Rheumatoid Arthritis

How Does Alcohol Affect Rheumatoid Arthritis?

How Does Alcohol Affect Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic condition characterized by joint inflammation and pain. It happens when your immune system starts to attack the lining of your own joints. Commonly affected parts are the hands, knees or ankles; but RA can also cause problems in other parts of the body as well, such as the eyes, heart and circulatory system and/or lungs.1

Is occasional drinking of wine or beer severely detrimental to a person with RA? Well, not really. There has been a substantial amount of research and discussion regarding the link between them. The answer is complicated, as various studies show both, positive and negative, effects of alcohol on RA patients. While moderate drinking may reduce some risks of developing arthritis, if you already suffer from arthritis or a condition like gout, it may do more harm than good.2

Alcohol doesn’t leave your medications alone
The risk to benefit ratio of alcohol in RA patients sides with the risks. Alcohol is notoriously known to interact with several drugs that are used to treat RA patients. Examples are NSAIDs, acetaminophen, methotrexate, and leflunomide among others. Side effects of NSAIDs include stomach bleeding and ulcers; consuming excessive alcohol may only serve to exacerbate these effects.3

Alcohol interacts with pain drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen, and raises your risk of stomach or liver damage. If you’re taking methotrexate, the recommended alcohol limit is no more than two glasses per month. Every RA patient is different and so is his/her tolerance and interaction with alcohol, may it be positive or negative. It’s best to consult your doctor to ensure your health and safety before consuming alcohol.4

Alcohol isn’t good for your health anyway
Other than an occasional glass one dinner night, alcohol really does not serve a weighted advantage to our health. Alcohol affects our brain and hampers our functioning. It can also lead to bone loss, which would only complicate your RA more. Alcohol also increases muscle loss and weakening instigated by RA. Since your condition is a chronic one, you need to aim for minimal mental stress, which is not possible if you’re drinking heavily. Alcohol disrupts your sleep schedule and hampers your mental health, especially if you’re suffering from depression.5

Alcohol may lower the risk of RA
Here’s good news, if you are an occasional drinker — moderate drinking might reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The keyword here: moderate. Studies have shown that regular but limited quantities of alcohol consumption have been effective in reducing biomarkers of inflammation and thus, provide you with some relief.

That being said, it is absolutely not recommended to pick up the habit of drinking alcohol as a treatment solution for RA. While alcohol may have some anti-inflammatory effects, it can also be the reason behind many short and long-term health problems. Too much drinking is never beneficial to anyone, especially if you’re suffering from RA. It is a fine line to walk, so it is best to do so with the guidance and recommendation of your doctor.2

So the bottom line is this — if you’re a patient of RA, and you do not drink, don’t start. If you do, make sure you’re closely monitoring your intake, and have the permission of your doctor for consumption. Check yourself regularly and stay healthy!


  1. Rheumatoid arthritis. Check out. Accessed on 23 January 2020.
  2. Alcohol and arthritis. Check out. Accessed on 23 January 2020.
  3. How does alcohol affect rheumatoid arthritis? Check out. Accessed on 23 January 2020.
  4. What’s the connection between alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? Check out. Accessed on 23 January 2020.
  5. Rheumatoid arthritis and alcohol. Check out. Accessed on 23 January 2020.

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