Post-treatment care: Diseases you shouldn't take alcohol while on medication


Alcohol has been shown to cause serious healing delays, recurrence or worsen certain health conditions. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

The greatest contributor to the disease burden of non-communicable diseases is our lifestyle.   

Time and again doctors will always advise and emphasise on lifestyle modification to reduce vulnerability to diseases.

However, change of our lifestyle has been almost impossible, if not a challenge.

One of the greatest challenges is adherence to prolonged treatment DONT’s especially for lifestyle diseases, notably diabetes, heart, tuberculosis and cancer among others.

Common among all DONT's, alcohol has been a major problem, while one is on treatment or in the healing process.

Alcohol has been shown to cause serious healing delays, recurrence or worsen certain health conditions including;


Active tuberculosis (TB) disease responds slowly to therapy, which is why TB patients are treated with multiple drugs for at least 6 months or longer depending on their clinical response and the site of their TB disease.

It is advisable not to drink alcohol while on TB treatment to avoid increasing side effects of the drugs, particularly to avoid the harmful effects of the drugs on the liver.

Anti-TB drugs rarely cause harm to the liver, but alcohol can further increase drug side effects and toxicity because both affect the liver. If you are a heavy alcohol user, the problems of liver damage are more likely.

While someone who is drinking alcohol regularly can take TB treatment safely, there are risks and the doctor should explain these to the patient.

Regular blood tests to make sure that the liver is functioning properly and vigilance for side effects, such as jaundice, are important.


Potential risks of taking alcohol while on chemotherapy include; medication interactions, worsening of chemotherapy side effects, dehydration and the depressant effect of alcohol when combined with a disease that can lead to depression.

It's important to talk to your oncologist about recommendations based on your specific situation.

There are a few larger issues to keep in mind. Several types of cancer are linked with alcohol intake, and those who have an alcohol use disorder or alcoholism should clearly abstain.

Whether alcohol use after diagnosis may have an impact on cancer progression or survival is less well understood, and it's likely that the impact of drinking with cancer may vary based on the type of cancer and specific treatments used.


The liver normally releases stored sugar to counteract falling blood sugar levels.

But if your liver is busy metabolising alcohol, your blood sugar level may not get the boost it needs from your liver.

Alcohol can result in low blood sugar shortly after you drink it and for as many as 24 hours.

Alcohol can aggravate diabetes complications such as nerve damage and eye disease. But if your diabetes is under control and your doctor agrees, an occasional alcoholic drink is fine.

However, choose alcoholic drinks that will not raise your blood sugar but also remember to check your sugar levels regularly as advised by the doctor.

High blood pressure

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension), your doctor may advise you to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.

Unfortunately, red wine as a miracle drink for heart heath is a myth.

The link reported in many studies supporting this myth may be due to other lifestyle factors rather than alcohol.

Like any other dietary or lifestyle choice, it is a matter of moderation.


Gout is a type of arthritis that can be directly related to one's alcohol intake. Gout is a condition where a buildup of a chemical known as uric acid happens in your joints, both hands and or feet, and it's incredibly painful.

It can be temporary or it can recur over and over again. Doctors believe that alcohol and arthritis, at least in this situation are related because beer and liquor increase the risk of developing gout.

Gout is triggered by food and drinks that have a substance called purine, and the amount of purine in alcohol is quite high.

The only type of arthritis that seems to be potentially caused by alcohol is gouty arthritis. However, having alcohol in moderation may actually lower your risk of developing other types of arthritis.

At the same time, if you already have arthritis it's important that you watch your drinking because symptoms of drinking, such as dehydration, can make arthritis feel worse.

Also relevant to alcohol and arthritis is the fact that you should consult with your doctor about any medication you may be taking, which could be harmful when mixed with alcohol.

Dr Mwai Consultant Family Physician at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.

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