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Can Drinking Alcohol Affect the Menopause?

May 17, 2019

Many of my perimenopausal and menopausal clients find that they can happily make many of the lifestyle changes that I suggest, and notice a significant improvement in their menopausal symptoms.

They fill their plates with a wide range of plant-based foods, they include plenty of healthy, hormone-friendly fats, they start exercising sensibility, prioritising sleep and including self-care as part of their daily lives.

But when it comes to alcohol, it’s often a different matter altogether.

They love nothing better than enjoying a ‘nice glass of wine’ when they want to relax, unwind, to temporarily escape from their lives or even to use as self-medication.

They tell me they need their glass of wine. There’s no way they can make it through the week without their glass of wine. Surely one glass every now and again won’t make too much of a difference?...

Sadly, they’re wrong.

Drinking that glass of wine is one of the worst things you can do for your body and mind, especially at the menopause. Let me tell you why.

  1. Alcohol can worsen your symptoms of the menopause

When it comes to the perimenopause and menopause, drinking that innocent-looking alcoholic beverage can be a disaster. Not only can it actually trigger hot flushes, but it can also rob you of your sleep and cause you to feel more anxious, depressed and ‘low’ than before.

It’s also a source of empty calories which work just like processed sugar in your body and contain no nourishment whatsoever.

This is likely to cause you to gain weight, cause you to suffer from a range of food cravings, affect your energy levels and, again, make your menopause symptoms even worse.

Alcohol also affects your hormonal balance. When you drink, your body finds it harder to process and eliminate excess levels of oestrogen which can lead to oestrogen dominance and poor health.

It also reduces your testosterone levels which can cause your sex drive to decline and disrupts your overall hormone balance.

  1. Alcohol increases your risk of breast cancer

Breast cancer is an increased worry at the menopause because thanks to lower levels of oestrogen, a woman is already at an increased risk of developing the disease. Drinking alcohol only adds to the risk.

According to Cancer Research UK, around 4% of the cancers diagnosed in the UK are caused by alcohol. This includes:

  • Mouth cancer
  • Pharyngeal (upper throat) cancer
  • Oesophageal (food pipe) cancer
  • Laryngeal (voice box) cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Bowel cancer
  • Liver cancer.

The increased risk of developing breast cancer is confirmed by Breast Cancer UK:

Research consistently shows that drinking alcoholic beverages -- beer, wine, and liquor -- increases a woman's risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether you binge drink or drink occasionally- the increased risk is the same. Just one drink per day is enough to negatively affect your health and potentially reduce your lifespan in this way.

  1. Alcohol increases your risk of heart attack and stroke

After the menopause, we are also at an increased risk of suffering from a heart attack or a stroke

This risk increases even further if we drink alcohol on a regular basis. Alcohol can cause abnormal heart rhythms, increase your heart rate, trigger high blood pressure and cause damage to your heart muscle.

Each of these can increase your risk of suffering an Ischemic stroke, Haemorrhagic stroke or heart attack.

  1. Alcohol affects your bones and increases your risk of osteoporosis

Alcohol also strips calcium and magnesium from your bones which increases your risk of osteoporosis and cause weaker bones that are more prone to fracture. This is even worse if you drank heavily during your teenage years or early adulthood or suffered from an eating disorder.

As you are already at increased risk during the menopause, any alcohol you drink only makes the problem worse.

Bone health is an issue I’m extremely passionate about because if you don’t have healthy bones, you’re much more likely to lose your independence and end up needing 24-7 care.

  1. Alcohol can make you feel terrible

Although it can feel like you ‘deserve’ a nice glass of wine or that it’s helping you to deal with your stress or drop off to sleep, nothing could be further from the truth. Alcohol is a depressant and triggers lower levels of serotonin- the happy hormone- in the brain. This can trigger or worsen depression, anxiety and other forms of stress.

If you are using alcohol as a temporary escape or as a form of self-medication, please do contact me for help or speak to your GP.

  1. Alcohol is awful for your gut health

Great gut health is important because it helps ensure we can efficiently absorb nutrition from our food, have a healthy immune system, detoxify the body and eliminate excess oestrogen.

It’s one of the first things I work on with my clients as it also contributes significantly to the symptoms of the menopause.

The bad news is that regular alcohol consumption reduces all of our hard work. It reduces the population of healthy bacteria in your gut, making any digestive symptoms such as IBS worse.

It can also damage the wall of your gut and lead to chronic health issues such as leaky gut and chronic inflammation.

As you can see, even one drink can affect your body during the menopause and increase the risks of you suffering from a wide range of chronic and even life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis and more.

That’s why I urge you to get your drinking under control, even if that means slowly cutting back.

Find healthier alternatives that allow you to socialise and relax without harming your health and you can still have fun!

Your turn…

Do you like to have an occasional drink? Is alcohol a crutch that helps you get through the tough days? Let me know in the comments below.

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