Some RA drugs can be taxing on the liver, the organ in the body that processes alcohol. #RAWarriors need to pay special attention to ensure organ health.
Occasionally, articles surface about purported benefits that alcohol can deliver. There are a few misconceptions about these health benefits, though. Continue reading to learn more about drinking with rheumatoid arthritis.
Alcohol—particularly red wine—has shown benefits in studies by enhancing the cardiovascular system’s functioning. It thins the blood and provides antioxidants that combat oxidative stress. However, too much alcohol can also raise blood pressure and the risk of developing certain cancers.
Polyphenols found in red wine are the compounds that cause these healthy effects. Polyphenols are actually abundant in the diet—if one eats the right foods. The benefits they bring to the body depend on the proportion that is absorbed into the bloodstream. For some people, these benefits may be possible with a glass of red wine.
Alcohols that contain polyphenols are not the only source of these micronutrients. Red wine is really just an example of a dietary substance that has polyphenols. Other examples are walnuts, black tea, and red onion.
Individuals in their 20’s and 30’s might be surprised that alcohol’s health benefits have not been well studied in their age range. These studies that show the positive cardiovascular effects were performed on people in their 40s and 50s.
Certain types of alcohol have been linked to certain types of cancers. Alcohol not only touches the nerves in the neurological system, but also in other delicate nervous systems such as the intestinal and digestive tract.
If #RAWarriors are searching for a food or drink that can deliver the powerful effects of polyphenols, red wine might not be the best choice. The bioavailability—or the amount needed to positively impact the body’s functioning like the cardiovascular system—can be outweighed by the negative effects the actual alcohol has on the liver.
Methotrexate and other RA drugs possess the ability to damage the liver. Many medications are processed in the liver. Mixing alcohol with a powerful drug like Methotrexate can double the influence on the liver and potentially damage it.
NOTE: Medications come with warnings regarding the possible effects of mixing the medication with alcohol. These warnings should be followed as, depending on the combination, they can increase the risk of organ damage and/or dramatically increase intoxication level.
Alcohol is also a depressant. It’s very common to see a person with an autoimmune condition battling anxiety and depression — it’s a lot to handle. After a night of drinking, people the next day can experience uneasiness and sadness. It’s best not to drink when feeling emotionally “off” in any way as alcohol can magnify that feeling.
In a recent study, researchers tested the effects of dehydration on both men and women. The results indicated that mild dehydration led to difficulty with mental tasks and caused fatigue, tension, and anxiety. Dehydration also played a role in detrimentally affecting the mood. This effect on the mood was found to be more significant in women rather than men.
If an #RAWarrior feels the onset of a flare due to a stressful event—don’t let loose with alcohol. It’s best to focus on staying hydrated and finding ways to relieve stress in other ways.
More than Moderation
Working with the ebbs and flows of RA is how any #RAWarrior should approach alcohol. If there is any sign of a potential flare, relaxing and taking care of oneself without alcohol will be monumental to a speedy recovery. In the end, talking to a medical provider about whether or not you’re healthy enough to drink alcohol should be the first step when approaching this substance with rheumatoid arthritis.
And, as with all aspects of your health, it is important to be open and honest with your RA treatment team.