wine pouring out of a bottle

Alcohol and AS: What I've Realized

Last year I wrote a few articles about how I cut alcohol out entirely for a few months. At that point, I was recalibrating my relationship with alcohol after spending too much time at dinner parties where wine was always the guest of honor.

I was re-learning what it meant to consume alcohol, live in a society that focuses on alcohol consumption for socializing and networking, and come from a Mediterranean culture where wine is considered holy.

Exploring my relationship with alcohol

Although I don’t live with addiction, I think it’s still worth exploring my relationship with alcohol since its effects can be insidious and quiet. With a chronic, inflammatory illness, alcohol definitely affects me in a way that it may not affect others.

AS and alcohol generally don't mix, according to some studies, alcohol leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to pain.1 Period. Every single time I have a drink, I feel pain the next day; that's just a fact. Alcohol reduces my energy, focus, and mobility. It would also affect my mental health.

What I learned on an alcohol break

From my alcohol break last year, I learned how to use alcohol in a way that made me feel better, like making sure I had more water and ate more healthy food if I was going to drink. I also learned about which wines and alcohol contained less sugar, and I learned to save drinking for special occasions. I also learned how to talk to others about not drinking. But like many other human beings on earth during the pandemic, I definitely leaned back into my wine-drinking ways.

And so, I’ve recently called upon my experiences from the past. Drinking, as I thought, 100 percent still leads to pain and flare-ups. As someone with Sicilian roots, wine will always be part of my cultural and social landscape, so I had to once again remind myself that there are limits and they need to be observed. Yes, a glass of wine with dinner every night is romantic — but it's not good for me.

So, in two weeks of drinking fairly often, I took notes on the ways it affected me.

How alcohol affects my ankylosing spondylitis

I drank on six of those 14 days, and out of those two weeks, I was always in pain the day after imbibing (I'd usually have 2-3 glasses of white or red wine on those nights). I woke up stiffer and less mobile. My brain fog was increased. And my ability to walk longer distances was reduced. There would also be a section of my body that felt particularly inflamed, like my lower back or my knees. On days that I didn’t drink (particularly on the day after), I felt great.

In an ongoing effort to enjoy food and life, celebrate with friends, and honor my heritage, I will continue to enjoy wine, while being more cognizant of how much I consume, and what brings me to consume it as well.

How does drinking affect your disease?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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