Healthy Eating

Understanding arthritis and alcohol

Understanding arthritis and alcohol

No doubt about it, for a lot of people, alcohol is a part of adult life —a glass of wine at dinner, a funny meme shared on social media, a craft brewery tour with friends. But when you are living with arthritis, including alcohol in your life could pose issues, and your doctor will likely advise you to keep to a moderate intake or to abstain altogether. Let’s take a closer look at some key areas around alcohol and arthritis. 

Alcohol and arthritis drug interactions

A number of the drugs that help to manage arthritis symptoms don’t mix well with alcohol. This includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (sold under brand names like Advil and Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), because there’s a greater risk of stomach ulcers and bleeding. Combining alcohol and medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or rheumatoid arthritis drugs methotrexate (Trexall) or leflunomide (Arava) can make you more prone to liver damage. 

Alcohol, arthritis and weight management

One way to help keep stress off your joints and reduce your arthritis symptoms is to manage your weight. However, alcohol is considered “empty calories” because it has little if any nutritional benefit. Cutting down on alcohol or abstaining is one way to watch your calorie intake. As well, a number of recent studies suggest that drinking cues your body to eat more and to eat higher-fat, savoury foods. 

The impact of alcohol on sleep

Fatigue and disrupted sleep can be part of living with arthritis, and alcohol is known to have a negative effect on the quality and quantity of sleep. While you may fall asleep faster after a drink, alcohol disrupts body chemicals and rhythms that help you stay asleep and get restorative sleep. Alcohol also relaxes the muscles in your throat, making you more susceptible to snoring and sleep apnea. Plus, alcohol is a diuretic, so you may wake up for more bathroom trips. 

The relationship between alcohol and gout

If you have gout, you know that levels of uric acid in your blood are directly related to the disease. Alcohol, especially beer, distilled liquor and some wine, increases uric acid levels, which is why people with gout are advised to limit or omit alcohol.

Alcohol and mental health

Dealing with the symptoms of arthritis can make you more prone to fatigue, anxiety or depression. Remember that alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the areas of your brain that deal with behaviour and thinking. Reaching for alcohol to help you deal with mental health issues can end up making your overall mood worse. 

Some people living with arthritis find it easy to decrease their alcohol intake once they see the effect it has on managing their symptoms, while others find the switch more challenging. Talk to your arthritis care team to learn how to make healthy changes.