Alcohol and Emphysema
Research Inconclusive Regarding Alcohol and Emphysema
Emphysema, also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is mostly caused from smoking. Many who suffer from emphysema have asked the question, “Can I drink alcohol after being diagnosed?” Some research has been done on the subject, but it has been difficult to come to a solid conclusion as to whether or not alcohol is harmful for a person suffering from lung disease. “This is a new area of interest, but so far the studies we have aren’t consistent,” says Bohdan Pichurko, MD, a pulmonary specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. One thing that all researchers can agree on, however, is that prolonged heavy drinking is detrimental to one’s health, with or without lung disease.
According to an article in About Health, chronic drinking alone does not directly result in lung damage, rather, drinking coupled with oxidative stress causes damage to a person’s lungs. Oxidative stress occurs when a person is exposed to cigarette smoke, air pollution or dangerous chemicals. Drinking alcohol reduces your lungs’ capacity to handle these airway irritants, which is what makes drinking and smoking together so dangerous. An article published by Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reveals that heavy drinking over a long period of time can predispose someone to develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is a deadly lung disease that typically stems from a sickness or bodily trauma. Heavy drinkers are at a greater risk for developing ARDS.
Increased Risk of ARDS
Drinking alcohol increases a person’s risk for ARDS because it greatly reduces the amount of the antioxidant glutathione in a person’s lungs. According to an article by Emory University, the less glutathione a person has in their lungs, the more difficult it is for the body to transfer oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream. This puts a person at risk for ARDS. ARDS is a serious disease that can result in death. In the article, David Guidot, director of the Emory Alcohol and Lung Biology Center at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) notes that more alcoholics actually die from lung damage over liver damage.
Wine in Moderation Might Have its Benefits
If you enjoy drinking in moderation and have been diagnosed with emphysema, your best bet is to drink wine. An article from the American Clinical and Climatological Association describes how drinking wine in moderation may actually help improve pulmonary function. This is because the antioxidant resveratrol that is found in wine has several anti-inflammatory properties. The key is moderate consumption – no more than 1-2 drinks in one setting.
The study does note, however, that wine might not be the only reason for better health. “’Wine-only’ consumption may be associated with ‘beneficial’ life style factors including lower weight and body mass index, higher educational level, healthier diet and less smoking.” While wine does contain antioxidants that doesn’t exist in other forms of alcohol, it’s important to consider an overall healthy lifestyle when making comparisons.