Binge-drinking's unseen dangerA new study finds your immune system suffers greatly from heavy doses of booze
The risks of a hard-core night of drinking on the town go far beyond a vicious hangover. A study from the University of Massachusetts found that just one night of binge drinking raises your risk of really getting sick.
In the study, 11 men and 14 women consumed alcoholic drinks that raised their blood alcohol to 0.08g/dL within an hour. They took blood samples from the volunteers every half hour for 4 hours, then again 24 hours later. When the blood samples were analyzed, researchers found signs of rapid increases in endotoxins and evidence of bacterial DNA, indicating the bacteria had moved from the gut to the bloodstream. (As the blood alcohol concentration in your body skyrockets, so do dire health consequences. Find out What Your Blood Alcohol Level Means.)
What's that mean? In short, an increased likelihood that nausea will be the least of your worries. Instead, give a woozy hello to actual illness, rather than a basic hangover. "Increasing evidence suggests that chronic alcohol drinking results in 'leaky gut,'" says study author Gyongyi Szabo, Ph.D, associate dean for clinical and translational sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. "Leaky gut occurs when bacteria enters the systemic circulation system from the intestines, causing bacterial endotoxins to enter the blood stream."
It's the endotoxins from your "leaky gut" causing your illness. "Endotoxins affect all human beings by inducing inflammation throughout the entire body, by activating immune cells that produce substances called cytokines," Szabo says. "These cytokines can cause fever, muscle ache, muscle loss and a wide variety of other biological effects."
So on your next night out, consider your gut (and immune system!) before you start pounding drinks--and go easy. "Binge drinking is just as dangerous as chronic alcohol use," Szabo says. (Don't make these drunken mistakes, here are the 8 Worst Things You Do When You're Wasted.)
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