Patients with fibromyalgia who drink low or moderate amounts of alcohol have less severe symptoms than nondrinkers, according to a recent study.
Low and moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower fibromyalgia symptoms and better quality of life compared to no alcohol consumption.
Here is what they did in this study. The patients were divided into four categories: no alcohol, low (< 3 drinks/week), moderate (< 3 to 7 drinks/week), and heavy (> 7 drinks/week) alcohol use. Fibro symptoms and quality of life were then examined for each of these groups.
After adjusting for age, employment status, education level, weight, and opioid use the researchers found significant group differences in the number of tender points, physical function, work missed, job ability, and pain. Moderate drinkers had overall lower fibromyalgia-related symptoms, and higher quality of life scores than the other groups. Funny, but also obvious, is that this beneficial effect was not observed in heavy drinkers.
So why is this? The cool way that alcohol may help fibro symptoms is that alcohol raises GABA levels. GABA is a neurotransmitter, which is low in the brains of fibromyalgia patients, which may in part explain why the nervous system reaction to pain is abnormal in fibro patients. Alcohol binds to the GABA receptor in the central nervous system, which in turn may turn down pain transmission.
So does alcohol improve fibro symptoms because of GABA or does it work by improving mood, socialization, and tension? What do you think?
- Dr. O
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