Alcohol and menopause: should you drink during menopause?
Author: Helen Morton
As dry January is now underway for many women, BeingEve explored the research to answer the question – should you drink alcohol when you are going through the menopause?
There are some studies which show that moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial, particularly in terms of bone density, for women during mid-life (1). Equally there is plenty of evidence confirming what many women instinctively recognise, that alcohol can make menopausal symptoms worse (2). It’s one of those subjects where if you really want to find the benefits and be convinced that drinking alcohol is fine, you will. However, there is no doubt that alcohol is not recommended for menopausal women.
Alcohol can upset your hormone balance
Drinking alcohol can upset your hormone balance (3) and make menopausal symptoms worse. Research also indicates that alcohol can interfere with HRT medication. Even small quantities of alcohol can trigger and provoke hot flushes and night sweats in some women (4), most likely by increasing internal body temperature and triggering adrenaline release. Determine how much and which type of alcohol is a personal trigger for you as not every woman will experience the same effects.
A lot of women also struggle with anxiety and mood swings as they go through the menopause and research has shown that even moderate drinking can trigger mood swings or make depression or anxiety worse (7). And if you already know that your mood and energy levels are affected by alcohol, avoiding alcohol altogether may be the best idea during menopause.
Alcohol can affect the quality of your sleep
Alcohol has the potential to disrupt sleep and worsen insomnia in menopausal women, at a time when hormonal changes already frequently disrupt sleep patterns (5). Sleep is vital to your physical and mental health so why run the risk of a poor night’s sleep for the sake of a glass or two of wine? If you are feeling under stress do not be fooled into believing that alcohol will help you relax and sleep well. Drinking alcohol is well known for reducing quality of sleep in women at every stage of life (6).
Alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer
Some studies report that moderate drinking may increase the risk of breast cancer due to raising levels of oestrogen (8). In fact, research has shown that even small amounts of alcohol can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer and other cancers (10).
Alcohol in excess stays in your liver longer
When you drink alcohol, your liver detoxifies and removes the alcohol from the blood. Only a certain amount of alcohol can be detoxified over time. Too much alcohol means normal liver functions may be interrupted as the liver cannot keep up. On top of that, as you get older your body functions slow down so alcohol stays in your liver longer before it’s metabolised. Ever wondered why you really feel that glass of wine the next day, when it was fine just a few years ago?
It really is a good idea to minimise alcohol to help support your liver. By taking a week off alcohol every month and keeping within the recommended amounts on other weeks you will be giving your liver a chance to rest and repair
Minimising alcohol may be your best option
Did you know that one medium (175ml) glass of wine equals 2.3 units of alcohol? Consuming more than 14 units of alcohol a week is considered excessive and can harm your overall health (9). By limiting your alcohol consumption, you will very quickly notice the overall benefits – have more energy in the mornings and throughout the day, you may lose some weight and overall feel more positive.
For more information visit www.drinkaware.co.uk/little-less
About the Author
Helen Morton (DipION) is a qualified, registered Nutritional Therapist. She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and Complimentary and Natural Health Care Council (CNHC). Helen has a special interest in nutrition for mental health, stress management, overall women’s health including menopause, and sports and running performance. You can email Helen at firstname.lastname@example.org, call her at +44 (0)7984439259, or visit her website: www.helenmortonnutrition.com
1. McLernon DJ, Powell JJ, Jugdaohsingh R, Macdonald HM (2012) Do lifestyle choices explain the effect of alcohol on bone mineral density in women around menopause? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95: 1261-1269.
2. Freeman EW, Sammel MD, Grisso JA, Battistini M, Garcia-Espagna B, Hollander L (2001) Hot flashes in the late reproductive years: risk factors for Africa American and Caucasian women. Journal of Women’s Health and Gender Based Medicine, 10: 67-76.
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4. Sievert LL, Obermeyer CM, Price K (2006) Determinants of hot flashes and night sweats. Annals of Human Biology, 33: 4-16.
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8. Travis RC, Key TJ (2003) Oestrogen exposure and breast cancer risk. Breast Cancer Research, 5: 239-247.
10. British Journal of Cancer 112, 580-593 – Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose-response meta-analysis.