The idea of drinking your pain away doesn’t seem like something that would be recommended by health professionals. But new research is coming up with evidence that people who drink alcohol may see benefits related to rheumatoid arthritis.
According to the study, drinking alcohol may ease the pain and lower the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The autoimmune disorder affects non-drinkers about four times more often than those who do partake in at least one drink three or more days a week, according to the study.
In the study of almost 2,000 people, those who had a drink on more than 10 days in the past month were less likely to have rheumatoid arthritis than those who didn’t drink at all.
It is estimated that 1.3 million American adults have rheumatoid arthritis, which is when the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and swelling. Severe cases of rheumatoid arthritis can be disabling.
“Alcohol reduces immune activity, at least to some extent, and [we] suspect that this is the main reason that alcohol consumption is associated with a reduction in severity of rheumatoid arthritis,” says James Maxwell, lead author of the study and rheumatologist at Rotherham Hospital, in the U.K.
The researchers also believe that alcohol could have a mild painkilling effect.
The link between alcohol use and rheumatoid arthritis is still uncertain, so experts aren’t encouraging everyone to go out drinking as a preventive measure or treatment for arthritis.
“Moderation is the key,” says Bergman. “This study is by no means encouraging people to go out and get hammered, but as long as there are no [drug] contraindications, there may be some benefits to moderate alcohol consumption if you have RA or are at increased risk for it.”