Alcohol and Swelling: Does Drinking Cause Inflammation?

Inflammation can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Heavy consumption adds to inflammation that affects your entire system by interfering with your body’s natural defenses against the rush of gut microbes and their products.

Chronic alcohol use harms the liver’s ability to detoxify bacterial products and the brain’s ability to regulate inflammation. Plus, alcohol can damage the liver along with the central nervous system, which also plays a part in inflammation. So basically, alcohol not only causes inflammation but also can harm your body’s ability to regulate inflammation.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a process. In this process, your white blood cells and the things they make protect you from infection from outside invaders such as: 

  • Bacteria 
  • Viruses

Nevertheless, in some diseases such as arthritis, your immune system, the body’s defense system, triggers inflammation even when there are no outside invaders to fight off. These are called autoimmune diseases. 

2 Types of Inflammation

  1. Acute (short-lived): Acute inflammation usually goes away within hours or days. 
  2. Chronic (long-lasting): Even after the first trigger is gone, chronic inflammation may last months or years. Conditions associated with chronic inflammation include:
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Symptoms of Inflammation

  • Redness
  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness in joints
  • A joint not working as well as it should
  • A swollen joint that may be warm to the touch

Generally, there will only be a few of these symptoms at one time. Inflammation might also cause flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Appetite loss
  • Muscle stiffness

How is Inflammation Caused?

Inflammation is caused by chemicals from your body’s white blood cells entering your blood or tissues to protect your body from invaders. This increases the flow of blood to the area of injury or infection. Some of those chemicals cause fluid to leak into your tissues, which causes swelling. This is a protective process that can trigger nerves and cause pain. 

The elevated numbers of white blood cells and the things they make inside your joints cause:

  • Irritation 
  • Swelling of the lining of the joint
  • Loss of cartilage (the cushions at the ends of the bones) over time.

Can Inflammation Affect Internal Organs?

As part of an autoimmune disorder, inflammation can affect your internal organs. The symptoms depend on which organs are being affected:

  • Heart inflammation (myocarditis) can cause shortness of breath or a buildup of fluid.
  • Inflammation of the small tubes that bring air to your lungs may cause shortness of breath.
  • Inflammation in your kidneys (nephritis) may cause high blood pressure or kidney failure. 

There might not be any pain with an inflammatory disease because many organs don’t have a lot of nerves that are sensitive to pain.

What Health Problems are Caused by Alcohol Inflammation?

Alcohol inflammation can bring on many health conditions. Besides regular weight gain, it can cause:

  • Fatty liver disease: This is a buildup of fats in the liver. People may have fatty liver disease without it being alcohol-induced, but it is common with continued alcohol abuse. 
  • Worsened arthritis: This happens especially if you suffer from gout which is painful inflammatory arthritis.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Drinking alcohol can trigger a flare-up of IBD because of its pro-oxidant effects and damage to gut functioning.
  • Chronic inflammation: It is frequently linked to alcohol-related health problems. When your body metabolizes alcohol in the gastrointestinal tract, it disturbs tissue maintenance, causing chronic inflammation in the intestines.
  • Joint inflammation: Inflammation of the joints is known as arthritis. But, surprisingly, alcohol may have some anti-inflammatory benefits. This is because the consumption of alcohol reduces certain biomarkers (signature molecules) of inflammation. This means that moderate (CDC recommendations)  alcohol consumption can reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. 

Tips to Reduce Alcohol-Related Inflammation

Alcohol-related inflammation can cause health complications. They may be mild or severe depending on how much alcohol you consume and for how long. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce alcohol-related inflammation. 

  • Stop drinking alcohol: This is the best way but cutting down and only drinking in moderation may help. If you can’t stop drinking or cut down you may have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Get professional help. Quitting on your own can be dangerous.
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can aggravate inflammation. Drink water while and after you drink alcohol. 
  • Consult a healthcare provider if you are still having health complications as a result of alcohol-related inflammation.

The 5 Worst Drinking Habits for Inflammation

  1. Drinking more than 2 alcoholic beverages per day. The CDC recommends that women may have one drink per day while men can have two.
  2. Drinking alcohol daily. Technically, while the CDC says 1 for women and 2 for men is okay, it’s not a good wellness habit. You’re likely to have ongoing inflammation internally and externally, with a red puffy face. 
  3. Combining alcohol with a poor diet. Combining non-nutritious foods with alcohol is a major contributor to inflammation. Combine moderate alcohol consumption with a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods like:
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
  1. Drinking alcohol with added sugar. It’s common to mix liquor with mixers like soda, juices, etc. But this increases the sugar content because alcohol is already sugar. This helps create inflammation.
  2. Drinking alcohol but not exercising. You can counteract some of the inflammatory  effects of alcohol by just doing 20 minutes of exercise

What is Alcohol Bloating?

If you’ve ever noticed puffiness in your face and body after a long night of drinking alcohol, then you know that alcohol and swelling frequently go together. Most people know the term “beer belly,” the stubborn fat that tends to accumulate around your middle. 

Aside from weight gain, alcohol can also lead to irritation of your gastrointestinal tract, which can also cause bloating. Alcohol is an inflammatory substance, which means it tends to cause swelling in the body. Alcohol inflammation can be made much worse by the things that are often mixed with alcohol, like sugary and carbonated liquids. This results in:

  • Gas
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Bloating

After that night of drinking, you might have also noticed bloating in your face. This may also be accompanied by redness. That happens because alcohol dehydrates the body. And when the body is dehydrated, skin and vital organs try to retain as much water as possible, causing puffiness in the face and other places.

Is It Preventable?

If you are consuming alcohol, you should drink water to quickly get rid of the bloating in your face and stomach. The fact is, drinking water before, during, and after drinking alcohol can help prevent the inflammatory effects of alcohol on your body. More ways to prevent bloating are:

  • Eat and drink slower: This can reduce the amount of air you might swallow. Swallowing air can increase bloating.
  • Stay away from carbonated drinks and beer: These release carbon dioxide gas into the body, which increases bloating.
  • Avoid gum or hard candy: These also make you suck in more air than normal.
  • Quit smoking because it causes you to inhale and swallow air.
  • If you wear dentures, make sure they fit well. Poorly fitting dentures can make you swallow excess air.
  • Take care of any heartburn problems: Heartburn may increase bloating.
  • Getting exercise after eating or drinking can help reduce bloating.
  • Reduce or remove gas-causing food from your diet including:
  • Dairy
  • Fatty food
  • Artificial sugar
  • Whole grain food
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Beans and peas
  • Try an over-the-counter gas remedy.
  • Try probiotics and digestive enzymes that support healthy gut bacteria.

    Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

    Are you worried about having a drinking problem? If you are, you aren’t alone. In fact, about 18 million adults in the U.S. struggle with AUD. AUD refers to drinking that causes harm or distress. The symptoms vary depending on the severity. Still, symptoms of AUD generally include, but aren’t limited to:

    • Alcohol cravings
    • Frequently drinking alone
    • Drinking alcohol as a way to cope
    • Needing to drink increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effect
    • Drinking despite the mental, emotional, physical, and financial consequences
    • Disrupting day-to-day activities for alcohol use
    • Allowing alcohol to interfere with professional and personal relationships
    • Acquiring alcohol-related medical conditions
    • Developing a weakened immune system

    Alcohol Withdrawal

    Alcohol withdrawal can occur when heavy and prolonged alcohol use is suddenly stopped or substantially reduced. It can happen in a few hours or within a few days. Symptoms include:

    • Sweating
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
    • Problems sleeping
    • Hand tremors
    • Mood swings
    • Irritability
    • Hallucinations
    • Seizures
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Death

    Treatment Options for AUD

    The first step of a treatment program is detoxification. Then, behavioral therapy and other services are introduced. These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer.

    Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the other portions of your treatment. There are many options available for alcohol use disorder including:

    Detox

    In a detoxification center, you allow your body to rid itself of the alcohol toxins. Alcohol detox and withdrawal can be dangerous without supervision so a medically supervised program is important to get you prepared to go into treatment.

    Inpatient Treatment

    This takes place at a licensed residential treatment center. This type of program provides 24/7 structured, comprehensive care. You’ll live in a secure substance-free facility, fully monitored by medical professionals. This is considered the highest level of care.

    Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)

    Though technically an outpatient program PHPs provide similar services and are similar to residential programs, except that you go home in the evening. Seven full days a week are spent at the treatment facility, engaging in behavioral therapy, support groups, and other customized therapies. Some facilities provide food and transportation service. PHPs generally accept new patients as well as individuals who have completed an inpatient program.

    Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) /Outpatient Program (OP)

    Outpatient programs are typically less intensive than residential and PHP. Because they require fewer days and hours per week, it is easier to organize treatment around your schedule. In an IOP, you will attend treatment sessions several days a week for 3 or 4 hours per day. The goal is to provide education, therapy, and support in a flexible environment. IOPs are good for people who have a supportive family to go home to, and school or work obligations that can’t be worked around.

    Regular outpatient programs (OPs) are the lowest level of care and therefore require fewer hours per week for treatment sessions. OPs are good for people who have completed a higher level of care and would like to continue their treatment. They are often part of an aftercare program.

    Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

    Medications are sometimes needed in the treatment of alcohol addiction. Some reduce the side effects of withdrawal and others help reduce cravings and normalize body functions. The most common medications for AUD are:

    • Antabuse (disulfiram)
    • Campral (acamprosate)
    • Vivitrol (naltrexone)

    Evidence-Based Therapy

    When you combine MAT with evidence-based therapies, you increase your chance of recovery and preventing relapse. The most effective therapies for AUD include:

    • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
    • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
    • Individual Therapy
    • Group Therapy
    • Family Therapy

    Miracles at Miracles Recovery Center

    If you or a loved one are suffering from AUD, you may feel like it will take a miracle to end the torment. You don’t need a miracle, but you do need professional help. Miracles Recovery Center in Port St. Lucie, FL. can provide you with the comprehensive treatment and evidence-based therapies that you need. In addition, our staff is professional and well experienced in the treatment of addictions.

    If you live in the Port St. Lucie area, you know the healing qualities of the ocean. For those of you that don’t, many people find it more beneficial to get away from your old surroundings to start fresh on your recovery journey. Contact us today. We are happy to answer any questions.

    References:

    https://alcoholrehabhelp.org/addiction/inflammation/#:~:text

    https://www.eatthis.com/worst-drinking-habits-for-inflammation/

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2842521/#:~:te

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