Is It Bad To Drink Alcohol When You're Sick? 6 Reasons To Reconsider That Glass Of Wine
When you feel like you're getting sick, there are two things you've been told to do since you were but a wee one: get extra sleep and drink tons of water — both of which are excellent pieces of advice. However, there's a bit of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding something else: alcohol. While some people think it's good to throw back a drink or two when they're under the weather, there are quite a few (very serious) reasons to avoid alcohol if you feel like you're getting sick.
Everyone likes to "joke" that alcohol kills germs, and that's their excuse for drinking when they're sick — except it's not really a joke, because it can be dangerous and have long-term consequences. While research published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology has found that red wine specifically could thwart germs from attacking your body, generally speaking, alcohol will cause tremendous damage long before it will kill enough germs to help you fight illness, SBS.com explains.
Consuming alcohol in excess is risky in general — that's a no-brainer. But when your body is fending off sickness, you could be at even greater risk. Here are just six reasons you should stay far away from alcoholic drinks if you're not feeling quite like yourself.
1. You'll Turn A Bad Mood Into A Terrible Mood
Let's start at the beginning: alcohol is a depressant. You already know this. What you might forget, though, is after that initial boost it gives you, you crash again; and this depressant can actually leave you depressed, according to the American Addiction Centers. Aside from sadness, this could encourage sleeping troubles, fatigue, feeling worthless, guilt, and trouble concentrating.
You already feel like garbage when you're sick. Add to that the side effects of alcohol, and you have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. If you're coughing up a storm, do yourself a favor and skip your Friday martinis until it passes.
2. Alcohol Can Make You Even More Dehydrated
You've known since you were a kid that when you're sick, you need to get as many fluids in as possible. This is because, as Indiana Public Media explains, you're losing more fluids than normal through a runny nose, sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. It goes further than this, though. If you have a fever, you might be even more dehydrated, because even the slightest rise in your body temperature could mean an increased metabolism. Your body is working faster and harder, which means it needs more water and more oxygen. This is why it's so crucial to stay hydrated when you're sick.
Now, what about alcohol?
Alcohol also dehydrates you, because it's a diuretic — meaning it makes your body produce more urine than normal. LiveStrong explains this happens because alcohol prevents the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which is necessary for water reabsorption. So, instead of your kidneys completing this task, that water is eliminated from your body as urine.
To review: being sick makes you dehydrated. Drinking alcohol makes you dehydrated. The effects of dehydration could range from dizziness and confusion (per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to death.
Takeaway: don't imbibe when you're sick.
3. Booze Works Against Your Immune System
As Harvard Health Publishing points out, our immune systems are pretty amazing; but nothing's perfect. Every now and then, one pesky, persistent germ might sneak inside and make us sick, compromising our immune system. This is why we've always been told to really take it easy when we're sick — sleep as much as possible, eat healthy foods, and drink tons of water. It's an attempt to try to boost our immune system.
If you're sick and your immune system can't defend your body as efficiently as usual, alcohol will only make this worse. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains that we have two kinds of defensive systems: and innate system and an adaptive one. The innate system is in charge before you get sick. The adaptive system intervenes after you've gotten sick. And guess what? Alcohol suppresses both of them.
4. It Could Mix Badly With Your Medications
You see it on every warning label of literally every medicine known to mankind: "Do not consume with alcohol." They're not just being cautious; combining alcohol and medicine can have serious ramifications. According to a report by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these ramifications include nausea, vomiting, fainting, difficulty breathing, heart problems, and even internal bleeding. Alcohol could render your medicine useless or even make it dangerous for your body.
Don't do it. Not even a sip.
5. Your Drowsiness Could Worsen
There's a reason you feel so tired and sluggish when you're sick. According to research shared in eLife, when animals are in a stressful environment, their bodies signal them to revert to sleep so that they can recover from the stress. A similar process might occur in humans, and for a good reason: your body needs to sleep, so you shouldn't fight it.
Here's why alcohol is bad news for your snooze fest. While a lot of people use booze to fall asleep — and while it may work at first — it also has a negative effect on sleep quality, says the National Sleep Foundation. Alcohol might inhibit REM sleep, encourage snoring or sleep apnea, and otherwise cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
6. You Could Have Trouble Digesting Nutrients
The conditions of being sick, as LiveStrong points out, could leave your body totally depleted of electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients — whether it be due to dehydration, loss of appetite, diarrhea, or vomiting. This further worsens the situation for your metabolism and immune system.
Alcohol can only make this worse. When you drink too much of it, it can deplete your body's levels of B vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, and more, says Study.com.
Sickness and alcohol combined mean your body will be ridiculously, overwhelming, dangerously desperate for the healthy stuff. Don't drink when you're sick!