Alcohol and the Immune System

Alcohol and the Immune System

Written by Matt Chua, CSEP CPT

Alcohol and the Immune System

Everybody knows what alcohol is and how fun it can be, but what does it do to your body? With Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years, and other holidays coming up, alcohol consumption almost doubles for most people. Consumption can be acute or chronic and can range from low, moderate, or high. For the sake of clarity, acute binge drinking is more than 80 ml of pure alcohol for men and more than 60 ml of pure alcohol for women in one sitting. Throughout a week, that is at least 12 drinks per week. As a social norm, it is easy to drink a lot and forget the impacts of alcohol but it is important to be mindful about what you put into your body! The purpose of this post is to be informative and discuss the effects of acute and chronic alcohol use and not to demonize the substance or invoke behavior change.  

Intoxication happens because alcohol is a toxin. After approximately four drinks the immune system is significantly impacted. Your body has automated defense mechanisms that protect you from old and new threats. For instance, COVID-19 and the common flu are constantly changing, and defense requires adaptation of your immune system by specific cells to learn and attack new forms of the virus; this is called adaptive immunity. After defending against a virus, the cells pass on the information via chemicals to other special cells that can recognize that strain of virus thus increasing your protection; this is called innate immunity. When alcohol is introduced, the chemical signals that alert the rest of the immune system is interrupted so the adaptive and innate immune systems can’t communicate. This leads to significantly increasing your risk for illnesses. 

Alcohol can also cause inflammation. After consuming it, detector cells start the inflammation process. Long term inflammation from alcohol causes cellular damage especially to the liver that may lead to much more serious conditions. Alcohol also disrupts the chemical signals that initiate the anti-inflammatory response. This creates a loop that leads to persistent inflammation. 

The takeaway should be that alcohol interferes with adaptive and innate immunity. If staying illness free is your goal this winter, this information might be useful! Below you can find a delicious Apple Cider Margarita mocktail recipe by Lindsay if any readers want to pursue festive alternatives!

Apple Cider Margarita Mocktail

Cinnamon and brown sugar (rim)
1/4tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp maple syrup
2oz lime juice
2oz apple cider
1oz fresh orange juice
cinnamon stick (for garnish)

Rub lime around the rim of a glass and roll in the brown sugar cinnamon mixture. Add the cinnamon and maple syrup to a shaker and mix together with a spoon. Add the lime juice, apple cider and orange juice to the shaker. Shake with ice and pour into the glass. I like to use a large ice cube and a cinnamon stick to garnish. Enjoy!



Szabo, G., & Saha, B. (2015). Alcohol’s Effect on Host Defense. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 37(2), e-1-012.

Sarkar D, Jung MK, Wang HJ. Alcohol and the Immune System. Alcohol Res. 2015;37(2):153–5. PMCID: PMC4590612

Recipe adapted from @olivianoceda

Why You Should Have A Banana After A Workout

Why You Should Have A Banana After A Workout

Written by Gillian Goldsworthy, CSEP CPT
Credited by Ashley Armstrong, RD

What is potassium?

Potassium is a very important mineral and also an electrolyte. Its function is to assist in muscle function, regulate fluid balance, support blood pressure and helps conduct nerve signals, which are all important in the recovery process after training.

Some sources of potassium?

High sources of potassium are in beet greens, white beans, soybeans and lima beans. Other sources are baked sweet potatoes, avocado, mushrooms, bananas, raw tomatoes, cantaloupes and electrolyte beverages or Nunn tablets. The adequate intake for potassium is 4.7grams per day, having this much potassium will ensure no deficiencies will occur.

What if I don’t have enough potassium?

Having a potassium deficiency also known as Hypokalemia is not the most common deficiency found in North America, however it is still found that most people are not meeting the recommended amount of potassium, which can cause quiet a problem. It can lead to feeling fatigued, muscle and bone weakness, constipation, muscle cramps, digestive problems, and weight gain. A main reason for potassium deficiencies is not eating enough fruits and vegetables, as well as increased sweating and urination. Individuals who are heavy sweaters or doing intense training – especially long, intense endurance training (marathon training) in the hot and humid climates may be at risk for a deficiency and should increase potassium rich foods.

Why should I have a potassium rich food after I work out?

Considering all of the deficiency symptoms in having low potassium having a banana or another high-level potassium fruit or vegetable can help replenish the storage of carbohydrates that fuel your muscles. It will also help in the frequency and strength of the muscle contraction while also helping in recovery time. Having inadequate potassium levels can decrease your energy and endurance, which can also decrease your recovery time after a workout. A few snack or meal examples to try; a smoothie with a banana and avocado or a grain bowl with sweet potato, chicken and vegetables.


Braun, P. (2018, January 4). Hydration, Sodium, Potassium and Exercise: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from

Megan Ware RDN LD. (2018, January 10). Potassium: Health benefits and recommended intake. Retrieved from

Ryan Raman, MS, RD. (2017, September 9). What Does Potassium Do for Your Body? A Detailed Review. Retrieved from