Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. If you have RA, your body’s immune system will mistakenly attack your joints. This attack causes inflammation of the lining around the joints. It can cause pain and even lead to a loss of joint mobility. In severe cases, irreversible joint damage can occur.
About 1.5 million people in the United States have RA. Nearly three times as many women have the disease as men. Countless hours of research has been conducted to understand exactly what causes RA and the best way to treat it. There have even been studies that show drinking alcohol may actually help reduce RA symptoms.
Alcohol and RA Medications
Alcohol doesn’t react well with many commonly prescribed RA medications.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to treat RA. They can be over-the-counter drugs such as naproxen (Aleve), or they can be prescription drugs. Drinking alcohol with these types of drugs increases your risk of stomach bleeding.
If you’re taking methotrexate (Trexall), rheumatologists recommend that you don’t drink any alcohol or limit your consumption of alcohol to no more than two glasses per month. If you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with pain and inflammation, drinking alcohol can lead to liver damage.
If you’re taking any of the previously mentioned medications, you should abstain from alcohol or talk to your doctor about the potential dangers.
RA and Alcohol
Some recent research suggests that alcohol might not be as first thought for people with RA. One study has shown that alcohol might help with RA symptoms in some people. The study investigated the association between the frequency of alcohol consumption and the risk and severity of RA. It was a small study, and there were some limitations, but the results seemed to support that alcohol consumption did decrease the risk and severity of RA in some people. Compared to people who have RA and drank little to no alcohol, there was a noticeable difference in severity.
Another study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital focused on alcohol consumption in women and its relationship to RA. The study found that drinking a moderate amount of beer might positively affect the impact of RA development. It’s important to note that only women who were moderate drinkers saw benefits and that excessive drinking is considered unhealthy.
Since women were the only test subjects, the results from this particular study don’t apply to men.
Results have been somewhat positive, but studies are limited and some results have been conflicting. A lot more research is needed.
If you do decide to drink alcohol, moderation is key. Drinking too much alcohol may lead to alcohol abuse or dependency.
If you suffer from RA or experience any of the symptoms, you should see your doctor for treatment. Your doctor will most likely instruct you not to mix alcohol with your RA medications.
The studies on alcohol consumption and RA are interesting, but a lot is still unknown. It’s important to note that alcohol is not a trusted treatment for RA. You should always seek professional medical treatment so that your doctor can treat your individual case. Each case is different and what works for another person may not work for you.
Alcohol can react negatively with certain RA medications, so it’s important to understand the risk factors. A good rule of thumb to ensure your health and safety is to always talk to your doctor before trying any new treatments for RA.