Effects of Drinking When You Have an Autoimmune Disease

Drinking with an Autoimmune Disease Header

Nearly 4% of the global population has one of more than 80 various autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases include conditions like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and Chron’s disease.

When someone has an autoimmune disease, their immune system mistakenly identifies the body as an invader. Subsequently, it seemingly turns on itself, attacking various organs, cells, and tissues. 

Living with an autoimmune disease can be undooubtedly challenging. Furthermore, drinking alcohol with an autoimmune disease can be particularly dangerous. Let’s get into what you need to know. 

Can Alcohol Cause Autoimmune Disease?

As soon as you start drinking, the body starts reacting to the alcohol. Alcohol can make you feel more relaxed and calm, but the body works hard to start breaking down its impact. 

When you drink, the alcohol disrupts the gut barrier, leading to more bacteria entering the bloodstream. Over time, this can lead to developing a leaky gut, which happens when the intestine lining loses its traction. This process can make you more vulnerable to the damaging effects of harmful bacteria entering the body. 

There has been a prevailing debate about the impact of alcohol and autoimmune diseases. Some research shows that drinking polyphenol-rich alcoholic drinks like wine or beer may have some health benefits. However, the definition of moderate drinking is controversial, and studies on this phenomenon are minimal. 

Alcohol suppresses different immune responses, and clinical research shows that people who abuse alcohol have a heightened risk of several infectious diseases.  For instance, alcohol can cause liver damage, but research also shows that it may contribute to other infectious diseases like pneumonia, HIV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.

Understanding Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body starts attacking its own tissue. Common lupus symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue that doesn’t seem to improve with more sleep.
  • Joint swelling.
  • Swelling in the hands and fingers.
  • Headaches and migraines.
  • Chest pain.
  • Sensitivity to lights.
  • Low-grade fevers.
  • Hair loss.
  • Mouth or nose sores. 
  • Brain fog.

Diagnosing lupus can be complicated, as this disease shares symptoms with many other conditions. Furthermore, it affects everyone differently, with some people having mild flares and others experiencing more severe, life-threatening symptoms.

Researchers are still not exactly sure what causes lupus, but they have identified the following risk factors:

  • Being female (women are 9-10x more likely to have the condition). 
  • Being a young adult (20s-30s)
  • Being African-American, Hispanic, Native American, or Asian
  • Having a family history of lupus 

The Relationship Between Lupus and Alcohol Effects

Drinking with lupus can be particularly dangerous. It’s important to consider the risks before consuming alcohol.

First, as with any condition, alcohol medication interactions must be taken seriously. The body metabolizes common lupus drugs like methotrexate, leflunomide, mycophenolate mofetil in the liver. Therefore, drinking alcohol can increase the likelihood of developing cirrhosis. 

If taking other drugs, like pain medications, the mixture can be fatal. It can be easier to overdose when you are already under an altered state of consciousness.

Lupus and Alcohol Intolerance 

In addition to medication concerns, alcohol can trigger lupus flares, leaving people feeling fatigued, dehydrated, and generally weak. Because the body is already working to process lupus medications, it needs to work even harder to metabolize the alcohol.

Some people report feeling sluggish or physically sick for several days or weeks after drinking. Even just a few drinks can lead to distressing side effects, including decision fatigue, bowel irritability, tingling sensations in the extremities, and distended stomachs.

These troubling symptoms can compound themselves- for instance, you may struggle with poor impulse control, concentration problems, and disrupted sleep. Moreover, you may cope with this fatigue by eating food rich in carbohydrates to feel better, triggering more inflammation.

Final Thoughts

Drinking alcohol in any quantity can be risky. But if you struggle with an autoimmune disease, the effects of alcohol can be far more severe and even life-threatening. They may exacerbate your condition, making you feel significantly worse. 

If you suspect you struggle with an alcohol problem, it’s imperative to seek professional help. Treatment can provide you with the necessary resources needed for stabilization and recovery. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, please contact one of our addiction specialists and call (866) 578-7471. 

  1. I had no idea about the impact of alcohol on people who have autoimmune diseases. I have a friend with lupus and sometimes she has crisis due to her disease, I´ll share this article with her.

  2. Alcohol can make someone more vulnerable to the damaging effects of harmful bacteria entering the body. Drinking alcohol in any quantity either small or plenty can be very risky. But if one struggle with an autoimmune disease, the effects of alcohol can be more severe and can cause death or make one prone to infection.

  3. It is confirmed that alcohol taking seemingly turns on itself, attacking various organs, cells, and tissues to the extent of causing the body deadly damages. The truth is that either much or not much, drinking alcohol in any quantity can be risky. Thanks for this life saving post.

  4. Alcohol consumption to me isn’t good for any reason. This is because there is no way you take alcohol and you won’t take it in excess.

  5. I agree it is risky especially if you already have a health issue. I do not know much about Lupus but any illness is no joke. Even without it alcohol just adds to the problem not solve it. In my opinion.

  6. The symptoms of the disease are very well explained here. And, of course alcohol addiction leads to more problems when anyone suffer with such disease.

  7. Thank you giving this wonderful insight on alcohol consumption and immune system. I think more awareness is needed to sensitize people about the danger in alcohol especially for the fact that most people not aware they have such diseases.

  8. Wow. I really gained a lot by going through this article. I know how hard it is to live with autoimmune disease. I never knew that drinking alcohol could even worsen the disease to the point of being life threatening. Living with this condition is bad enough but doing something that will worsen it is just too bad. thanks for this piece

  9. The effect of alcohol on this disease is quite bad. I hope.those that needs to hear gets to read this. and keep away from alcohol

  10. There is a vey bad effect of drinking on our body,Drinking causes lots of disease.It may lead to death also,There is disease called lupus which is an autoimmune disease where the body starts attacking its own tissue,In this artire there is a very detailed explanation of lupus,And there are symptoms of lupus also in this article.Everyone should read this article .

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