Alcohol lowers immunity and increases the risk of pneumonia ... In the days of Wiz Corona, research results have emerged that are of great concern to liquor lovers. How does alcohol affect immunity? Also, what kind of drinking should be done to avoid increasing the risk of corona infection? Kaori Haishi, a liquor journalist, asked Ryo Abe, a specially appointed professor at Teikyo University, who specializes in immunology.
When I turned on the TV, I heard a conversation like this.
"Drinking alcohol lowers your immunity."
"Oh yeah, that's why you shouldn't drink it in Corona."
I've often heard the story that "alcohol lowers immunity" from long ago, but it seems that it has become a hot topic because of the corona sickness.
However, I was wondering, "Is this the case?" I'm sorry to say that I'm sorry for my personal affairs, but despite drinking so much alcohol every day, I haven't caught a cold in the last few years, and even after I'm 50, I haven't had any major illness or hospitalization. I haven't measured it numerically, but I think it has high immunity. For that reason, I didn't want to believe the theory that "alcohol lowers immunity."
However, last time, I learned from Mr. Takashi Yoshimoto, an associate professor at the University of Tsukuba, that there is a study that people who drink more alcohol have a higher risk of developing pneumonia ("This is the new rule for drinking at home: how to interact with alcohol after corona". ). It is reported that as the amount of alcohol consumed increases, the immune system weakens and the person becomes more susceptible to pneumonia.
If this is true, how does alcohol lower immunity? It's a little scary to continue drinking alcohol without knowing how it affects immunity in a situation where infected people continue to appear every day. It must be clarified for the left parties nationwide.
We spoke with Ryo Abe, a specially appointed professor at the Teikyo University Center for Strategic Innovation Research, who specializes in immunology.
Defensive response by immunity is "three stages"
Immunity is a word we often hear, but what is it in the first place? Professor Abe, before we get into the main subject of drinking and immunity, please tell us what immunity is in the first place.
"The" epidemic "of immunity refers to illness. Immune is literally a defense system that protects the body from pathogens."
Thankfully, thanks to this immunity, we can prevent various pathogens, including the new coronavirus, from entering the body, and even if we allow it, we can get rid of it. .. And there are "three stages" of defense response by immunity.
"Pathogens such as viruses are repelled in three stages. The first stage is called the" natural barrier ", and the skin and mucous membranes prevent the invasion of pathogens. And if invasion is allowed, the next In the second stage of "innate immunity", phagocytes such as macrophages eat the pathogen quickly. If you still cannot get rid of the pathogen, in the final third stage "acquired immunity", attack suitable for the pathogen. I will pay out. "
Sweat and tears also help prevent the invasion of pathogens
The system that protects the body by immunity is composed of such a very sophisticated mechanism. So where does alcohol affect these three stages?
"Actually, alcohol has a direct effect on all three stages. Alcohol is not good for human immunity."
"Let's look at each detailed mechanism in turn. First, the first stage, the'natural barrier', is located in various parts of the body and can be broadly classified into three types. One is tears, sweat, saliva, and so on. It is a physical barrier such as urine, and although invisible, the villi in the intestinal tract and the cilia in the respiratory tract are also movements that push out pathogens that are trying to enter the body. It is the action of the cilia that causes the cold and sputum. "
When I hear this, all my sweat and tears become delicious. What other barriers are there?
"The second barrier is the chemical barrier, which includes enzymes and acidic substances found in mucus such as stomach acid, fatty acids and lactic acid found in sebum, and antibacterial peptides present on the surface of the body."
And the third is the "microbiology barrier." "This refers to the indigenous bacteria that exist on the skin and intestines. Some people wash their face or take antibiotics if they catch a cold and feel a little sick. I think it's a waste. ”I myself try not to wash my face too much.”
It's okay to catch a cold and take the prescribed antibiotics, but you may get diarrhea, but according to Mr. Abe, this phenomenon "reduces the indigenous bacteria that are appreciated."
"The younger generation is more resistant to pathogens because it has a strong natural barrier. As you can see from the example of the new corona, the younger generation is less likely to become severe even if infected. This is because the natural barrier works well. However, because there are individual differences, it cannot be said that "because you are young, it will never become serious."
A natural barrier that is protected by sweat, stomach acid, and indigenous bacteria. How does alcohol affect these?
"Be careful with alcoholic beverages that have a high alcohol content, such as vodka, which can make your throat tingle, because these alcoholic beverages can damage the mucous membranes of your throat. Will drop. "
Many of the left parties are dying for the tingling stimulus that whiskey and vodka bring. I didn't know that it was the chili that was damaging the mucous membrane.
Does Alcohol Confuse "Macrophages"?
If there is a slight scratch or dryness on the skin or mucous membranes, the pathogen breaks through the natural barrier and invades the body. In the second stage, a "thug" called a macrophage that phagocytoses the pathogen is prepared.
"In the second stage," innate immunity, "the phagocytes that eat pathogens called" macrophages "quickly. Macrophages not only take in the pathogens and kill them. , Disperses substances called cytokines. Cytokines attract reinforcements such as neutrophils (a type of leukocyte) from inside blood vessels. "
And, by the action of such innate immunity, "inflammation" such as fever and swelling occurs.
"Inflammation results in weakening of pathogens. To put it simply, catching a cold causes swelling of the throat and runny nose. That is exactly what happens in the throat and nose, which is innate immunity. I'm trying to get rid of the pathogen by force, so aside from those with a history of illness and the elderly, the innate immunity of young people is working hard, so it's a little painful to take medicine. I think it's a waste. "
And according to Abe, alcohol damages these phagocytes, macrophages.
"Alcohol is thought to act directly on macrophages to confuse them, reducing their function or suppressing their activity. It is said that the longer you drink, the stronger the effect tends to be."
From a drinker's point of view, I'm scared at this point, but there are more. "In the case of viral infections such as the new coronavirus, it even affects" type I interferon, "which is a type of cytokine. Type I interferon activates the defense mechanism of virus-infected cells. Although it works, alcohol is said to suppress the production of type I interferon. "
In the current situation where the threat of the new corona is in the turmoil, when it comes to affecting type I interferon, which protects itself from viruses, it seems that the hand holding the glass will stop (tears).
Acquired immunity is also affected by drinking
So what about the third-stage immune system, which can be called the "last fortune"?
"Acquired immunity (adaptive immunity), which can be said to be the ultimate weapon of the immune system, works when pathogens cannot be repelled even by innate immunity. This is not something that constantly patrols the body like macrophages. No, so there is a time lag of several days for acquired immunity to be activated, whereas innate immunity is activated within hours of pathogen infection. "
As it is the ultimate weapon, the system is really clever and powerful.
"First, dendritic cells, which act as innate immunity, grab information about pathogens and pass them on to T cells, a type of lymphocyte. Dendritic cells are like" spies. " The passed T cells work on a variety of cells to make the right attack for the pathogen, among which the B cells are excellent and produce'antibodies' that attack the pathogen. "
The major difference from innate immunity is that acquired immunity has "immune memory". "Immune memory, in simple terms, means that you are less likely to get an infection once you have it, or you can get it mildly."
Dendritic cells are spies, T cells are commanders, and B cells create missiles that attack. There is an advanced system that protects our bodies, out of sight. Because it's so complicated and sophisticated, I wondered, "Isn't it as crappy as alcohol?"
"At the stage of innate immunity, it is said that if the action of macrophages is suppressed by alcohol, the action of dendritic cells acting as spies will be slowed down. Also, for lymphocytes such as T cells and B cells. There is also data from animal experiments that alcohol has some effect. "
Indeed, acquired immunity, in which T cells and B cells work, cannot escape the effects of alcohol.
Unfortunately, alcohol has a negative effect on all three stages of the immune defense system. After all, is it better to refrain from drinking more than usual for coronavirus?
What's more, horrifyingly, according to Mr. Abe, "The effects of alcohol on immunity are not limited to the direct ones I mentioned this time, but are secondary to other illnesses caused by drinking alcohol. Is also possible. "
It's a scary story that makes you want to cover your ears, but you can't help but listen. And, based on those, is there a "drinking method that does not lower immunity"? Continue to next time.