Excessive Drinking Weakens Immune System

With people around the globe practicing social distancing, there has been growing interest in developing healthy habits, cooking from scratch, growing food and spending time quality time with friends and family either in quarantine or virtually.  But there may be some unhealthy habits creeping into daily life, and judging by recent sales, many North Americans are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to drink more alcohol. 

People are gathering on Zoom for a virtual happy hour, posting their “quarantini” recipes on Instagram and home alcohol delivery services are slammed with online orders.  According to a recent Forbes report, Nielsen data shows that for the week ending March 21, there was a 55 percent spike in the sales of spirits and in the same time period online spirit sales rose 243 percent.   And many restaurants shuttered during the pandemic are now offering curbside food and grocery pickup, along with alcohol sales in some states and provinces.  

While there’s no shortage of alcohol available to purchase right now, it’s important to keep in mind that drinking more in isolation could lead to long-term health problems.  Contrary to some popular thoughts on the matter, drinking alcohol does not offer any protective benefits against COVID-19.   In fact, according to the World Health Organization, alcohol use, especially heavy use, can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a serious complication of coronavirus infection. 

Excessive drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as drinking 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 for men or binge drinking 4 or more drinks in one sitting for women and 5 for men.   Moderate drinking; 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men is considered safe but it’s important to talk with your doctor about any possible drug interactions or health conditions that could be worsened with alcohol consumption.   Older adults may also process alcohol differently than they did when they were younger and drinking more than an occasional glass of wine or cocktail can put seniors at risk for falls leading to injury. 

Practice moderation, stay safe and try to use meditation, exercise, music and laughter to de-stress rather than an extra glass or two of wine.  Your future post-pandemic self will thank you.