Does Coffee Affect Arthritis? The Real Answer

Does Coffee Affect Arthritis? The Real Answer

If you’re an arthritis sufferer, you probably have a long list of foods to avoid. And most likely, caffeine isn’t on that list.

But does coffee affect arthritis?

Does it have anything to do with your flare-ups? Can it worsen any existing pain? 

Well, opinions are divided on this topic – because experts have different views.

However, I tried to analyze several points of view and reach a clear conclusion. Here’s what I got.



1. Can Coffee Cause Arthritis Alone?

A Finnish study from the 2000s terrified a whole world. The researchers claimed one thing:

  • Does Coffee Affect Arthritis? The Real Answerdrinking coffee everyday is harmful
  • it also increases the risk of getting RA

But was it all for real? Could our everyday coffee lead to such a serious diagnosis as arthritis?

Well, it turned out that things weren’t as bad as they seemed. The initial study also associated several risk factors:

  • age
  • smoking
  • and obesity

So if you counted on coffee alone – it would be pretty impossible that it produced arthritis itself.

In fact, coffee can’t even produce you temporary joint pain – so you can forget about arthritis.

But if you need another reason to be sure, here it is.

Later on, scientists tried to find what substances from coffee increased the risk for arthritis:

  • You would say it’s caffeine, right?
  • Well, find out that you were wrong!

It turned out that caffeine didn’t have anything to do with arthritis. Scientists couldn’t even discover which was the exact responsible, but they believe it’s diterpenes.

Now guess what? You can find these substances in lots of natural foods, so it’s still pretty unlikely that they have anything to do with arthritis. 

Conclusion: So overall, one thing is sure: Simply drinking coffee won’t cause you any type of arthritis.

At least as long as you don’t have any other risk factor involved. 



2. Can Coffee Worsen An Existing Arthritis? 

Does Coffee Affect Arthritis? The Real Answer

When it comes to this – things are a bit different than you might have thought. 

Some rheumatologists advise their patients to stop any drinks that contain caffeine. But that doesn’t include only coffee:

  • There’s also tea 
  • They also recommend avoiding soda

What’s the reason behind their recommendation? Well, they don’t have any real reason. At least not a medical one. 

That’s because there are no studies to show that coffee can worsen any type of arthritis.

In fact, scientists tested that out but they couldn’t reach the conclusion they wanted:

  • The patients from the trials had mixed results
  • And those may have been a coincidence

So until no new study comes up, there’s only one conclusion. Unlike gluten, coffee won’t worsen your existing arthritis.

Obviously, exaggerating with any food is dangerous in a condition like arthritis.

But you can drink 3 cups of coffee daily without having any reason to worry:

  • It won’t increase your flare-ups
  • It won’t influence your pain

If that happens – you should know that it’s not because of the coffee you’re drinking.

Conclusion: Coffee doesn’t either increase your flare-ups or worsen your pain. At least no study managed to proved that until now. 



3. What About Gout – Does Coffee Increase The Risk? 

You might not believe it – but drinking coffee is one of the best ways to prevent gout. 


  • coffee is considered a risk factor for RA
  • but it’s also a preventive factor for gouty arthritis

Does it make sense? Logically speaking, it surely doesn’t. 

Well, according to a Canadian study – people who drank at least 4 cups of coffee per day had a much lower risk of developing gout.

If you want numbers – the risk decreased with 50%, which is a huge number in these cases. 

That might be a very helpful tip if you have a history of gout in your family. In that case, you might be at risk for this condition:

  • drinking at least 4 cups of coffee daily can lower that risk

However, 4 cups contain a pretty high dose of caffeine – which isn’t always recommended.

For example, if you have sleeping problems, drinking so much coffee won’t do you too much good. Neurological problems are also a risky condition. 

Conclusion: So besides not increasing the risk for arthritis, coffee also prevents gout.

But if you want to use it for prevention, you need at least 4 cups per day – which may be dangerous sometimes.



The PROs Of Drinking Coffee In Arthritis

You may think that coffee doesn’t have any benefits – other than a nice taste.

Well, if you have a diagnosis of arthritis – there are a few extra benefits you can get from this drink. 

Does it sound too good to be true? Well, this time it’s for real.



Helps Tolerating Methotrexate

That’s  a very interesting fact that comes in the help of coffee.

Does Coffee Affect Arthritis? The Real Answer

A lot of patients with severe forms of arthritis are taking methotrexate – a drug meant to suppress the immunity.

In most cases, it’s the patients with auto-immune forms like rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis.

Despite its averse effects, methotrexate does help. But what can you do when those adverse effects are too hard to tolerate? 

In this case, coffee is the answer. 

According to a 2014 study:

  •  more than 50% of the patients taking methotrexate for arthritis felt better after taking caffeine

What do I mean by “felt better”? Well, according to the study:

  •  they had no other adverse effects when taking caffeine
  •  another 13% claimed they felt partially better after having coffee

As it’s a recent study, things are getting in favor of coffee now.

It seems that it’s not as bad for arthritis as people thought in the 2000s. And not only that, but it also has some relieving powers. 



Anti-Fatigue Solution

Does Coffee Affect Arthritis? The Real AnswerWhat’s the best remedy if you’re feeling tired in the morning? Coffee, obviously.

Well, it’s the same even if you have arthritis. In fact, there’s a different point of view:

  • Fatigue and chronic weariness are very common in any form of arthritis
  • That’s how this condition is

In this case, coffee can be a very good remedy – even for a while:

  • It’s an energy booster
  • So it can revive your nervous system in a few minutes
  • Besides, it can also help you with your stiff joints

Every person with arthritis experiences morning stiffness daily – and unfortunately, you can’t do much about it.

It does go away on its own, but sometimes it can take up to an hour. 

So how can coffee help in this case? As it’s an energy booster, it can decrease the time your hands need to get soft again.

Don’t expect coffee to make miracles, but it can decrease your stiffness with a few minutes – depending on what form of arthritis you have. 

Therefore, if you’re regarding coffee as a pointless drink, you should definitely give it a second chance. It can really bring a boost of energy for your exhausted body. 



The CONs Of Drinking Coffee In Arthritis

Obviously, not even coffee is perfect for arthritis.

In some situations, it can do more harm than good – especially if you’re not paying attention to your general health. 

But if it sounds too hard to believe, here’s when coffee can be a bad choice for your arthritis.  



Additional Insomnia

Does Coffee Affect Arthritis? The Real AnswerIt’s true that fatigue is a symptom of arthritis – but so is insomnia.

Can you be tired but still not be able to sleep? You definitely can, especially if you have an auto-immune form. 

Everyone knows that coffee keeps you awake, so what happens when you have a chronic insomnia besides?

  • You will probably not sleep for a few hours at least

Sometimes it can even be your pain that keeps you awake.

In that case, I definitely don’t recommend you to take any coffee because you are the only one who will suffer.

Besides, there are even some medicines that can lead to insomnia. Take prednisone for example, which is a very common drug in rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis.

What happens if you associate it with coffee? Well, it won’t increase your pain or decrease your immunity, but it will surely keep you awake. 

I usually recommend alternative treatments before prednisone or methotrexate. But it’s better to ask your doctor first, and that’s available for coffee as well. Ask his opinion about:

  • the quantity you’re consuming daily
  • what exactly he recommends you to do

If you really care about coffee, you don’t necessarily have to give it up.

Only make sure you’re having it in the morning or as early as possible, so that it doesn’t prevent you from sleeping at the right time. 



My Final Verdict – Does Coffee Affect Arthritis?

Based on the research I have made, here is my conclusion. 

Coffee doesn’t affect or worsen arthritis, and it also can’t produce arthritis itself.

Now – there’s a chance that it can increase the risk. But only if:

  • you drink more than 4 cups per day
  • you are overweight
  • also have a family history of arthritis

But it surely won’t be because of drinking coffee alone.

So from this point of view, you don’t have to worry about it. Simply drinking coffee everyday doesn’t have anything to do with your arthritis. 

As long as it doesn’t keep you awake at night, there shouldn’t be any problem. Caffeine doesn’t interact with medications, like alcohol does.

Besides, it also has a few benefits for people with arthritis. If you think it can also help you, why not give it a try? As it’s arthritis-free, I think it’s a safe choice.

Heather Pharm.D.

Heather Tracy Foley is a Pharmacy graduate, Blogger and Author with a vast experience in health sciences. She has a particular interest in joint pain and rheumatology and spent several years studying health problems. You can find her on Pinterest or via email.

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12 Responses

  1. Jordan says:

    Your article really took away my fears. I have some chronic pain and I drink 2-3 cups of coffee every morning, just because of taste. I once heard that drinking coffee could lead to arthritis, so I’ve been searching for a clear answer ever since. Glad I found it here.
    You bring really good arguments, that’s why I’m pretty sure it’s the way you say.
    So if I only have chronic back pain, I couldn’t get arthritis just from coffee, right? (I don’t have anyone in my family with arthritis).

  2. Heather says:

    Hi Jordan. If you don’t have any problem besides your back pain, you shouldn’t develop arthritis. At least, it couldn’t happen because of drinking coffee. From this point of view, don’t worry about it.

    I don’t really know how bad your pain is, but you can try some natural solutions to keep it under control. I strongly recommend you turmeric, because it’s the best herb for inflammation and chronic pain.

  3. Joe says:

    Call me crazy! but I’ve suffered from sever joint pain. I’ve always though it was gout. At one point I was getting three debilitating attacks per month. Extreme swelling, pain, the whole 9 yards. I never had the site injected to determine the cause. Colcrys always was the tool to make it go away. The docs best diagnosis was gout, was on allypuronal, etc. (which at one point even stopped working). I cut all the norms from the diet, fish, beef, alcohol. But the attacks always came back. But the one thing I never thought about cutting out was my coffee intake. But I cut out all caffeine and no more attacks. If I go and drink a small amount of Coca Cola, I feel the attack coming on. Caffeine, atleast for me is the issue. Maybe I’m allergic to it! I’ve cut out all caffeine, went from multiple attacks per month to zero.

  4. Heather says:

    Hi Joe, this is very interesting what you’re saying. I tried to write my article in accordance to research studies, and none of them ever proved that coffee could worsen or cause arthritis.

    In fact, you probably read that high quantities of coffee are even told to prevent gout. And in your case, it seems exactly the opposite. So I don’t really know how to explain it, to be honest. I tried to find other opinions of people whose arthritis was worsened by caffeine, but I couldn’t find any. So I don’t think you’re the only one, but you’re probably one of a few experiencing this.

    So if it keeps your attacks away, the best thing you can do is to continue this free caffeine diet. I couldn’t possibly give you another advice. That could be the cause, I don’t know.

    Thanks for letting me know about this.

  5. Berlinda says:

    Hi Heather I just recently been diagnosed with RA. It was a nightmare when it first started. I was a huge coffee drinker. At the time not understanding the effect that food had with my flare ups I thought it was coffee because I felt sudden swelling in my hands. I’ve been without coffee for two months and because I am on methotrexate and prednisone I am so sleepy through out the day. I’ve been wanting to try a cup in the morning. Do you have any feed back on caffeine and prednisone with methotrexate? I’ve done a lot of research and all the things that I’ve read point to a leaky gut in autoimmune disease, can caffeine have an effect on the gut?

  6. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hi Berlinda, I’m not a rheumatology specialist – so I won’t be able to give you a clear answer to all of your questions. But I will try to give you an opinion, based on what I know.

    As long as you drink under 3 cups per day – coffee shouldn’t worsen your RA. At least there’s no evidence that it would.

    Once you go beyond 3 cups, it might increase your flare-ups, but that’s still not a sure thing. I told you, there’s no clear evidence – so it’s hard to give you a clear answer.

    But let me ask you something. After you gave up coffee, did your pain decrease (in the next 1-2 weeks)? Could you see a major change after giving it up? Or there was no real improvement? The answer to your questions may be right here.

    Regarding coffee and methotrexate, I actually think coffee is beneficial – since it helps you tolerate the drug better. That’s my personal opinion at least. As for prednisone, I can’t really tell.

    I also don’t know if caffeine could influence your gout. I’m sorry I can’t reach any conclusion, but I simply have too little evidence and data to give you any verdict.

    So I think you should experiment directly. See how you feel now and start drinking coffee in the next week. If your pain increases, it’s probably related to coffee. If it doesn’t, there’s no connection. At this point, I think this is the best thing you can do.

  7. Richard Hoover says:

    What comprehensive research you made! Thank you for making everything clear!

  8. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    My pleasure, thank you for your appreciation!

  9. Donna P, says:

    Caffeine in coffee is not the culprit as much as the mold on coffee beans and the heavily used pesticides on the plants. Since giving up my cup(s) of Morning Joe, I feel much better.
    Your thoughts?

  10. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hello Donna, thanks for your opinion! I can’t really guarantee which is the culprit but your version is totally possible, pesticides and chemicals in generals are very harmful for joint damage and arthritis. But anyway, some people say coffee helps them cope with the pain while others say it makes it even worse. Since opinions are so mixed up, it’s hard to tell for sure whether coffee affects arthritis in all cases or not.

  11. Geraldine says:

    Hi, I read the comment from Joe. I have a similar condition since my early twenties. Noone could ever find out what it is, but it is NOT Arthritis for sure (confirmed by more than one tests). I’ve got terrible pain in my joints (in all of them, sometimes even in my cheekbones) when I can not move and there is any kind or strength of draft present. My joints go cold, and they hurt. A lot! It is similar to the feeling that you feel after you hit yourself hard, only multiplied in scale. Moving helps, but I can not move enough while working, reading, in the cinema, theater etc. Not to mention that even exhaling onto my hands caused pain. I have suffered many many years, then I found a comment somewhere suggesting giving up coffee may help. Since I started to drink coffe around the same time when my pain attacks began, I gave it a try. And today, many month later: I do not have any pain! My body goes the same cold in draft as before, but THERE IS NO PAIN!!! So if anyone reads this, does NOT have arthritis, but thinks this condition of mine -or Joe’s- sounds familiar: try to give up coffe, give yoursef 1-2 months to see if it works for you. I hope it will help someone.
    Dear Heather, sorry for the loosly related comment, and thanks a lot for sharing your article. 🙂

  12. Heather Pharm.D. says:

    Hello Geraldine, thanks a lot for sharing your experience, it’s literally impressive how giving up coffee can have such a huge impact on your pain. I can say you were quite lucky that the solution was so simple, I’m happy for you! Best wishes!

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