New research shows strong indications of alcohol abuse being tied to lung damage. The Louisiana based study has shown that, among other things, heavy drinking can damage the bodies’ ability to repair the lungs and protect them against damage from inhaled particles.
The focus of the study is on the way the lungs are maintained and kept healthy and functioning in the face of hostile particles that are inhaled on a regular basis. In the lungs we have hundreds of millions of macrophages. These operate in a similar way to white blood cells; the macrophage will find bacteria or inhaled particles and either digest them or dispose of them. In the case of bacteria, the macrophage is capable of usually digesting; when an inhaled particle is found they will consume the particle and travel through the airways in order to remove the damaging element from the lung.
Stephania A Cormier of Tennessee Health Science Center explains further - "Under normal conditions, monocytes travel into the tissues of the body and mature into macrophages. In the tissues, they perform activities necessary to maintain normal functions and, along with other tissue resident immune cells, provide an initial layer of protection against invading pathogens. AMs, present throughout the large and small airways of the lungs, secrete factors that assist normal airway function while also serving a janitorial role by engulfing and removing inhaled debris and dead cells from the airways."
The ability of these macrophages to deal with hostile elements while the body is subjected to alcohol intake was tested on lab mice by Cormier and her colleagues. It has already been scientifically established that the processing of alcohol within the body strains it and occupies much of the available resources. This can lead to lower performance in other duties of the body and its self-regulation. In the study in question it was found that chronic drinking, “when coupled with PM exposure, dramatically decreases antioxidant defences in the lungs compared to alcohol intake or PM (particle matter) exposure alone.”
The most obvious cause for concern of this knowledge is the common combination of alcohol and smoking. If alcohol causes a reduction in the ability of the body to regulate its airways and lungs, this is extremely bad news if combined with smoking of cigarettes, as the body will be even more unable to deal with the hostile particle matter coursing through the airways and lungs. This very real and common occurrence lends credence to this study, as the process of the study mirrors a very common and prevalent real-world scenario.