Alcohol and Risk of Multiple Sclerosis: Is there a Link?

What is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis, also popularly called as MS, is caused when the immune system of your body erroneously invade the myelin cells which is responsible for protecting the nerve fibers in spinal cord and brain. This medical condition is thought to be caused by combination of environmental factors and genetics. Alcohol consumption significantly suppresses a variety of immune responses and can help with MS. However, the key here is moderation. However, non-drinkers are also at the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

Alcohol and Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

The Relationship between Multiple Sclerosis and Alcohol

In a research conducted in Sweden, it has been found that people who have been consuming alcohol for years are less likely to develop MS. The study has also discovered that drinking alcohol regularly can significantly reduce the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis. However, patients with progressive Multiple Sclerosis tend to have exacerbation of symptoms after drinking alcohol. Further research is required to figure out whether alcohol is associated with a lower risk of Multiple Sclerosis.

Does Alcohol Have Any Impact on Multiple Sclerosis? The Link Between Inflammation and Alcohol:

Based on a Swedish study, where a questionnaire was used to gather details about drinking habits of people with multiple sclerosis; and people who don’t have Multiple Sclerosis and based on their age, local location, sexual orientation, reveal that both men and women who consume alcohol, (112 gm of pure alcohol per week for women and 168 gm for men per week), were less likely to develop Multiple Sclerosis.

Multiple Sclerosis is an inflammatory medical condition and alcohol contains anti-inflammatory properties, which help in Multiple Sclerosis. This is the reason why people drinking alcohol in moderation are likely to reduce the risk of developing inflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid, lupus, some types of hypothyroidism and cardiovascular diseases. However, heavier drinkers of alcohol usually experience inflammation on their liver and it also suppresses their immune system which makes it difficult for their body to combat against infections. So, it is important to drink alcohol in moderation. Having a drink here and there is shown to be beneficial in relieving the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

The Recommended Alcohol Consumption to Lower the Risk of Multiple Sclerosis

About two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Here a drink means that a drink, which contain 14 g of pure alcohol approximately found in:

  • 5 oz of wine
  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 1.5 oz of distilled spirits

Effects of Alcohol in People with Multiple Sclerosis

There is less evidence on the safety of alcohol consumption for people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. There was a study conducted in 2016, which reported that people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can consume alcohol in moderation which is unlikely to increase the risk of worsening the condition. However, the alcohol tolerance may vary and people with Multiple Sclerosis may experience dizziness and lose control after consuming alcohol. But, few patients with Multiple Sclerosis can drink few drinks without experiencing any side effects and in fact it can be beneficial for them.

Seeing how alcohol consumption can affect you and your health and whether it worsens the symptoms of multiple sclerosis like speech, balance, coordination and cognitive issues, all these things must be taken in consideration before deciding on whether to drink alcohol or how much alcohol you must drink.

Interactions of Alcohol with Multiple Sclerosis Medications

It is very important for you to consult your healthcare provider prior to drinking alcohol to know whether it is safe to use alcohol along with the drugs that you use to treat the symptoms of multiple sclerosis or any other conditions.

Depending on the medications you are using for Multiple Sclerosis, combining them with alcohol may directly or indirectly interfere with the desired effects of the medications and can increase the effects and also the side effects leading to intoxication effects of the alcohol in your body. According to the studies, consumption of alcohol while you are being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can have additive effects with specific medications which are used for treating the condition including Klonopin, Valium, baclofen and other antidepressants.


So, it has been found that alcohol consumption seems to have dose dependent inverse affect with the risk of developing multiple sclerosis. According to researchers, there are no such evidences that prove that patients with Multiple Sclerosis need to abstain from alcohol completely. Consuming alcohol in moderation can lower the risk of developing multiple sclerosis in patients who have not yet been diagnosed with it; while people who are already diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis need to reduce their consumption of alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day to prevent worsening of symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 6, 2018

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