Facebook Pixel

If You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Should You Raise Your Glass? The Effects of Alcohol Consumption on RA

Rate This
Rheumatoid Arthritis related image Photo: Getty Images

I used to be embarrassed to admit this, but not so much anymore. I don’t drink. I don’t drink for what I call the reasons of the three Cs: cost, calories, and control. I hate to spend money on over-priced drinks; I don’t want (or need!) the extra calories; and I certainly don’t want to be in a position where I might lose even the slightest bit of control. However, it seems that in my research for various writing endeavors, I frequently come across articles on the benefits of alcohol in terms of certain health issues.

We have all heard the premise that drinking red wine can have a positive impact on our heart health, when consumed in moderation of course. Other studies suggest that drinking small amounts of alcohol may reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes. I recently read that the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis can be alleviated with moderate consumption of alcohol. In fact, the risk of even developing rheumatoid arthritis may be lowered with moderate alcohol consumption. If they ever conduct a study that suggests drinking alcohol may make one wealthy, I may relax my standards a bit!

A recent study suggested that people who do not drink alcohol are approximately four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than those who have at least one drink a day, at least three days a week. Researchers have also noted that RA patients who consume alcohol notice a reduction in their symptoms. Further, the more the patient drank, the milder their symptoms became.

Approximately 1.3 million adults in the U.S. have rheumatoid arthritis, a disorder that attacks the immune system and causes pain and inflammation in the joints. While some patients may only be bothered by mild symptoms on occasion, others are so severely affected that their whole lives are turned upside down.
Because alcohol reduces the immune activity of the body, the researchers suspect that this is the primary reason that the consumption of alcohol reduces the severity of RA symptoms. Additionally, alcohol may have a mild pain-killing effect.

However, this study does not suggest it is okay to belly up to the bar and drink yourself silly. It merely suggests that a moderate intake of alcohol seems to have an effect on the severity of symptoms associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The study took into account only how many days per month the participants drank – not how much or what types of drinks they were consuming.

The study polled people who had a drink on more than ten days in the past month versus those who did not drink at all. For those who did drink during that time frame, they were less likely to have RA, or, if they did have the disorder, their symptoms were noted as less severe than their non-indulging counterparts.
However, patients should be cautioned that mixing alcohol with certain medications can be a dangerous trap. The drug methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) is a drug that is usually prescribed to patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Methotrexate is not recommended, however, for RA patients who have liver disease or who may be suspected of abusing alcohol. Because methotrexate has been associated with liver damage, taking it in conjunction with the consumption of alcohol can possibly increase damage to the liver.

Additionally, when you drink alcohol while taking a medication such as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which is often prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis patients to treat acute inflammation, it can make it difficult for your doctor to accurately assess your tolerance level of a certain drug if you have increased liver enzymes. The ability to determine if the drug or the alcohol is contributing to the increased liver enzymes may not be readily discernable.
Alcohol has also been known to damage the lining of the stomach. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis who do consume alcohol while simultaneously taking an NSAID may be at risk for developing ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding. Further, RA patients who drink and use large doses of acetaminophen are at an increased risk for toxicity of the liver.

While lots of people enjoy a nice drink on occasion, it is good advice to seek the recommendation of your physician based on your health and related history before you bring that glass to your lips.

Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/07/27/drinking.rheumatoid.arthritis/index.html

Add a Comment3 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I read in Findrxonline that many take these beneficial effects for drinking but as also shown only in moderate doses as in excess it causes great damage to the body as any substance for example hydrocodone.

March 2, 2011 - 7:38am

It does not hold true for everyone, which is why the article was not entirely definitive. It can work for some, but not for othres. In fact, some with RA who DO drink can have the opposite reaction, as the article suggested. The article merely suggested that moderate alcohol consumption MAY help SOME with RA....not everyone! Hope that helps. Thanks for the link to your blog.

March 2, 2011 - 6:17am
EmpowHER Guest

I have been diagnosed w Rheumatoid Arthritis since 2005 and have always been a social drinker on the weekends prior to being diagnosed. So I don't agree with this article or perhaps I was a rare case. Welcome to check out my blog www.mommywithra.blogspot.com

March 2, 2011 - 2:47am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Get Email Updates

Related Topics

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guide


Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!