Rheumatoid Arthritis and Beer – A Strange Relationship

Rheumatoid arthritis is incredibly painful and debilitating.  The usual course of treatment involves taking steroids long term, as well as taking pain medication to help you deal with the pain, inflammation and soreness that goes hand in hand with the condition.  However, new research from scientists in the UK seems to indicate that beer might be of significant benefit to those who suffer from RA.

What has scientists buzzing (as well as RA sufferers), is a study conducted with almost 2,000 participants.  There were 873 people who consumed alcohol and just over 1,000 people who did not.  All of these individuals had rheumatoid arthritis.  The study found that those who drank more beer, wine or cocktails had less pain, less swelling of the joints and fewer problems than those who didn't drink at all.

Interestingly, the same study found that people who consumed alcohol on a regular basis were far less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis in the first place.  That last bit is a real stumper for scientists, who are still unsure how alcohol can protect against RA and provide benefits for sufferers of the condition as well.

Of course, that doesn't give you carte blanche to become a lush in the hopes of preventing RA or treating the symptoms of your arthritis.  The heaviest drinkers in the study were those who had just over 10 drinks in a single month, and doctors still suggest having no more than two beers or glasses of wine per day.  However, even that small amount might be enough to help keep you from getting RA in the first place, or of alleviating the pain and disability associated with RA if you currently have it.

Of course, if you do have RA, then you need to have some other treatment options. Beer is great, but it's not going to do the job alone.  You need to visit your doctor and discuss a treatment plan with him or her, and you need to add exercise to your diet, as well.  It seems that more exercise can actually help you beat swelling, pain and disability, even though it causes pain in the short term. 

Combined with a healthy diet, a limited intake of alcohol from beer or wine and the right medication, exercise can be a definite factor in helping sufferers reduce their symptoms both now and for the longer term.

Posted on January 16, 2011 and filed under Reasons to Drink Beer.