Shortly after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I began to research on the internet for information about this disease. I happened to stumble upon a story of a young man who talked about how drinking several beers would cause him to be "hammered" much more quickly than before. Soon after, he was diagnosed with MS and he felt that his new ability to get drunk more quickly was one of the first symptoms of MS. It was one of the many stories I ingested during that time when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about MS and I found his story to not be that unusual.
I began to wonder, is alcohol and Multiple Sclerosis a bad mix?
I once joked to a fellow MSer that we should have t-shirts (I am sure they are probably already out there) saying "I'm not drunk, I have MS!" Her dark humored response was that there should be another t-shirt proclaiming, "I'm drunk AND I have MS." It certainly would be difficult for observers to know the difference. Some of the symptoms of both drunkenness and Multiple Sclerosis include feeling off balance, an unstable gait, vision difficulties, cognitive problems, and slurred speech. Sometimes a warning sign for me that MS symptoms are pending is that I will feel as though I am in an altered state.
So if I am already feeling these symptoms what would a drink or two of alcohol do to me?
I looked to the National MS Society for answers. They have this to say about MS patients drinking alcohol: "Some people with MS report that some of their neurologic symptoms, especially imbalance and lack of coordination, temporarily worsen after even one drink. Since alcohol depresses the central nervous system, it may also have an additive effect with certain medications that are commonly prescribed for MS. These include baclofen, diazepam, clonazepam and some antidepressants. For all of these reasons, people with MS should talk to their physician about how much alcohol is appropriate for them to drink and how often." In addition some doctors say that alcohol is an immune suppressor and therefore MS exacerbations could be worse if you drink alcohol. So for all these reasons it seems that the medical community is cautious about MS patients consuming alcohol.
But isn't drinking alcohol supposed to be good for us? There seem to be many studies to show that moderate drinking can be very beneficial for our health. Just listen to this report to find out why:
"Moderate drinkers tend to have better health and live longer than those who are either abstainers or heavy drinkers do. In addition to having fewer heart attacks and strokes, moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine or distilled spirits or liquor) are generally less likely to suffer hypertension or high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, Alzheimer's disease and the common cold. Sensible drinking also appears to be beneficial in reducing or preventing diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, bone fractures and osteoporosis, kidney stones, digestive ailments, stress and depression, poor cognition and memory, Parkinson's disease, hepatitis A, pancreatic cancer, macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness), angina pectoris, duodenal ulcer, erectile dysfunction, hearing loss, gallstones, liver disease and poor physical condition in elderly."