Should You Avoid Caffeine if you have Arthritis? (Excessive Amounts Definitely!)

Certified Senior Advisor®
senior caffeine arthritis

Links between caffeine and arthritis aren't definite but the studies show that it should be consumed in moderation if not completely avoided. Interestingly, tea may be the better choice.

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Living with arthritis is often uncomfortable, painful, and physically limiting.

Knowing which foods and drinks to avoid is sometimes confusing. Many arthritis patients wonder if they should avoid caffeine entirely or if it could potentially offer some relief?

Is Caffeine Bad For Arthritis?

In moderation, caffeine will not necessarily worsen the symptoms of arthritis. It may even help to reduce the symptoms in some cases. Many studies have shown that caffeine is essential in modulating pain by interacting with adenosine receptors in the body 1. This pain modulation is why caffeine is a common ingredient in many pain medications.

The keyword to remember here is “moderation.” As with nearly any substance, overconsumption of caffeine can have adverse effects. An 8-ounce cup of coffee at home will affect the body differently than a 20-ounce venti espresso from Starbucks. You should also consider your sensitivity to caffeine because each person is slightly different.

RELATED: Best Coffee Cups for Arthritic Hands

Too much caffeine can increase the body’s production of catecholamines 2. The body releases these neurohormones as a part of the body’s response to stress. Excessive production of catecholamines can cause adverse effects such as inflammation, which will only worsen some types of arthritis.

The full impact of caffeine on arthritis will depend on several factors.

  • The amount of caffeine consumed is one of those factors.
  • Some types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, are non-inflammatory.
  • Others include the type of arthritis involved and the source of caffeine.
  • Likewise, some sources of caffeine are better than others. The different nutrients and vitamins contained in the caffeine source could benefit arthritis.

Common Sources Of Caffeine

When most of us think of caffeine, the first thing we imagine is coffee. The average 8-ounce cup of coffee will have around 95 mg of caffeine. Excessive amounts of caffeine, which can range between 250 mg and 400 mg depending on the person, can have harmful side effects like insomnia, headaches, dehydration, and anxiety 3.

Even people without arthritis should avoid drinking more than a few cups daily.

On the bright side, coffee has other nutrients and vitamins that can benefit people with arthritis. They include riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, niacin, and polyphenols. Each of these nutrients can help the body in some way. Many patients with arthritis also suffer from a riboflavin deficiency, a B complex vitamin that may reduce inflammation 4.

Tea is another well-known caffeine source that contains various beneficial nutrients and vitamins. The average 8-ounce cup of tea can have anywhere between 20mg and 60mg of caffeine, depending on the type. It can also contain nutrients like polyphenols, vitamin A, cobalamin, and riboflavin.

Caffeine As A Risk Factor For Arthritis

The information above discusses caffeine’s impact on patients diagnosed with arthritis. But what about patients who are not yet diagnosed with the condition? Does caffeine increase the risk factor for developing arthritis? Some studies suggest that it does 5.

These studies show that caffeine can hurt hyaline cartilage growth. This reduction in cartilage growth can significantly increase the risk of developing conditions like osteoarthritis and longitudinal bone growth inhibition(LBGI). People already at risk of developing the disease should work to limit their caffeine consumption and stick to high-quality sources of caffeine when possible.

Any potential links between caffeine intake and rheumatoid arthritis(RA) are unclear. One study showed an increased risk factor of 6 percent for participants that consumed one extra cup of coffee per day 6. However, the same study indicated an 11 percent risk increase for decaffeinated coffee and no risk factor for tea. These results are still inconclusive, and further research will be required.

Final Thoughts

Should you avoid caffeine if you’ve been diagnosed with arthritis? No, but you should consume it in moderation. Read the nutritional information on your consumed foods and drinks to gauge your daily caffeine intake. A small amount of caffeine from a healthy source can benefit the body in many ways. Too much caffeine can have negative effects and worsen symptoms like inflammation. And if you are already at risk of developing OA, then you should limit your caffeine consumption to one cup of coffee or tea per day.


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Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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