Is Alcohol Consumption Associated With Less Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

We’ve known for years that drinking a couple glasses of red wine a week can decrease our risk of heart disease, stroke, and may even reduce our risk for diabetes. But it now looks like that same glass of wine has similar effects on Fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms. A recent study from the Mayo Clinic showed that low to moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower FM symptoms and better quality of life1. The study analyzed the self-reported alcohol consumption of 946 patients based on the number of drinks per week; ranging from none, low (less than 3 drinks per week), moderate (3-7 drinks per week), and heavy (more than 7 drinks per week). One drink was defined as 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol), 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits (40% alcohol). Out of the 946 participants, 58% did not drink alcohol, 36% reported low alcohol consumption, and both moderate and heavy drinker accounted for 3% of the study population. Participants who reported low to moderate alcohol intake had lower FM symptoms and better quality of life with less overall pain and greater reported physical functioning. Of all the groups tested those who reported a moderate alcohol intake also had the lowest FM symptoms. The reason for these results have not yet been determined and would need further testing, but the investigators believe that it might have to do with gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. It was recently found that FM patients have lower GABA levels than control populations, and since alcohol serves as a GABA agonist, alcohol might alleviate some FM symptoms through this pathway. Although interesting this cross-sectional study does not prove that wine reduces FM symptoms. It could also be that FM patients with lower level symptoms drink more wine. Of particular concern are the interactions of alcohol with medications prescribed for FM symptoms. Overall, this study was not designed to answer the question whether alcohol is helpful for FM symptoms.