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Alcohol and viral STIs

Published : Monday October 3, 2011 | Posted in : Sexual Health

Drinking too much alcohol is never a good idea, but it’s particularly important to avoid drinking excessively if you have a viral STI. Recent research has shown that alcohol can make people more vulnerable to the effects of a virus and can even increase a person’s recovery time after an injury.

The research, which was published in the BMC Immunology Journal, shows that alcohol impairs the immune system’s ability to suppress and fight off viruses and infections. It also demonstrated that long term consumption of large amounts of alcohol can even cause imbalances of the immune system that can be very dangerous to people with HIV or hepatitis B or C.

How exactly does alcohol affect the immune system?

The research looked at white blood cells collected from healthy individuals to see their response when two disease pathways were activated while alcohol was in the mix. The white blood cells were treated with the alcohol equivalent to four to five glasses over the course of seven days and the cells that were treated had a reduced immune reaction, which lead to an increase of pro-inflammatory proteins. However, the researchers also noticed that a single dose of alcohol decreased these pro-inflammatory proteins.

How much is too much?

A healthy lifestyle is particularly important if you are living with a viral STI and in most cases a doctor or a specialised clinic will have made recommendations of lifestyle adjustments that need to be maintained. With HIV and hepatitis infections, it’s very important that you speak to your doctor before making any changes and therefore any questions about alcohol use or consumption should be directed at them.

If you have genital herpes, it’s generally advised that you cut alcohol consumption down to a minimum to make it less likely that you’ll have recurring outbreaks. Alcohol can also have an effect on mood and has been associated with depression, anxiety and stress, which are all factors that could make a genital herpes outbreak more likely and is also best avoided if you have HIV or hepatitis. So minimising how much alcohol you consume can also be helpful in avoiding these factors.

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