If you feel unwell after a big night of drinking, it might not just be because you're hungover – there's a high chance you're actually ill.
This is because alcohol lowers your immune system as soon as it enters the body, making you more vulnerable to the viruses and bacteria you come into contact with.
A new study, published in the journal Alcohol, sheds light on the surprising extent to which boozing can impact your health in this way.
Volunteers were asked to down four or five shots of vodka within 20 minutes. This counts as a “binge” and takes consumption significantly over the limit for driving.
After drinking, the people had samples of blood taken and tested at different time intervals, including 20 minutes, two hours and five hours later.
Immune cells were isolated from the samples and exposed to harmful bacteria. By measuring how the cells reacted, the scientists discovered a big initial reaction as the body defended itself against the toxins.
This was followed, however, by an anti-inflammatory phase where the response weakened and the body became less able to fend off disease.
In some of the volunteers, this impact on the immune system lasted for several days – way beyond the point at which alcohol becomes undetectable.