reaction to an injury or condition. This way of responding is meant to protect the area of the body affected and remove any harmful stimuli (such as alcohol) from the area. Chronic inflammation can cause damage to the tissues and organs of our body.

Inflammation can cause several symptoms though; generally, we associate inflammation with things like: 

  • Swelling 
  • Redness 
  • Warmth 
  • Pain
  • Loss of function in the inflamed region (e.g., if you’ve ever had a sprained ankle then you know what it feels like to not be able to put weight on your foot). 

Alcohol can be a cause of exacerbated inflammation. Below we go over alcohol’s role in three different types of inflammation: alcohol and swelling, alcohol and bruising, and alcohol and arthritis.

What are the Common Causes of Inflammation and Swelling?

The common causes of inflammation and swelling are: 

  • Infection 
  • Allergies  (e.g., a food allergy, dust mites, insect bites, and stings.) 
  • Injury (e.g., scrapes, bumps, cuts) 
  • Autoimmune condition (the body’s immune system is overreacting to something that it should not be reacting to; this can be anything from lupus to thyroiditis). 

Alcohol and swelling along with alcohol and inflammation will occur to certain people in certain circumstances.

Alcohol irritates bodily tissues such as that of:

  • Skin
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • The brain (It causes these bodily organs to be inflammatory.)  

How Do the Effects of Inflammation Impact My Body?

The effects of inflammation on the body manifest differently in each person. Alcohol is shown to increase inflammation in some organs like the heart and brain. This is why alcohol and inflammation often occur together. Alcohol irritates tissues, increasing the risk of heart disease and other conditions like fractures, ulcers, kidney stones, etc.

Inflammation plays a crucial role in the body’s immune response. When your body is fighting an infection, it reacts by sending levels of chemical messengers (called cytokines) through your bloodstream to coordinate an attack on the invaders. This process is known as inflammation. Inflammation can sometimes go wrong, causing autoimmune diseases which occur when the body treats its tissues as if they were bacteria or viruses causing damage to healthy cells.

In What Ways Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation and Swelling?

Alcohol causes the central nervous system to slow down, which can lead to blackouts or alcohol poisoning. Alcohol is also a diuretic. Therefore, it can cause frequent trips to the bathroom. This alcohol use, therefore, causes dehydration. Dehydration thins mucus making it difficult for your body to fight off infections. Alcohol also reduces oxygen in the blood which can cause cardiovascular complications like a heart attack or stroke.

Alcohol does cause inflammation of different organs including pancreatic cells. However, this inflammation may be reduced by drinking certain alcoholic beverages such as red wine. Certain alcoholic beverages, such as red wine, reduce inflammation because it contains tannin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Inflammation of the lining of the GI tract is called ileitis. Alcohol can inflame the gut lining and cause inflammation that leads to symptoms such as diarrhea or cramping. 

In alcoholics with ileitis, alcohol exacerbates intestinal inflammation. One study claimed that chronic alcohol intake causes “significant changes” in patients’ intestinal tissues. 

In one study, alcohol-consuming rats developed more severe inflammatory bowel disease than alcohol-abstaining rats when both groups were exposed to bacteria that cause intestinal inflammation. These findings suggest that alcohol makes IBD worse by increasing inflammation in the intestine.

Why is Gut Health Vital to Recovery?

The alcohol industry has downplayed the negative effects of alcohol for many years. Thus, many people are unaware that alcohol is a major contributory factor to many diseases, including cancer, ulcers, and liver disease. Despite all of that, alcohol does still have some well-known anti-inflammatory properties, but only when it is consumed in moderation. 

Researchers believe that alcohol damages the gut lining. This opens up the door to leaky gut syndrome. Such a syndrome can then trigger the appearance of autoimmune diseases that lead to further inflammation. The best way to prevent your body from developing these health issues is to avoid drinking alcohol altogether.

How Do I Prevent and Reverse Inflammation and Swelling Due to Alcohol?

To prevent and reverse inflammation and swelling due to alcohol, ensure you consume alcohol in moderation. In addition, alcohol should be consumed with food rather than on an empty stomach. This is because alcohol taken on an empty stomach increases alcohol’s effects on the lining of the stomach and intestines. This then causes an increase in dehydration, which may then also increase alcohol-related inflammation. All this goes to say that alcohol and inflammation and alcohol and swelling are things that you don’t want to appear together. 

How Do I Prevent Bruising?

To prevent bruising, you should avoid consuming alcohol as it reduces your blood flow to your skin. This is because doing so will make it more likely for a small injury to bleed onto your skin and cause a bruise.

Can Alcohol Cause Swelling or Inflamed Kidneys? 

Because alcohol and swelling and alcohol and inflammation often go hand in hand, alcohol can both cause swelling and inflamed kidneys. Alcohol can also cause dehydration, which then too causes swelling. This is because water is essential for keeping cells hydrated and reducing cell damage.

Are There Natural Methods to Reduce Inflammation? 

Yes, there are many natural methods to reduce inflammation. Eating certain foods containing anti-inflammatory properties, like turmeric, helps to reduce inflammation. 

Other foods that can reduce inflammation include: 

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Chronic Pain and The Relationship With Alcohol

Many alcohol abusers and alcohol addicts experience chronic pain.  Thus, chronic pain is what alcoholics have to avoid while abstaining from alcohol. 

The volume of lifetime alcohol use, the combination of context, frequency of alcohol consumption, and the amount of alcohol consumed per occasion increase the risk of a wide range of health and social harms. 

One study published in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse found that chronic alcohol abuse increased the risk of developing persistent post-surgical pain six fold – six times more than non-drinkers or moderate drinkers. 

It was also found that alcoholics were also more than twice as likely to develop persistent post-surgical pain and three times as likely to be disabled by it compared with non-alcoholic patients. Drinking alcohol before surgery will also increase your chances of developing this type of chronic pain after surgery. 

What are Common Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Consumption?

Alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning, high blood pressure, cirrhosis, cancer of the liver, and other long-term alcohol-related diseases impacting the body. In fact, alcoholism is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the US. 

Men are 3 times as likely as women to die as a consequence of alcohol abuse. The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined excessive alcohol use is responsible for 7.1% of disease among males and 2.2% among females.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

Alcohol is known for its toxicity effect on the brain. This is where alcohol can prevent neurons from communicating with each other properly. Alcohol also affects bones by making them weak. This is because alcohol blocks vitamin D, which is the vitamin that helps regulate calcium levels in the body. 

Thus, individuals that chronically abuse alcohol can develop osteoporosis due to having low bone density. Since alcohol inhibits water absorption leading to dehydration, alcohol slows down the wound healing process, preventing cuts from leveling.

How is Alcohol and Vitamin Deficiency Connected?

Alcohol can also be related to Vitamin A, D, E, and K deficiency. This is because alcohol blocks the absorption of nutrients that are found in foods that are considered fatty or unhealthy. Otherwise, alcohol would have been processed by the body with alcohol being absorbed into the blood instead. 

Alcohol causes vitamin deficiency because alcohol cannot be fully digested. Thus, alcohol nullifies any benefits from whatever food or drink contains alcohol. For example, alcohol steals nutrients like amino acids because alcohol harms the liver, making it unable to process proteins such as amino acids normally.

Is Alcohol and Swelling and Alcohol and Inflammation Always Synonymous With One Another?

To manage drinking without causing too much inflammation and swelling, you should drink alcohol in moderation. This is because alcohol here is safe to consume as long as one drinks in moderation. In fact, in moderation, alcohol has been found to have protective effects against cardiovascular disease. You should avoid alcohol though if you are an alcoholic or are recovering from alcohol addiction. 

Deaths Caused by Alcohol

15.1 million adults in the US age 18 and older suffer from an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol causes 10% of deaths among 15- to 49-year-olds. Worldwide, up to 3.3 million people die every year as a result of alcohol abuse. If alcohol has become a dominant force in your life and you can’t seem to quit drinking it, you should consider receiving alcohol addiction treatment. 

There is no single approach to alcohol addiction treatment, however, there are many treatment and therapy options available at your disposal. These addiction treatment programs typically include psychotherapy to discover the root causes of your substance use disorder.

Alcohol addiction treatment can include the following:

Are There Certain Types of Alcohol that One Should Avoid to Prevent Inflammation?

Certain alcohols, such as hard liquor and beer, are recognized for their inflammatory properties. Therefore, to help prevent and reverse inflammation, one should avoid alcohol with large quantities of sugar. 

Alcohol reduces the ability that certain bodily cells have to destroy free radicals. Therefore, if you experience chronic inflammation and swelling, you should avoid drinking alcohol.  

When it comes to swelling, alcohol can have several side effects. First alcohol can lead to fluid building up causing blood vessels to swell, which then causes your body tissues to swell. In addition, alcohol is known to affect cells called phagocytes, which are responsible for protecting your body against invading bacteria and other harmful materials by destroying them.

Tips to Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Reducing alcohol consumption can be difficult for some. One way to reduce alcohol intake is to plan so alcohol isn’t consumed on an empty stomach. 

Eating a meal before having alcohol can help prevent alcohol from being absorbed quickly. This will allow your body time to process the alcohol before it gets too out of hand. 

Practice avoiding alcohol as a coping mechanism or spending time with people who drink heavily. Encouraging yourself to see the long-term benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle can help prevent cravings. 

Witness Your Growth at Harmony Place

The correlation between alcohol consumption and its resulting swelling and inflammation can lead to intricate health complications that jeopardize overall wellbeing. If these issues begin to arise, it’s essential to act swiftly. Should alcohol become a concern for you or a loved one, seeking professional help is paramount. At Harmony Place, we understand the financial aspects of treatment and strive to minimize this burden by accepting health insurance from numerous providers, including Anthem Blue Cross alcohol rehab, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield of CA, Carelon, and Humana. This ensures the focus remains on recovery rather than the cost of alcohol treatment, such as IOP, PHP, residential rehab, or even alcohol detox.

Harmony Place is committed to delivering exceptional care and offering empathetic support throughout your journey. With our comprehensive approach, you are never alone in this marathon. If you or someone you care about is grappling with substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Our facility is equipped to assist with a range of coverage options, including Anthem BCBS, UnitedHealthcare (UHC), Elevance Health, and more, ensuring that financial concerns do not hinder the path to recovery.