Prednisone is a steroid that mimics certain hormones produced in the adrenal glands. It functions in many different ways. The anti-inflammatory qualities of prednisone mean that it’s often prescribed to treat a range of conditions like asthma and bursitis. Prednisone also suppresses the immune system. This makes it useful to treat symptoms of certain autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
You may wonder if you can still enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with dinner while you take prednisone. In general, if your dose is low and you’re not using prednisone for long-term treatment of a chronic condition such as RA or adrenal insufficiency, a drink or two per day should be fine. Still, discussing it first with your doctor is a good idea. They’re familiar with your medical history and are the most qualified to answer questions about how the combination can affect you specifically.
In some cases, though, combining prednisone and alcohol may be problematic.
Prednisone has many side effects, and some of them could be complicated by alcohol.
For example, steroids and alcohol both suppress the immune system. When your immune system is suppressed, it’s more difficult for your body to fight infections. Using alcohol and prednisone together makes this difficulty even more likely.
Prednisone may also increase your blood sugar levels beyond the threshold for diabetes. This effect is more likely in people who are already at risk of developing type 2 diabetes or who have taken steroids for a long time. Having more than one or two alcoholic drinks per day while you take prednisone increases your risk of type 2 diabetes even further. This is because alcohol can also increase your blood sugar level.
Alcohol and prednisone can each irritate the digestive tract and cause peptic ulcers. Combining the two may be asking for trouble, especially if you’re already prone to indigestion or stomach upset.
Prednisone may cause bones to become thin and brittle, possibly contributing to the early onset of osteoporosis. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol for long periods while you take prednisone may increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Whether or not you drink, the side effects of steroid use can be harsh. Follow these tips to help ease some of the effects.
- Take your prednisone after a full meal to help protect you from the damaging effect it can have on your digestive system. Taking antacids may also be helpful.
- Eat small meals several times per day to help keep your blood sugar stable. Eating according to a diabetic meal plan may help stave off steroid-induced diabetes.
- Eat sensible meals that are no larger than what you eat normally. Steroids can keep you from feeling full. This may be why some people on steroids gain weight.
- Limit your salt intake to prevent water retention. Salt is hidden in foods that are canned, frozen, packaged, and pickled. Prednisone can affect your sense of taste and make everything seem bland, but don’t load up on salt to compensate.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine and nicotine that can make sleep issues worse. Cutting these out can help ease insomnia, which is a common side effect of prednisone.
While a drink or two might not have any impact on your health while you take prednisone, it’s always best to talk to your doctor first to avoid complications and give you the best outcome. Removing drinking from your daily activities until after you finish your treatment may be the best option.
If you are more than just an occasional drinker and need to take steroids for a chronic condition, this might be a good opportunity to talk to your doctor about the benefits of giving up alcohol for your overall health. Be honest about your use of alcohol so that your doctor can give you useful guidance.