If you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), you may wonder how moderate or heavy alcohol consumption could affect your disease and overall well-being. As one MyMSTeam member said, “I need to stop burying my symptoms with alcohol — it never serves me well the next day.”
If you or a loved one have MS, it’s a good idea to get an overview of the association between alcohol and MS risk factors, medications, symptoms, and severity. Talk to your neurologist to see if your drinking habits could interfere with your MS symptoms or treatment.
Does Drinking Alcohol Cause MS?
Research has yet to determine a root cause of MS, but scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors are at play. Evidence is mixed as to whether alcohol consumption is an environmental risk factor for MS.
On one end of the spectrum, a 2006 study showed that people who drank hard liquor daily had a 6.7-fold increased risk of MS. On the other hand, in 2014, a large study showed that individuals who reported moderate alcohol consumption had half the odds of developing MS compared to those who didn’t drink alcohol.
However, two other studies fairly recent studies found no significant association between drinking alcohol and developing MS.
To date, there is not enough evidence to say whether alcohol affects a person’s risk of developing MS.
Alcohol’s Effect on Symptoms of MS
In people with MS, alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce symptoms in certain instances. Some research suggests that short-term alcohol use may affect the immune system in beneficial ways, such as by dampening the immune response that can lead to inflammation. The same research suggests that long-term or heavy drinking may impair the immune system, however, and could increase the inflammatory response characteristic of MS.
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