Arthritis and Alcohol: A Bad Mix
Last year the headlines were buzzing about a study that showed alcohol reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. That’s great news for people with genes that predispose them to the condition, and those who don’t have it. But it does little for you if you’re already living with arthritis.
Drinking alcohol has some of the same symptoms and risks as arthritis. It also has serious side effects of its own. When you routinely drink cocktails or beers, you’re adding to the toll arthritis takes on your body —plus you put yourself at risk for other conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver. Here are nine reasons why mixing alcohol with arthritis is a bad idea:
- Alcohol interferes with the effectiveness of some arthritis medications, making your pain worse.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition. According to the Annals of Epidemiology, chronic excessive alcohol increases inflammation in your body.
- Medications are essential for you to cope with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. But, taking lots of drugs can damage your liver. Excessive alcohol inflames the liver and affects how it functions.
- Too many drinks put you at risk for hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Rheumatoid arthritis is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
- Alcohol causes weight gain. Yet, health professionals often recommend shedding pounds to help improve rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
- Alcohol flushes vital nutrients from your body, such as the mineral, magnesium, and vitamin B1 or thiamine. Both are essential to muscle function, which is already compromised when you have arthritis.
Also B1 deficiency can affect nerve function and cause walking problems and weakness in your hands and legs.
- Alcohol is dehydrating, which makes your muscles tighter or stiffer; arthritis has a similar effect.
- Arthritis can result in bone loss and deterioration. Alcohol thins your bones, making them more prone to damage.
- Both alcohol and arthritis disrupt sleep.
Furthermore, women are twice as likely to be affected by rheumatoid arthritis — and they are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. This makes drinking alcohol even riskier for women with arthritis.
Does it mean you have to give up your favorite bubbly at Christmas, or after-work drinks with your colleagues? Not entirely. Here are smarter ways to indulge:
- Generally, for women, moderate drinking means one drink per day (for men it’s two drinks per day), as outlined in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, this amount can vary based on your body size. You also need to keep in mind that alcohol interacts with some arthritis medications.
- Don’t drink alcohol if you are taking acetaminophen or methotrexate; it can lead to liver damage.
- To avoid stomach problems don’t drink when you take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or aspirin.
- Avoid using narcotic analgesics (such as codeine), muscle relaxants, or sleep medications when you drink; they strengthen the effects of alcohol.
- Using alcohol to cope with pain or depression caused by arthritis may be a sign that your treatment isn’t as effective as it should be. Talk to your doctor about better medications and alternative pain remedies such as hot and cold treatments, meditation, or acupuncture. If you’re depressed, seek medical treatment and counselling.
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