Nutrition Expert’s Tip of the Month – October

Alcohol and your Immune System

Nobody has to tell you that drinking alcohol is the norm for many college students, in fact, 40% of all college-age students are binge-drinkers. This 40% of students and many others who don’t necessarily qualify as “binge-drinkers” don’t follow the guidelines of moderate drinking. The USDA defines moderate alcohol intake as a maximum of 1 glass/day for women and 2 glasses/day for men. Besides the detrimental effect excessive drinking can have on academic performance (research shows binge drinking of 5 drinks per occasion results in a GPA drop of at least ½ a grade), alcohol can have serious health implications that you may not be aware of.

Alcohol acts as an immune suppressant during both acute (binge) and chronic consumption. Your immune system is your first line of defense, it is your protection and your barrier against bacteria, viruses, infection, and tumor growth. So when alcohol is consumed, your immune function declines because you don’t recruit and activate germ-killing white blood cells efficiently. Therefore, you become more susceptible to infection, illness, and delayed recovery or healing from sickness and injury. This immune suppression is further aggravated in women because estrogen acts as an immune stimulator, but alcohol consumption decreases the available estrogen in the body. So women, are at an increased risk for low immune function when drinking.

The point is, excessive alcohol drinking puts you at increased risk for being sick and not getting well, making it more difficult to devote your time and energy to your studies.

~Natalie Butler, Nutrition Expert, Campus Calm

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