Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects your joints and can impact other parts of your body. It requires medical treatment to manage symptoms, but certain lifestyle factors can impact your well-being with RA.
Hydration is not directly linked to RA flares, but drinking enough water may help you feel better, reduce inflammation, and keep your joints cushioned.
Dehydration can also cause symptoms, so it’s important to try to prevent the condition to avoid experiencing them.
How dehydration affects arthritis
Drinking enough water helps your body function properly.
Water helps cushion your joints, which RA and other types of arthritis affect. It’s important to keep your joints working as well as possible when you have RA or other joint-related conditions.
Water can also help reduce inflammation in your body by flushing out toxins. Inflammation can cause joint swelling and discomfort.
Dehydration is a condition that occurs when your body does not have enough fluid. You may experience dehydration because of:
- being in hot weather
- having a gastrointestinal illness that causes vomiting, diarrhea, or urinating too frequently
- taking a medication that causes you to urinate too much
- sweating a lot
- having a fever
- failing to drink enough water daily
Symptoms of dehydration include:
- dry lips and skin
Fatigue is also a symptom of RA.
To treat dehydration, you need to take in more fluids. Mild cases of dehydration can be treated with drinking fluids at home. Severe dehydration may require you to visit a hospital to receive intravenous (IV) fluids.
Can drinking water help with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms?
There are no proven links between RA and dehydration, but making lifestyle choices that provide health-promoting benefits is important in managing RA and keeping your joints working well. Staying hydrated is one way to make sure your body functions properly.
Hydration not only impacts joints, but it contributes to your energy levels and regulates your body temperature. RA can cause fatigue and fevers during flares, and you may avoid experiencing those symptoms from dehydration if you drink plenty of water daily.
Exercise is a common recommendation for managing RA symptoms. Exercising in hot weather or for long enough that you sweat a lot can make you vulnerable to dehydration. Make sure you drink water during and after exercise to avoid dehydration symptoms.
Drinking water alone will not manage RA symptoms. RA requires medical support from a doctor to help manage and stop the condition from getting worse.
How much water should you drink if you have rheumatoid arthritis?
The amount of water you need to drink every day depends on your individual needs.
RA does not impact water levels, so your needs for water may be similar to someone without the condition. Keep in mind that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can cause water retention, so your hydration needs may change if you take these medications for RA symptoms.
There is general guidance to drink eight glasses of water a day, but this can fluctuate depending on your needs. You may not need to drink eight glasses of water straight from a cup or water bottle. Fruits and vegetables contain water, too, and other beverages also count toward your daily water consumption.
Here are some tips to consider for getting enough water throughout the day:
- Drink water all day long, including before breakfast, at meals, and in-between.
- Add other low calorie beverages to your daily routine, including tea, coffee, or seltzer water. There is no conclusive researchTrusted Source linking RA symptoms with coffee or tea consumption.
- Use a few slices of fruit to add flavor to your water.
- Avoid sugary drinks like juices and soda, as their calories can also add up in your overall diet.
- Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go
How to prevent dehydration
Replacing fluids your body loses (expels) when you use the bathroom and sweat is important to consistently keep a healthy level of fluid in your body. This means you should drink several glasses of water a day and add more to your routine if you’re exercising or in hot weather.
Talk with a doctor if you have a gastrointestinal illness that’s preventing you from keeping fluids in your body. Frequent diarrhea and vomiting can lead to dehydration. You may need to drink more water or sports beverages to restore needed electrolytes in your body.
Other things that can make RA worse
Certain environmental factors can cause RA flares. Triggers can include:
- inadequate sleep
- lack of physical movement
If you have RA, your body may feel best when you’re taking good care of yourself. Eating a nutritious diet that helps you maintain a moderate weight, staying physically active, and getting enough sleep may help in managing your symptoms.