Hitting the bar on a Friday night and sinking a few too many beers after a long working week can do worse damage than just a throbbing headache the morning after.
According to a study published in PLOS ONE, a single night of binge drinking is all it takes for your gut bacteria to leak from your stomach and release harmful toxins into your bloodstream.
The study of 25 people (11 men and 14 women) required participants to drink enough alcohol to raise their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to at least 0.08 per cent.
Participants stopped drinking once their BAC reached this level, and their blood was drawn and tested every half an hour for 4 hours and again 24 hours later.
Related: 6 Signs You Drink Too Much
The testing found that the endotoxin levels (harmful toxins that are released when gut cells deteriorate and enter the bloodstream) of all participants rapidly increased after consuming alcohol and remained high for the entire 24 hours.
Why should this worry you? Well, for one, it has the potential to permanently alter your body's immune response. Do you sometimes feel sore and achy after a big night of drinking? That's due to the endotoxins forcing your body to retrieve nutrients from your muscles, says lead researcher Dr Szabo Gyongyi.
And if you keep your boozy behaviour up for long enough, the prolonged presence of endotoxins in your bloodstream can eventually lead to alcohol hepatitis (liver inflammation).
So next time you're at the bar, slow it down a notch: alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water and fresh lime, and make sure you don't drink on an empty stomach.
Looking to give up drinking for good? Here are 8 surprising things that happen when you give up the booze.