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  • Adriano dos Santos

The effect of "binge drinking" on the immune system

In the last ten years, the knowledge about the effect of alcohol on our immune system has been enormously deepened by the large amount of research that has been done into it. Excessive drinking or "binge drinking" is defined as drinking 5 glasses of alcohol or more during one occasion (approximately 2 hours), or an increase in blood alcohol content to 0.8 per cent or more. An adult who drinks excessively promotes his or her risk of pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic fatty liver, slower recovery from inflammation, wound healing and other trauma.


 Conclusion American researchers:

"Our observations suggest that an alcohol binge is more dangerous than previously thought." [1]

What are the consequences of 'binge drinking'?

It is known that excessive alcohol consumption leads to damage to the liver and other internal organs in the long term. However, once-only binge drinking can also have major consequences. The delicate intestinal flora balance is immediately disrupted and the intestinal area is also affected. Because the intestinal mucosa erodes, bacterial translocation easily takes place through the intestinal wall to the blood stream. These bacteria are called endotoxins and directly burden the immune system [2]. Alcohol contributes to the development of increased intestinal permeability and liver pathogenesis. This bilateral influence is also called the intestinal liver axis [3].

Research study into drinking too much alcohol

In a research study led by Dr. Szabo (University of Massachusetts Medical School, USA), 11 healthy men and 14 women received so much alcohol that their blood alcohol level increased to at least 0.8 per cent. Immediately after this excessive alcohol intake, the endotoxin level of the participants peaked.

The researchers also found bacterial DNA showing that intestinal bacteria had leaked through the intestinal wall.

Dr. Szabo concluded that a single binge drinking action can cause a disastrous immune response even in healthy adults.


  1. Szabo G, Bala S, Marcos M, Szabo G, et al. Acute Binge Drinking Increases Serum Endotoxin and Bacterial DNA Levels in Healthy Individuals. PLOSone 2014. 

  2. Bode C, Bode JC. Effect of alcohol consumption on the gut. Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Aug;17(4):575-92.

  3. Szabo G, Bala S. Alcoholic liver disease and the gut-liver axis. World J Gastroenterol. 2010. 

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