Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and drinking alcohol have been a hot topic throughout the community recently. We already know that smoking is the leading cause of COPD but there is not enough research to prove that alcohol alone can or cannot cause an increase in exacerbations. Previous studies have already proved that patients who consume high amounts of alcohol in addition to smoking causes COPD symptoms to become worse, but we're unable to determine if drinking alone was a independent risk factor. If you already have COPD and like to have an occasional drink from time to time then speak with your doctor, and they will review your medical history and see if it is safe to have the occasional drink.
Effects of Alcohol in Patients with COPD
If you have COPD take into account that drinking alcohol will slow your breathing rate as well as making coughing up mucus and expelling it more of a challenge. Consuming alcohol will also lead to you becoming full, which will then prevent you from eating proper nutrition that your weakened body relies on to fight against COPD. Also be aware that consumption of alcohol can interact with medications differently, so you will want to make sure to speak with your doctor before combining the two, because a combination of certain medications can be lethal.
Drinking Low Amounts of Alcohol Causes:
Drinking Larger Quantities of Alcohol Causes:
- Slurred speech
- Decreased motor skills
- Loss of consciousness
- Impaired memory (blackouts)
- Headaches the next morning
Becoming Alcohol Dependent Causes:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Decreased Lung Function
- Increased death rate in COPD patients
- Increasingly difficult to expunge and loosen mucus
Speaking with Your Doctor
Increased alcohol abuse will lead your lungs to have a drastic deficiency of glutathione, which is an antioxidant in the lungs which protects them from smoke and pollution. When the lungs have a shortage of glutathione then you are at a higher risk for future lung disease, in addition to aggravating any present COPD symptoms or causing a flare-up. Alcohol can impersonate the feelings of anxiety and pain medications in the sense that it can slow down your breathing rate, with the potential of lowering it to a lethal rate.
There are studies that show drinking a glass of red wine a day can help overall heart health, however there is no correlation to minimal alcohol consumption helping COPD. Drinking alcohol is overall your decision, so if deciding to drink or not be sure to take the previous points into consideration and really think about your decision with your health in mind. If you are having troubles deciding the best option would be to speak with your doctor so he/she can evaluate your health to see if alcohol will impact your body and COPD in negative ways. A conclusion could also be reached that due to medications your are prescribed alcohol consumption would be a big no-no, or an overall consensus can be reached about the amount of alcohol that would be safe to consume without endangering your health.+Caleb Umstead