Alcohol and Arthritis: Is It OK in Moderation?

Pros and cons and its effect on arthritis medications

When it comes to alcohol and arthritis, there are mixed recommendations. The effects of alcohol vary depending on the type of arthritis, medication, and lifestyle. It is important to check with your healthcare professional before consuming alcohol. Here is some information to consider.

red wine

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Alcohol and Arthritis

Consuming alcohol should be taken into consideration for arthritis patients. For some it can cause complications such as increased inflammation and stomach bleeding—depending on the medication. Although some studies share that moderate amounts of alcohol can help some symptoms of arthritis, it is not recommended to consume or start consuming alcohol. There are other ways to ease the pain.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory and autoimmune disease that affects the joints in the knees, wrists, and hands. It can create chronic pain in the body. When RA affects the joints, they become inflamed and cause damages to the joint tissue. Other areas impacted by RA are the lungs,
heart, and eyes.

Studies show that RA patients who drink alcohol may see improvement. One study found a modest association between a reduced risk of RA and long-term moderate alcohol consumption. However, researchers stated that other studies need to be conducted to accurately conclude findings.

Another study with patients who had early stages of RA suggested that alcohol was not associated with joint inflammation. With the inflammation due to RA and if patients are on medication for their condition, it is important to check the liver function. All options can be discussed with your healthcare professional.

How Much Alcohol Should You Drink?

The suggested amount is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Gout

Gout is an inflammatory arthritis. The most commonly affected joint is the big toe. Some of the symptoms include pain, swelling, redness, and heat. Other affected areas can include the ankle, smaller toe joints, and knees.

Studies have shown that individuals with gout who consume alcoholic beverages have an increased risk of a gout attack. The study recommended that people with gout should limit all types of alcohol intake to reduce the risk of the attacks. Alcohol is a source of purine which forms uric acid when it is broken down in the body. Beer and liquor specifically are known to increase uric acid levels in the blood. Beer is known to have the highest level of purine content.

There was a study of 724 participants with gout, and it concluded that moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages, regardless of the type, increased the risk of gout attacks. The study also advised that individuals with gout should limit alcohol intake of all types to reduce the risk of reoccurring attacks.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It most commonly affects the knees, hips, and spine. When a patient has osteoarthritis, the tissues in the joints start to break down over time. The severity depends on the level of pain and how it affects their daily activities.

There was a study that concluded that wine is a risk factor for knee OA while beer consumption appears to be a risk factor for both knee and hip OA. Additional studies need to be concluded to determine the different types of alcoholic drinks and how they relate to OA.

Other Types of Arthritis

Psoriasis is an inflammatory immune-mediated disease. Individuals who have psoriasis can develop psoriatic arthritis (PsA). This is an inflammatory arthritis that is associated with psoriasis.

Research shows that high levels of alcohol intake may contribute to systemic inflammation and could trigger a psoriatic eruption. This is due to the fact that alcohol is known to influence the immune system. Because the immune system is triggered in different ways, consistent alcohol can lead to increased inflammatory cell responses. Although high levels of alcohol can contribute to the inflammation and psoriasis eruption, more research needs to be conducted to confirm the proper recommendations of alcoholic intake amount for individuals who have psoriasis and PsA.

Alcohol and Arthritis Medications

You should always talk to your doctor about your medications and alcohol/drugs consumption, but it’s especially important with certain medications.

Disease Modifying Medications 

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARD) are known to stop or slow the inflammatory form of arthritis. Each works differently. DMARDs are considered classified or conventional and primarily used for patients who have RA and PsA. The medication is given as a shot, taken as a pill, or infused into the vein. If a patient has arthritis and taking DMARDs, they should not consume any type of alcohol as it could increase the risk of liver disease.

DMARD Medication


  • Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)
  • Leflunomide (Arava)
  • Methotrexate (Trexall)
  • Sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)
  • Minocycline (Minocin)
  • Abatacept (Orencia)
  • Rituximab (Rituxan)
  • Tocilizumab (Actemra)
  • Anakinra (Kineret)
  • Adalimumab (Humira)
  • Etanercept (Enbrel)
  • Infliximab (Remicade)
  • Certolizumab pegol (Cimzia)
  • Golimumab (Simponi)

NSAIDs and Other Medications

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) are drugs that are frequently used to ease inflammation, pain, and stiffness. NSAIDs can be rubbed on the skin or taken orally. These drugs prevent an enzyme called cyclooxygenase from making a hormone-like chemical called prostaglandins, one of the body’s biggest contributors of inflammation.

These products are inexpensive and often prescribed for people with achy joints. Some you can get over the counter. They are also used to relieve headaches and reduce fevers. Prescription-strength ibuprofen and other NSAIDs are associated with an increased risk for GI bleeding that can become worse when combined with alcohol.

NSAID Medication


  • Aspirin (brand names include Bayer, Ecotrin, Bufferin)
  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • Celecoxib (Celebrex®)
  • Naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
  • Meloxicam (Mobic)
  • Diclofenac (Voltaren® [available by brand name in topical form])
  • Fenoprofen (Nalfon®)
  • Indomethacin (Indocin® [available by brand name in liquid form])
  • Ketorolac tromethamine (Toradol®)


A Word From Verywell

If an induvial is on any type of medication, it is not recommended that you consume alcohol. If you are on medication and would like to know your options regarding consuming alcohol, contact your healthcare provider.

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Article Sources
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