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Adrienne Dellwo

Alcohol Intolerance in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By December 9, 2008

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How have you changed your alcohol consumption since you started living with fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS)?

Notice I didn't ask whether you'd changed it, just how. That's because most of us discover that we just can't handle alcohol like we used to. During the holidays, it's harder not to enjoy a drink now and then - a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner, a champagne toast, or a beer to unwind after shopping. As with so many other things, the key is knowing your body and your limits. Some of us can handle a drink or two OK, while some can't handle any at all.

So far, this aspect of our conditions hasn't gotten a lot of attention from researchers, so we don't know why we tend to develop alcohol intolerance. What we do know about alcohol, in general, is:

  • It's a toxin, and we don't deal with toxins well.
  • It has an inflammatory effect on your body, and inflammation can increase pain as well as reduce blood flow to tissues.
  • It disrupts sleep patterns.
  • It's a depressant.

These are all good reasons to stay within your limits. If you do choose to drink, do what you can to mitigate the negative effects:

  • Think moderation!
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory.
  • Give yourself extra time to sleep and recover.
  • Be aware of how it may interact with your meds, and don't combine it with pain killers.

How has your illness impacted your alcohol tolerance? Share your experiences here, or in About.com's Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome community forum (under Newsletter & Blog topics.)

Suggested Reading:

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December 9, 2008 at 9:32 am
(1) toni says:

Alcohol by its nature causes many of the same symptoms of a FM/CFS-related condition which often remains undiagnosed in people with FM/CFS.
Alcohol is a vaso-dilator, slows down blood pressure. Red wine is often recommended, per research, for its antioxidants and ability to lower blood pressure, though there are plenty of other food sources for both.
People with FM/CFS have a 40 percent chance of having OI (orthostatic intolerance) particularly NMH (neurally mediated hypotension).
Alcohol mimics the symptoms of NMH. I have sometimes awakened with a feeling of a hangover when I have had no alcohol for years. I have the OI condition of NMH, haven’t been able to handle alcohol for 25 years.
Starchy, sugary carbohydrates also dehydrate and lower blood pressure with symptomatic consequences for OI-NMH/CFS/FM people. Starchy carbs like bread, potatoes, beans, even fruits, cause release of insulin, another vaso-dilator.
Lowering blood pressure in NMH patients causes similar feelings to suffering from binge drinking or feeling incredibly depressed when we are suffering exceedingly low blood pressure rather than depression.
Exceedingly low blood pressure for an NMH patient makes it nearly impossible to want to do anything, may cause feelings of hopelessness similar to but not depression.
I wish to heal and feel better, so alcohol can wait for a day I no longer have daily symptoms of a condition, OI-NMH, mimicking symptoms of alcohol consumption.

December 22, 2008 at 7:15 pm
(2) VaBreeze says:

I learned a long time ago that alcohol doesn’t agree with me…so I don’t drink. :-) Happy Holidays all.

July 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm
(3) Meg says:

I have had ME/CFS for almost a year now and hav noticed I ave developed an alcohol intolerance along with it. I am beginning to research now more about it as I am worried incase it is harming my body more. I always thought after a night out drinking I just had over done it and that is why I was feeling worse afterwards but the more I am reading I am begining to wonder if it is just the alcohol as some nyts I am only sitting in having a drink and within the next couple of days I am bed ridden.
If someone new any more about it I would really apresiate if you would share with me as I am not sure wat it could be doing to my body?? :S HELP

October 9, 2011 at 3:30 pm
(4) Vanessa says:

I noticed about 8 years ago a sudden change to my alcohol tolerance. I chalked it up to a chemical change in my body and for the most part just stopped drinking… the achy feeling in my muscles that would last a couple days was just not worth it.
I wasnt diagnosed with Fibro until about a year ago, after MANY medical diagnosis’ over the years. (Seemed like one thing at a time and one thing after another) finally my doctor sent me to a Rheumatologist who tested me for everything under the sun, after ruling everything else out, wa-la Fibro. At least now I have some answers, still although they say it’s not a progressive condition, I seem to be getting “progressively” worse. I think I have probably had Fibro for a LONG time, but it wasnt serious or inhibiting really… but with the shocking death of my husband and the Dx of PTSD it has hit me like a speeding train.
I am trying my 2nd medication now, and feel some relief from them, it’s just that their side effects can be worse than the pain. I hope I even out soon, and I am sorry for all those out there dealing with what seems to becoming more and more common… I wonder WHY that is???

October 18, 2011 at 2:19 am
(5) jeff says:

Im going to take a gander a say, well I think its a eppedimic and that it has something to do with the ( GULF WAR SYNDROME) Just do some research on it. Its truely scary what you will find!

December 11, 2011 at 6:39 am
(6) michelle says:

I have. An intolerance of alcohol I drank on fri and I was so so ill violently ill passesd out and have had a massive flare up so never again I’m getting worse it horrid xx

November 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm
(7) Roberta Lambert says:

I have had fibromyalgia and Chonic Fatigue for 22 years. I had the objective, conclusive lab findings done at Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Center in 2006. I am doing Quite well compared to being incapacitated. ALL OF IT IS DUE TO THE BODY RESPONDING TO THE ENVIRONMENT. Multiple Chem Sensitivity is not part of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; it is only about Chem sensitivity and electrical sensitivity. ALL of the symptoms, dysfunction, accelerated aging of multiple systemic components are ALL due to the body’s response to what it perceives as toxic which necessitates a full on response. My invalid son is now normal because of desensitizing treatnent for each perceived toxin. This treatment permanently turns off the response to each toxin. It is 100% effective.

This is the treatment http://www.naet.com/

December 5, 2012 at 11:32 am
(8) Babyangel says:

I drank alcohol often from 2008-early 2012 i would usually drink 3 times a week from oct 2011 until feb 2012 i would drink a whole 12pack of budweiser 3 times a week before i would do only just 6-7 12oz beers only
the extreme hangover 1 morning in mid feb made me have a mild simple partial seizure i had neurological problems in nov 2004-oct 2005 taking dilantin then, im taking alprazolam now a light dose right i no longer drink or smoke but i feel terrible i feel fatigued difficulty speaking sometimes, numbness tingly in my legs, feet and hands, the past 6yrs i had trouble staying asleep longer than 4 1/2 hrs at night without waking up so i need naps during the day, i was frightened what i read yesterday i wrote some of these conditions i have and fibromyalgia came up :(
i do feel good on days i activate more such as if im pushing a mower a long time , doing household chores im not longer working im trying to get ssd i need to update my information and explain how i have fibromyalgia

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November 18, 2013 at 3:09 pm
(15) Jo says:

Does anyone ever get flu like symptoms after they have had alcohol , it seems every time I drink I get flu or a throat infection the day or two after . I’m only 22 and have fibromyalgia so would love some feedback xx

January 25, 2014 at 1:54 pm
(16) Celia says:

I noticed Jo’s comment about getting flu symptoms after drinking alcohol. I too have Fibromyalgia, and I get flu like symptoms also, on and off, with or without drinking alcohol. I noticed that I too, can’t tolerate alcohol anymore the way I used to. My drink of choice was always wine. It does ease the physical pain of FM, but having more than 2 glasses of wine will affect my sleep severely, and I will feel depressed the next day. So to me, it isn’t worth drinking anymore. I’m always looking for a way to feel better, not worse, so drinking alcohol is another thing I had to give up since I have FM. I look at it as a good thing though. I don’t miss it at all. It is very interesting to me, and I would like to know why my body doesn’t tolerate it anymore? I feel no withdrawal symptoms, and I can be around others who drink, and not crave it myself. Strange, but interesting.

February 21, 2014 at 1:38 am
(17) Ed says:

I had ecome very intolerant to alcohol and thought it was because of my aging. After much research I have found out that Candida was the cause. Google it and you’ll see how bad of a problem this has become. Check yourself for Candida overgrowth and also for the presence of intestinal parasites. There’s a good chance you’ve got some bad “bugs and worms” living inside you. No joke! Stick with the all natural remedies for elimination and balance your digestive system with quality probiotics. You’ll think you’ve discovered a miracle cure after a few weeks as you regain the energy you thought was lost with age. You will become quite ill at first as the paarasites begin to decay in your system before “elimination” but that’s a sign of good things to come. Hope this helps someone.

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