You’ve made a visit to the doctor and you’ve received a bad news.
You have an infection of some sort and the only prescription is to take some antibiotics for a couple of week. And whether they’re minor or major antibiotics, the doctor slaps you with the same advice:
No alcohol after taking your antibiotics.
“Okay,” you think to yourself. “No alcohol for a little while. I can handle that.” And for a couple of days, everything goes fine. You don’t touch a drop of Italian wine with any of your meals and you follow the doctor’s advice to the letter.
But one day, you start feeling a little stressed. You want nothing more than to pour yourself a glass of red so that you can relax with a gorgeous Italian wine. The temptation almost becomes too much as you find yourself eyeing the bottle.
“One glass can’t hurt…can it?”
As much as it pains us to say it, you will need to avoid any kind of Italian wine while you’re on antibiotics. While one or two glasses likely won’t cause any lasting damage, they will still have a negative effect on your body.
To find out why you have to avoid alcohol when taking antibiotics, let’s dig into what happens to your body if you don’t follow the doctor’s advice.
Issue #1 – The Potential Side-Effects
The tricky thing with antibiotics and the side-effects that occur when drinking alcohol I that different antibiotics lead to different issues. Furthermore, some antibiotics don’t react with alcohol at all, which complicates matters even further.
Even so, we believe you’re taking a risk if you drink with any type of antibiotic in your system. And on a general level, doing so could lead to one, some, or even all of the following side-effects:
- Severe headaches
- Stomach cramps
- An irregular heartbeat
- Lots and lots of sweating
- Digestive problems
These are all fairly minor side-effect, though each is uncomfortable in its own right and you may experience several of them together if you mix alcohol with antibiotics. You’re essentially giving yourself a short-term touch of the flu by doing it.
However, there are two ide-effects that are a real worry:
- High blood pressure
- Liver damage
According to Healthline, these side-effects only occur when you mix alcohol with Isoniazid and Linezolid. Even so, it’s a risk that’s not worth taking, especially as you rely on your live to help you to process alcohol.
Simply put, there’s a host of side-effects that occur when you drink any kind of alcohol after taking antibiotics. You may want to ask your doctor if the specific antibiotic you’re taking reacts poorly with alcohol. However, we recommend avoiding the combination altogether.
Issue #2 – The Effect on the Antibiotic
Again, with so many different types of antibiotics out there, we can’t say for certain that alcohol will always reduce the effectiveness of the drug. However, there’s certainly evidence to suggest that it has an effect on two types of antibiotic:
In both cases, the antibiotic becomes less effective when alcohol is introduced into the mix. That means you may not recover from the ailment that the antibiotics are supposed to help cure.
But let’s assume that you’re not taking one of these two types. Does that mean you don’t have to worry about alcohol stopping your antibiotics from working?
You have to remember that your liver metabolises both the alcohol and the antibiotic. And it’s possible that drinking alcohol could have a negative effect on what your liver does with the antibiotic. As NYU Langone Health’s Clinical Instructor of Medicine, Dr. Margarita Rohr, explains:
“…Alcohol is metabolized in the liver, as well as some antibiotics. Depending on how much alcohol is consumed, it may affect the way the liver processes the antibiotic.”
Sticking with this idea of metabolising, it’s also possible that the antibiotic could speed up the effect that the alcohol has on your body. Lowell General Hospital’s Dr. Laura Hagopian explains:
“For instance, erythromycin can increase the amount of alcohol that gets absorbed from your stomach.”
Again, the effects vary, or may not even occur, depending on the type of antibiotic you’re taking. However, it’s possible that mixing antibiotics and alcohol could lead to you getting drunk very quickly.
And none of us makes good decisions when we’re intoxicated.
Issue #3 – Your Natural Immune Response
Doctors prescribe antibiotics when your natural immune response isn’t strong enough to take care of an infection on its own. You could think of the drug as being something that offers a boost to your immune system.
And that boost doesn’t mean anything if you’re doing something that could reduce the effectiveness of your natural immune response even further.
There’s some evidence to suggest that drinking alcohol, particularly to excess, lowers your body’s natural immune response. This is especially the case when you’re already ill and your body’s fighting an infection. Even if the alcohol doesn’t mess with the antibiotic, it’s possible that it will mess with your immune system.
That’s a particular worry for anybody who has a low immune response in the first place.
Think of your immune response as a small army. When you take antibiotics, you’re sending reinforcements to that army to win a battle that’s going on inside your body. But when you drink alcohol while taking antibiotic, it’s possible that you’re killing some of your internal soldiers before they ever make their way to the battlefield.
The Final Word
The truth of the matter is that there’s no specific way that drinking Italian wine while taking antibiotics will affect your body. The effects vary depending on several factors, such as the type of antibiotic and the volume of alcohol consumed. Some antibiotics even have no reaction to alcohol at all.
Even so, it’s not worth taking the risk.
And even of the alcohol doesn’t interact with the antibiotic, it may hamper your body’s ability to use the drug effectively.
As such, we recommend avoiding alcohol while you’re taking antibiotics.
But look on the bright side…
Just think about how good that first sip of Italian wine will taste when you’re off the antibiotics!