Alcohol and AS: What I've Realized
Last updated: March 2022
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?
Do you notice worsening flares in colder weather?