There are a few habits that are known for causing colds. Not washing your hands, for instance, or sharing drinking glasses, are sure ways to spread germs. But some more subtle habits could affect your immune system, as well, and increase your likelihood of getting sick. One of these lesser-known habits is drinking too much alcohol.
According to a review in the journal Alcohol Research, binge drinking can weaken immune functioning. And with a weaker immune system, you’re less likely to fight off invading germs from your environment, and you’re more likely to experience the symptoms of a cold or flu for a longer period of time. Drinking does not have to be chronic to have an effect. Acute binge drinking (drinking 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women, in under 2 hours), or occasional episodes of excessive drinking, also weaken the immune response, according to the study.
So how much alcohol is considered excessive? According to the Mayo Clinic, “moderate” alcohol consumption means drinking up to one drink a day for women and men over 65, and up to two drinks a day for men 65 or younger. Moderate drinking may not be such a problem — a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that while excess consumption of alcohol caused harm to the immune system, moderate alcohol consumption did not.
While drinking a hot toddy or a glass of wine at the end of the day might not be so bad, curbing your alcohol intake is one of the healthy habits that could prevent you from getting sick.