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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Caffeine: What to Consider

While experts are not sure if people living with RA should limit caffeine, you can probably consume it if you keep a few things in mind.

By Meryl Davids Landau

Medically Reviewed by Alexa Meara, MD

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Caffeinated drinks like coffee are not necessarily off-limits for people with RA.
Caffeinated drinks like coffee are not necessarily off-limits for people with RA.
Kelly Knox/Stocksy

Whether it’s served up in the form of hot coffee, iced coffee, energy drinks, soda, or even dark chocolate, Americans love their caffeine. We get about 300 milligrams a day on average, mostly from coffee and other beverages. But is caffeine something people living with rheumatoid arthritis should be consuming?

As of yet, the experts aren’t completely sure.

Mixed Research Results on Caffeine and RA

Some studies have shown that coffee is beneficial. In a study published inClinical Rheumatology in February 2019, researchers examined coffee’s effect on subclinical inflammation and oxidative stress and found that heavy coffee drinkers were more likely to have blood markers that are helpful for inflammation. This isn’t surprising, because coffee’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory prowess are a reason experts have linked coffee drinking to a decreased risk for developing diabetes.

Not all studies, however, have had the same results. A  found that after drinking coffee, some people exhibited these anti-inflammatory effects in their blood, but others actually had increased inflammation.

Worse, some researchers have found an association between heavy coffee drinkers and incidence of RA. A meta-analysis published in November 2014 inClinical Rheumatologyconcluded that people living with seropositive RA (although not seronegative RA) are more likely to drink a lot of coffee — although doctors are quick to say that an association doesn’t prove that one causes the other. People who drank a lot of decaf were not linked to higher RA rates.

The Takeaway for People With RA Who Crave Caffeine

“The bottom line is there aren’t any studies that conclusively say there is harm from caffeine intake. I tell my patients there’s no need for them to modify their coffee-drinking habits just because they have RA,” says Benjamin Wang, MD, a rheumatologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

Caffeine and Medication

Caffeine is not contraindicated for the common medications taken for RA. Because one side effect of prednisone is insomnia, however, you might want to ditch the java and other highly caffeinated drinks if you’re having sleep issues.

If you’re on methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall), however, you might actually want to consider adding a little caffeine to your routine. In the sameClinical Rheumatology study mentioned above, researchers followed people with RA on this disease modifying anti-rheumatic drug for nearly a year. Researchers found that of the people who had trouble tolerating the drug because of its unpleasant symptoms, more than half were completely fine when they took some caffeine, in the form of coffee or dark chocolate, along with their medicine. Another 13 percent had partial relief from adding caffeine.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Patients with RA often experience fatigue, so they may turn to coffee to give them a boost. Other people simply like the taste, or are in the habit of drinking it.

Experts say that until more research clarifies caffeine’s role there’s probably no reason to stop drinking what you love. You might want to drink in moderation — something like a cup or glass or two a day — especially if caffeine makes you hyper or keeps you up at night.

The biggest sources of caffeine are coffee (an 8-ounce cup of drip coffee has about 145 mg) and energy drinks (some have as much as 200 mg; the popular drink Red Bull has about 80 mg). Cola has about 30 mg per glass, a little more than is in an ounce of dark chocolate. Dr. Wang recommends tea as an alternative source of antioxidants without much caffeine. And of course, don’t forget to drink water, which helps counter the potential diuretic effects of caffeine.

Take Coffee Sans Sugar

Do keep in mind that soft drinks and elaborate coffee drinks with pumps of syrup or whipped cream have a lot of added sugar, something nutritionists advise everyone to limit. So drink your joe black or with nonfat milk, rather than with flavors or with cream and sugar.






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Date: 13.12.2018, 00:32 / Views: 54492