Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts To Staying Healthy This Winter: 3. Don’t drink alcohol

3. Don’t drink alcohol (yes, that includes wine too!)

Alcohol has immune-modulating properties, meaning it can lower and possibly impede immune function. Data on alcohol consumption and the effects on the immune system are complex, but in circumstances pertaining to acute infections (respiratory and ear-nose-throat infections), it’s quite clear that alcohol has deleterious effects on immune function. Even that seemingly innocent evening glass of wine is enough to reduce your immune defence, leaving you more vulnerable to acquiring air-borne respiratory infections like the flu.

While the polyphenols and resveratrol in red wine offer some positive immune-modulating effects, the alcohol content of wine cancels out the net benefit in these circumstances. Just how does alcohol negatively affect immunity? On a cellular level, alcohol reduces natural killer cell activity and the ability of immune cells to perform the vital action of phagocytosis of foreign invaders, whereby pathogens are engulfed and targeted for destruction.

The take home: you should refrain from alcohol consumption when you know you’re sick and when you’re more susceptible to getting sick. If you’re feeling healthy, alcohol in moderation (3 drinks per week) is generally OK. Cheers to staying healthy!

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J Leukoc Biol. 2011 Dec;90(6):1065-78. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0311114. Epub 2011 Aug 30.
Macrophage phagocytosis: effects of environmental pollutants, alcohol, cigarette smoke, and other external factors.

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