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Alcohol and Inflammation: How Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation?

Author: Kevin Olsen

Last Updated: 9/15/2022

Excess alcohol intake has several side effects and one of them is inflammation. The body often swells as a reaction to the potential damage that occurs when drinking an abundance of alcohol. 

The inflammation acts as protection from a foreign body entering the bloodstream. If drinking an excessive amount becomes long-term, inflammation becomes severe. Hospitalization is also necessary sometimes and the pain of inflammation is often intense. To learn more about the relationship between alcohol and inflammation continue reading.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation is a reaction that occurs from the body trying to protect itself from infection. Some symptoms of severe inflammation include swelling, muscle firmness, lack of hunger, stiffness, fatigue, and discomfort. 

Swelling from alcohol abuse not only affects the part of the body that’s in pain but it alters how your body functions naturally. This leads to different forms of viruses throughout the


It’s also important to note that other factors cause inflammation. Poor diet leads to inflammation and being overweight increases the risk of chronic inflammation. Always speak with a doctor to understand more about the root cause of inflammation.

What Contains the Alcohol that Causes Inflammation?

When alcohol is consumed it’s the liver’s job to purify it so that it doesn’t spread harm to the other organs. Unfortunately, when that happens consistently, the liver takes damage. Still, most alcohols are made with water and ethanol, which is what causes the inflammation.

Primarily, alcohol causes inflammation because of how it impacts the immune system and gastrointestinal system. However, new research from the university of Porto found that the C-reactive protein also influences inflammation. The C-Reactive protein causes inflammation when it’s produced by the liver. Drinking alcohol makes this worse because the liver produces more C-reactive protein when alcohol is in the blood.

Alcohol also causes inflammation because it produces an abundance of pathogens and bacteria when consumed consistently. Alcohol is a drug and a toxin; it has effects on the tissue in the body, which causes swelling. The inflammation of the skin forms because it is trying to avoid the toxins from affecting the main organs.

What are the Types of Inflammation?

Several types of inflammation are possible. Still, two types of inflammation are the most common. These types are acute inflammation and chronic-inflammation.

Find out more about these types of inflammation below.

  • Acute Inflammation: The instant acknowledgment that alcohol has entered the body. The effects of acute inflammation are similar to the feeling of stomach flu. The person will normally have risks of fatigue, nausea, migraines, dehydration, and/or swelling of the face and feet. It is considered less severe than chronic because it is most likely short-term.
  • Chronic Inflammation: The long-term acknowledgment that alcohol has entered the body. The effects of chronic inflammation are more severe than acute because it harms the whole body. Risks of chronic inflammation include an abundance of bacteria in the stomach, enlargement of the liver, and virus-filled pathogens in the bloodstream.

Research from several universities proves that alcohol influences acute-inflammation and chronic inflammation.

What Health Risks can Develop from Alcohol Inflammation?

Alcohol-induced inflammation has several health risks. These include mental health issues, brain impairment, stiff joints, cirrhosis, heart, lung, and respiratory infection.

We list the effects of alcohol and inflammation below.

Alcoholic Hepatitis and Cirrhosis 

Alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis are the enlargement of the liver as an effect of alcohol consumption. Alcohol hepatitis can be fatal if the continuance of drinking alcohol occurs after diagnosis. It is more common in people who drink abundantly than in people who drink a responsible amount. 

Some risks include blockages to the main organs, the breaking down of the liver, infection of the stomach, and lack of memory. Treatment consists of blood tests, ultrasounds, biopsies, and numerous tests to watch the development of the liver and the function of the body. Alcohol intake needs to stop and if trouble occurs from the ability to stop, therapy is necessary.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is when the crucial arteries and vessels become blocked or injured and the heart is not receiving the blood and nutrients that it needs. There are many different forms of heart disease and they have different treatments. High blood pressure is often treated with exercise and daily medication.

Certain heart diseases are fatal if procedures, medication, diet, and exercise are not pursued. Risks such as heart attack or stroke can happen if pain/discomfort is ignored. Extreme alcohol abuse also causes these diseases and traumas.

Brain Damage

Brain damage is when trauma affects or stops the brain from functioning properly. Damage to the brain can occur before birth, from a severe accident, due to a stroke, from a deteriorating disease, or even from the abuse of alcohol.

There are several risks of brain damage. Some risks include memory loss for some time or forever, the inability to obtain certain daily/motor skills, loss or slurred speech, a difficult time communicating, concussion, coma, or fatality. 

Treatments for brain damage vary depending on which part of the brain has been affected. Certain treatments include speech, recreational, or physical therapies. Some therapies are short-term, if you need surgery and only require these therapies while in the hospital. Other therapies may be long-term if the issue is continuous.

Mental Health Conditions

A mental health condition is when a person’s disposition, beliefs, and responses are affected, likely from an imbalance of the brain or traumatic past/present experience. Some reasons mental health issues can occur are daily stress, illness, trauma, a lack of serotonin/dopamine, and alcohol abuse. 

A lot of people do not seek out the proper treatment that they need when undergoing these struggles. Treatment for mental health conditions usually consist of therapy and/or a balancing medication.

When these conditions such as anxiety and depression are left untreated, alcohol can often be referred to as a vice. This is a large risk because alcohol abuse can lead to an abundance of diseases and in extreme cases can become fatal.

What is an Ideal Amount of Alcohol Consumption?

An ideal amount of alcohol is about one drink for women a day, and two drinks a day for men. Alcohol’s risks outweigh its benefits so the less alcohol consumed regularly, the better. 

Men’s daily consumption is higher because their body mass and water tend to be greater. Alcohol is dehydrating and women have less water in their bodies, leading to alcohol affecting them more than men.

How do I Reduce Inflammation from Alcohol?

A way to reduce inflammation from alcohol is by staying hydrated and remaining active. Alcohol takes away part of the water in your body and by replenishing it, you will have less of a chance of inflammation. If consuming alcohol daily, it is important to continue to exercise as it helps keep your organs intact, which can be harmed by alcohol. 

Exercise and water are both necessities for the human body in general but they help to keep the brain, liver, and kidneys working functionally; as these body parts are known to be harmed by alcohol over time.

What is the Treatment for Alcohol Inflammation?

Treatment for alcohol inflammation is to have control or to stop drinking alcohol altogether. Replenishing your body with water throughout the day has been shown to help with inflammation as it reduces swelling, along with a healthy diet. 

If chronic expansion occurs, further medical attention such as medication or even hospitalization may take place.

Can Alcohol Cause Inflammation in Muscles and Joints?

Yes. When alcohol enters the body it takes a percentage of the water out along with daily minerals. When this happens, it can often lead to inflammation in the muscles and joints. Muscle and joint pain symptoms include swelling, pain, and dehydration.

Does Alcoholism Cause Inflammation?

Yes. Inflammation occurs as a reaction to the potential damage that could occur when drinking an abundance of alcohol. Consistent consumption of alcohol caninjure the main organs of the body, which can lead to acute or chronic inflammation.

Does Beer Cause Inflammation?

Yes, beer does cause inflammation if it’s consumed in large amounts. Beer is found to be bloating and contains gluten. If beer is ingested in recommended amounts, it is not likely to cause severe inflammation.

Does Wine Cause Inflammation?

Yes, wine does cause inflammation as it swells the arteries and capillaries. Red wine has been shown to lead to less inflammation than white wine, because it contains antioxidants.

Does Vodka Cause Inflammation?

Yes, vodka also causes inflammation because it’s dehydrating and potent. Vodka is an alcoholic beverage that tends to take up more water in the body, leaving a risk of inflammation. Ciders and red wine tend to absorb less making them a slightly better option.