A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that a single episode of binge drinking can cause bacteria leakage from the gut and increase levels of endotoxins in the blood. The endotoxins were shown to affect the immune system, causing the body to produce more immune cells involved in fever, inflammation, and tissue destruction.

Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking alcohol that results in a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of >0.08g/dL. This generally corresponds to males consuming >5 drinks or females consuming >4 drinks in about 2 hours. Binge drinking can cause car crashes and injuries, as well as cause long-term damage to the liver and other organs.

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The study examined 11 men and 14 women that were given enough alcohol to raise their BAC to >0.08g/dL within the hour. Blood samples were taken every 30 minutes for 4 hours post-binge and again 24 hours later. It was found that the alcohol binge cause a rapid increase in endotoxins levels in the blood and evidence of bacterial DNA, which indicated that bacteria had permeated the gut. Women had higher BAC and circulating endotoxins when compared to men.

Previous studies have linked chronic alcohol use to increased gut permeability where harmful products can travel through the intestinal wall and be carried to other parts of the body.

For more information visit the NIAAA website.