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Should You Drink Coffee if You Have MS?

If you have MS, consuming coffee may have several potential benefits—but also potential drawbacks.

Coffee may help address some specific symptoms caused by MS, including brain fog, fatigue, and constipation.

Medically reviewed in November 2022

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the United States. According to data collected and compiled by the National Coffee Association, 66 percent of people in the U.S. consume at least one cup of coffee per day. There is also a good amount of research that shows consuming coffee can benefit your health and lower your risk of numerous diseases.

One disease that coffee may help prevent is multiple sclerosis (MS). But what about people who are already living with MS? Does coffee have any benefits? Can consuming coffee be harmful to people with MS?

Here, we look at what we do and don’t know about coffee intake and MS.

Coffee consumption and disease risk
Several studies have found that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of MS. However, other studies have found no significant association between coffee consumption and a lower risk of MS, and all available studies have their limitations. As is the case with many areas of research related to autoimmune diseases and diseases that affect the nervous system, more research is needed.

How might coffee help reduce the risk of MS? Coffee contains caffeine as well as numerous other bioactive compounds—substances found in foods and beverages that are beneficial to the health of the human body.

It’s believed that bioactive compounds in coffee may protect nerve cells against inflammation, damage, and degeneration. Coffee consumption is also associated with a lower risk of other diseases that affect the nervous system, including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Can coffee benefit people with MS?
If consuming coffee can prevent MS, can consuming coffee help slow the progression of MS? While this is a topic of interest for many, there is little research and no conclusive information.

While it’s unknown whether consuming coffee may have any impact on the course of MS, it may help address some specific symptoms caused by MS.

  • Fatigue. Caffeine is a stimulant, and consuming caffeinated coffee (always in moderate amounts) may help alleviate the fatigue caused by MS.
  • Brain fog. Again, because caffeine is a stimulant, consuming caffeinated coffee may help you feel more alert, think more clearly, and ease the cognitive fog that many people with MS experience.
  • Constipation. For some people, consuming coffee acts as a catalyst for having a bowel movement, which may be helpful for the many people who experience constipation as a consequence of having MS.

If you do consume coffee, it’s also important to pay attention to what you are putting into your coffee, particularly sugar. Consuming beverages high in sugar have been associated with greater disability in people who have MS.

It’s also important to consume adequate amounts of water and non-caffeinated beverages in addition to coffee.

Are there drawbacks to consuming coffee?
Just as there are potential benefits, there are also potential drawbacks to consuming caffeinated coffee:

  • Rebound symptoms. For some people, symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, and others may seem worse after caffeine wears off. This is something to pay attention to and discuss with your healthcare provider if it occurs.
  • Too much caffeine. Too much caffeine can contribute to anxiety and restlessness, can increase blood pressure, and can interfere with sleep.
  • Bladder control. For anyone experiencing difficulty with bladder control (which is very common among people with MS), caffeine can make symptoms worse.
  • Bowel control. In addition to constipation, MS can cause problems with bowel control. Caffeine may make these symptoms worse.
  • Withdrawal. Caffeine is a stimulant, and the body does form a dependency on it. Withdrawal from caffeine can cause headaches, fatigue, brain fog, irritable moods, and many other symptoms people with MS are trying to reduce and minimize.

If you have questions about coffee, caffeine, or MS symptoms, your healthcare provider will be your best source of information. Coffee and caffeine affect people in different ways, and MS is a different experience for every person.

Article sources open article sources

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Johns Hopkins Medicine. 9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee Is Good for You. 
Donald Hensrud. Does coffee offer health benefits? Mayo Clinic. March 19, 2022.
Lena Herden and Robert Weissert. The Impact of Coffee and Caffeine on Multiple Sclerosis Compared to Other Neurodegenerative Diseases. Frontiers in Nutrition, 2018. Vol. 5, No. 133.
Katarzyna Socala, Aleksandra Szopa, et al. Neuroprotective Effects of Coffee Bioactive Compounds: A Review. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2021. Vol. 22, No. 1.
NCI Dictionaries. Bioactive Compound.
Xiangyu Zhou and Lin Zhang. The Neuroprotective Effects of Moderate and Regular Caffeine Consumption in Alzheimer’s Disease. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. August 17, 2021. 
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Lena Herden and Robert Weissert. The Effect of Coffee and Caffeine Consumption on Patients with Multiple Sclerosis-Related Fatigue. Nutrients, 2020. Vol. 12, No. 8.
Kanch Sharma, Sean James Fallon, et al. Preliminary evidence that caffeine improves attention in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, 2022. Vol. 64.
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