Q: I've been experiencing pain in my hands, knees and hips and my doctor says I'm developing arthritis. Can I still drink a glass of wine with dinner or does that contribute to the inflammation?—Bruce
A: There are many types of arthritis. Depending on the type of arthritis you have and the medications you are using, the effect of a glass of wine can range from negligible to potentially detrimental, according to Dr. Patience White, vice president of public health at the Arthritis Foundation. "There is no blanket, 'It's OK or not OK,'" she said.
For those with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, two of the more common types, having a glass of wine will probably not affect inflammation. According to White, who is also a professor of medicine and pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., despite recent studies that have found a promising link between the consumption of wine and a reduction in the risk and severity of rheumatoid arthritis, the relationship between wine and a reduction in inflammation remains unclear. "Alcohol in moderation makes people relaxed, and if you have a lot of aches and pains, [alcohol] makes it feel better," White said. "Relaxation is helpful in how you feel but the data isn't there [to recommend wine as] an anti-inflammatory treatment."
When it comes to gout, a variant of arthritis, however, wine can actually make the symptoms more pronounced. "Unless you have your gout well-controlled with treatments, wine is not good," White said. (However, at least one study has found that wine may not be a problem for those with gout, though beer and spirits are.)
Those with arthritis, no matter what type, should discuss their alcohol consumption habits with their personal doctor, and be sure to bring up the effect of drinking in combination with arthritis medications, said White. Most drugs are tough on the stomach or liver—as is alcohol—and mixing the two could lead to other problems.
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