With the news of COVID-19 you might be tempted to stock up on alcohol along with toilet paper to survive the pandemic, potential lock down, and save your sanity.
If you are a drinker, one positive thing you can do for your health and the health of those around you, is ditch the drink.
Alcohol negatively affects your health.
To be your strongest and healthiest, being alcohol free, is the best line of defense.
Alcohol and Overall Health
Alcohol affects your health in many ways. Most people are aware that excessive drinking can damage your liver and cardiovascular system, but did you know that it can also damage your digestive system? This leads to malnutrition and even increases your risk of cancer. Many people see these conditions as problems for the distant future. You may be less aware that alcohol also damages your immune system, increasing your risk of potentially fatal illnesses such as pneumonia, the flu or even the recent health scare, COVID-19. There are a number of ways alcohol impairs your immune system, making you more likely to get sick.
Alcohol on Immune System and Gut Health
Microbes live in your intestines, and your gut’s microbiome plays an important role in fighting diseases. Alcohol severely disturbs your gut’s microbiome, significantly altering the balance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria. Alcohol negatively affects the way health gut microbes interact with the immune system. Alcohol disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood. These rogue bacteria can cause inflammation in the liver and may lead to liver damage.
Alcohol and Respiratory Health
Alcohol affects the respiratory system. Excessive drinking can impair the function of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, leading to increased risk for pneumonia, tuberculosis, and acute respiratory distress syndrome, ARDS, and more. When the immunity of the mucus is impaired in both the lungs and digestive tract, any disease becomes more severe. Regular, heavy drinking is the worst for your immune system, but binge drinking can also knock out your immune system temporarily.
Alcohol and Fear
Fear is a normal human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight or flight response. Fear is an essential part of keeping us safe.
However, when people live in constant fear, they can become incapacitated.
Once we sense a potential danger, our body releases hormones that slow or shut down functions not needed for survival (such as our digestive system), sharpens functions that might help us survive (such as eyesight). Our heart rate increases, and blood flows to muscles so we can run faster, to escape.
Our body also increases the flow of hormones to an area of the brain known as the amygdala to help us focus on the presenting danger and store it in our memory.
Living under constant threat has serious health consequences on our physical and mental health. Fear weakens our immune system and can cause many serious health problems. Fear affects memory, brain processing, reactivity and mental health in many ways that can result in fatigue, clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD, all which affect our physical health as well.
What can you do?
Avoiding alcohol will go a long way towards staying physically and mentally healthy. Going alcohol free increases resiliency. Get support for removing alcohol, you don’t have to do it alone.
Good nutrition, sleep, and basic hand washing are always good practices.
If you are sick or at high risk for illness, stay home and get well to minimize the spread of illness.
Meditation, exercise, and journaling are great ways to work through the fearful emotions you may be experiencing to keep you healthy during a stressful time.
Knowledge is power. There is so much we can’t control, but we can learn the facts and stay calm. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva, “People, we’re in this together — to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world, It’s doable.”
Sharpen your coping skills, and take care of yourself. Stick to your routines, as best you can, during this stressful time. “Put on your own oxygen mask, before helping others” is the only way you will be of service to others who may need you.