The relationship between alcohol consumption and its effects on the body has been a topic of extensive research and discussion over the years. One area of interest is the potential link between alcohol and inflammation. While many enjoy an occasional drink without giving it much thought, it’s worth exploring the question: Does alcohol contribute to swelling and heightened inflammatory responses in the body?

What Is Inflammation?

Inflammation is considered a normal function of an individual’s body, or the immune system’s first reaction to a recognized danger. However, once inflammation happens too often, it represents a dignified health threat. Numerous lifestyle choices can increase an individual’s overall risk of chronic systemic inflammation.

These include a diet that is high in sugar, excessive alcohol consumption, and trans fat. As time goes on, large quantities of alcohol can alter a person’s lining of their colon and intestines. Once an individual’s immune system institutes inflammation, it sends off inflammatory cells to the specific part of the body where it senses a problem.

Therefore, soon after antibodies and proteins travel to that same area as well, and the overall level of blood flow to the region increases. This specific process can take hours, or in particular cases of inflammation, even days. Sometimes, the inflammation comes with external symptoms such as the following:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Rashes
  • Pain

The Effects of Chronic Inflammation

When an individual has chronic inflammation, their body is in a continual state of high alert. Under this amount of pressure, organs and arteries can further break down and lead to the development of diseases. Overall, these effects are wide-ranging and might include:

  • Chron’s disease
  • Periodontitis
  • Asthma
  • Hepatitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Arthritis
  • Ulcers

In the end, more serious conditions can occur such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. When there are inflammatory cells anywhere in an individual’s body, the rest of the immune system can be affected. In layman’s terms, this means the gut inflammation caused by long-term and excessive alcohol consumption can cause or promote inflammation throughout the body. To answer the question, ‘Does alcohol cause inflammation?’ The answer is yes. There is a direct link between alcohol and inflammation.

What Is the Relationship Between Alcohol and Inflammation?

There is a direct relationship between alcohol and inflammation. Over time as an individual engages in large quantities and amounts of alcohol, the lining of the colon and intestines will be altered. As a consequence, they became less capable of containing bacteria.

Therefore, some of the bacteria that live in these organs, a portion that can become toxic, can end up seeping into the bloodstream and traveling throughout the body. Even though these microbes aren’t necessarily harmful, the immune system will still view them as a threat. For that reason, it’s more likely to induce inflammation regularly.

alcohol and swelling

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How Does Alcohol Contribute to Chronic Inflammation?

When an individual engages in heavy drinking consumption over a long period can create numerous changes in an individual’s body that could lead to intestinal inflammation. Gradually, over this extended period, the inflammation can cause organ dysfunction throughout a person’s body, especially in the brain and liver.

Intestinal Permeability

The above-mentioned process occurs when an individual’s intestines act more like a bodyguard for their bloodstream. In turn, the barrier allows the absorption of key nutrients from a person’s gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it prevents the absorption of deadly nutrients instead.

When an individual engages in excessive alcohol consumption, it can cause this barrier to become permeable or “leaky.” Consequently, a person’s bloodstream bodyguard starts to become ineffective. Furthermore, this means that the toxins and bacteria they create can now invade the bloodstream, leaving the gut and now spreading to other organs.

If an individual has an alcohol use disorder (AUD), their intestines can sometimes become permeable enough to allow the overall passage of endotoxins, also known as large macromolecules. As previously mentioned, endotoxins can assist in promoting inflammation. Consequently, not only does alcohol increase endotoxins production in an individual’s gut, but it also decreases the overall strength of the person’s intestinal barrier which might block them.

This process will allow the endotoxins and the resulting inflammation to then spread throughout an individual’s body through the bloodstream. So if you’re still wondering, “Does alcohol cause inflammation?” The answer is yes.

The alcohol and swelling can seriously affect all parts of an individual’s body. Alcohol is a crucial risk factor for gout, a painful and common form of inflammatory arthritis. This can also trigger flare-ups in people who are living with gout.

Inhibited Immune Response

Commonly, when an individual’s body faces a threat or an imbalance, they can count on their immune system to keep everything in check. Unfortunately, alcohol does negatively impact the immune system also. There was a study performed on mice that indicated that alcohol slows downs a person’s intestine’s immune response to attacking harmful bacteria.

Also, alcohol suppresses a variation of other cells and molecules vital to immune response. In addition, alcohol can harm a person’s general organ functions and interactions. In healthier individuals, the interactions play a big role in reducing the damaging effects of endotoxins.

For example, an individual’s liver detoxifies the above-mentioned substances while the central nervous system continues to contribute to anti-inflammatory regulation. Therefore, engaging in heavy consumption of drinking seems to compromise a person’s immune system and the support their organs give. As a consequence, not only can alcohol create issues in an individual’s body, but it can also limit an individual’s body’s ability to correct them.


First, alcohol does disrupt the overall balance between the “bad” and “good” bacteria in an individual’s gut. The imbalance of the bacteria in an individual gut that is caused by alcohol is called dysbiosis, and this process negatively impacts a person’s immune system. Overall, alcohol promotes the overgrowth of bacteria which further disrupts a person’s gut health.

One result of the above-mentioned process is an increase in chemicals called endotoxins. The endotoxins activate the immune cells and proteins that promote inflammation. So, as shown throughout the article, alcohol and inflammation have a powerful relationship.

How Excessive Drinking Impairs an Individual’s Health

Altogether, engaging in excessive drinking can do the following:

  • Weakens the individual’s intestinal barrier, therefore allowing detrimental endotoxins and bacteria in the gut, which promotes inflammation
  • Inhibits an individual’s body’s immune response by suppressing key cells and molecules, and damaging the interactions and functions of principal organs
  • Increases the production of harmful endotoxins and bacteria to pass from the individual’s gut into their gut, therefore promoting inflammation

Together, the above-mentioned effects lead to chronic inflammation, which ultimately can cause organ disease and damage. Furthermore, alcohol-induced gut inflammation is linked to the following:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Inflammation of the brain
  • Gastrointestinal cancers
  • Liver disease, and more

Overall, the inflammation of the gut might even influence various psychological aspects of alcohol addiction. These might include the following:

What Can You Do to Fight Inflammation?

Various researchers believe long-lasting inflammation is the root of many chronic illnesses. However, the question remains of how to treat it. The most effective way to work on the factors in an individual’s control is through managing alcohol consumption.

How to Reduce Alcohol and Swelling

The most effective way to reduce inflammation is to reduce how much alcohol is consumed or quit. If an individual continues drinking, one of the most encouraging acts is to ensure hydration. Alcohol has been known to dehydrate individuals, and dehydration can worsen inflammation.

It is encouraged to drink plenty of water and electrolytes before, during, and even after safely consuming an acceptable amount of alcohol. This is to combat the inflammatory effects of alcohol. Likewise, it’s a great idea to avoid sugary alcoholic drinks since sugar is also known to cause inflammation.

It’s also suggested to engage in anti-inflammatory foods such as the following:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Oranges
  • Cherries
  • Fatty fish
  • Tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts

More ways to fight inflammation are:

  • Limiting stress through mindfulness and relaxation techniques
  • Incorporate exercising daily for a minimum of 20 minutes
  • Receiving an adequate amount of sleep at night
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Even though many inflammation effects cannot be reversed, an individual’s body has plenty of tricks to excel, including a class of pro-resolving mediators, also known as regenerative molecules. Overall, this assists in the process of repairing the damage that was caused by inflammation. Furthermore, the sooner an individual decides to make the necessary and healthy lifestyle changes, the sooner the body will begin working to rejuvenate, repair, and restore itself.

Do Some Types of Alcohol Cause More Inflammation Than Others?

If you are wondering if a specific type of alcohol causes more inflammation than the other, all the alcohol types cause inflammation in the body. The alcohol that causes the least amount of inflammation is wine. Furthermore, for example, a review of 53 studies discovered that beer and hard liquor consumption was remarkably related to the overall risk of gout.

For the example provided above, wine was considered less common among the patients with the condition mentioned above of gout. Much has been discovered about some anti-inflammatory properties such as polyphenols like resveratrol, which is found in wine. Resveratrol might inhibit the inflammatory factors that ultimately trigger heart disease.

Beat Your Alcohol Addiction Today at Achieve Wellness

As stated, alcohol and inflammation and alcohol and swelling share a dynamic relationship. Alcohol can worsen a person’s inflammation, and cause swelling, and various other problems. We understand combating any disease is difficult, but it’s not impossible. Contact us today.

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Medically Reviewed By

Nicole Rettino-Lambert LCSW, LCADC, CCS, CCTP, CSTIP

Nicole Rettino-Lambert is a dually licensed clinician with over 20 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and adults in both addiction treatment and mental health treatment. Along with extensive experience in clinical work, she has held leadership roles in both inpatient and outpatient addiction treatments centers in New Jersey. Throughout her various leadership positions, Rettino-Lambert has developed clinical programming, assisted staff in their growth and development in the clinical field, and had the privilege of helping numerous individuals on their path to recovery.

As a clinician, Rettino-Lambert specializes in addiction trauma, mental health, self-harm behaviors, anxiety, intimacy issues, sex addiction, and personality disorders. She holds certifications as a clinical trauma professional and sex informed professional. Her passion and purpose as a clinician are to help individuals find their voice, purpose, and motivation through their recovery. She takes pride in being part of the process that helps those who are fighting for their lives to achieve both sobriety and wellness.In her role as a Clinical Director at Achieve Wellness and Recovery, Rettino-Lambert works tirelessly to ensure that her staff feels supported in their roles, continues their clinical growth and development, and is empowered to become the best versions of themselves. She firmly believes that all the staff are an essential part of clients’ recovery journey and that they deserve continuous compassion, empathy, acknowledgment, and support from leadership.

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