Alcohol can make Menopause Worse
Want to understand how alcohol affects you? Here are the facts to provide insight and guidance, along with a few experiments to explore adjustments to alcohol habits.
Fact #1: Men and women metabolize alcohol differently. Compared to men, men have more water in their blood to dilute alcohol, resulting in less concentrated alcohol consumption. Consequently, women may have more prolonged exposure of their brains and organs to alcohol, increasing the risk of neurodegeneration even with moderate alcohol consumption. Women also possess lower levels of crucial enzyme metabolizing alcohol, leading to longer retention in their systems. Additionally, due to their smaller average body size, the same alcohol quantity has a more significant impact on women, making them more susceptible to health risks.
Fact #2: Older women process alcohol differently than younger women. Older women have less body water than their younger counterparts, producing higher blood alcohol concentrations. This is further complicated by the potential interaction between alcohol and prescription medications that older women are more likely to take.
Fact #3: As women age, they tend to consume more alcohol, which can lead to increased health problems, including alcohol-related emergency room visits. Alcohol use can also mask and exacerbate other life challenges, such as stress and depression, with women being more prone to relapse due to stress.
Fact #4: Alcohol has body-wide adverse effects. Recent research has debunked the myth of alcohol's "heart-healthy" or "fun lifestyle" image (2). Alcohol consumption carries more risks than benefits, particularly for women in midlife and beyond.
Here are the health implications of alcohol consumption:
Impaired Cognitive Function: Moderate alcohol consumption may heighten the risk of neurodegeneration in women (1)
Elevated Cancer Risk: Alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of various cancers, including breast cancer and digestive cancers such as esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancers (3,4)
Increased Hot Flashes: Alcohol may disrupt vasomotor regulation, leading to more frequent and intense hot flashes.
Hormonal Disruption: Alcohol can interfere with the intricate feedback mechanisms that regulate sex hormones, potentially worsening menopausal symptoms (5)
Weakened Bone Density: Alcohol intake can reduce bone mineral density, raising the likelihood of fractures (6–10)
Slower Exercise Recovery: Consuming alcohol can slow down glycogen synthesis, leaving women with less energy for their subsequent workouts. Additionally, alcohol can hinder muscle rehydration and disrupt the cytokine signals essential for post-workout muscle repair.
Disrupted Sleep Patterns: Alcohol suppresses REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is essential for dreaming and quality sleep. This can result in poorer overall sleep quality (11–13)
Dehydration and Water Retention: Alcohol initially acts as a diuretic, causing increased urination. However, it is followed by a rebound effect, leading to water retention. This can result in both thirst and puffiness.
Impaired Liver Function: Women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-induced liver damage and diseases, and these conditions tend to progress more rapidly in women
Fact #5: Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as 5–7 drinks a week, which equates to roughly one drink per day. However, even at low levels, alcohol can have a wide range of health effects.
EXPERIMENTS FOR WOMEN WHO ARE OPEN TO DRINKING LESS:
Try drinking fewer drinks per bout of drinking: Reduce the number of drinks consumed during each drinking occasion, allowing for daily alcohol consumption in moderation.
Try drinking less frequently: Maintain the same amount at social events but drink less often during the week to reduce overall alcohol intake.
Ultimately, it's essential to observe how alcohol affects individuals physically and emotionally and make informed decisions about alcohol consumption, with the understanding that moderation or abstinence is a personal choice. Small wins in managing alcohol intake can lead to better health outcomes. In my opinion, you are better off having ZERO alcohol in your life.
Stay FN healthy,
1 Topiwala A, Wang C, Ebmeier KP, Burgess S, Bell S, Levey DF, et al. Associations between moderate alcohol consumption, brain iron, and cognition in UK Biobank participants: Observational and mendelian randomization analyses. PLoS Med. 2022 Jul;19(7):e1004039.
2 Levesque C, Sanger N, Edalati H, Sohi I, Shield KD, Sherk A, et al. A systematic review of relative risks for the relationship between chronic alcohol use and the occurrence of disease. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2023 Jul;47(7):1238–55.
3 Cai S, Li Y, Ding Y, Chen K, Jin M. Alcohol drinking and the risk of colorectal cancer death. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2014;23(6):532–9.
4 World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report 2018. Recommendations and public health and policy implications. World Cancer Research Fund International London, United Kingdom; 2018.
5 Czarnywojtek A, Borowska M, Dyrka K, Moskal J, Kościński J, Krela-Kaźmierczak I, et al. The influence of various endocrine disruptors on the reproductive system. Endokrynol Pol. 2023;74(3):221–33.
6 Sánchez-Bayona R, Gea A, Gardeazabal I, Romanos-Nanclares A, Martínez-González MÁ, Bes-Rastrollo M, et al. Binge Drinking and Risk of Breast Cancer: Results from the SUN (’Seguimiento Universidad de Navarra’) Project. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Mar 10;12(3). Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/nu12030731
7 Teissedre PL, Rasines-Perea Z, Ruf JC, Stockley C, Antoce AO, Romano R, et al. Effects of alcohol consumption in general, and wine in particular, on the risk of cancer development: a review. Oeno One. 2020;54(4):813–32.
8 Piano MR, Thur LA, Hwang CL, Phillips SA. Effects of alcohol on the cardiovascular system in women. Alcohol Res. 2020 Jul 30;40(2):12.
9 Turner RT, Sattgast LH, Jimenez VA, Grant KA, Iwaniec UT. Making sense of the highly variable effects of alcohol on bone. Clin Rev Bone Miner Metab. 2021 Dec 1;19(1):1–13.
10 Phillips SA, Osborn K, Hwang CL, Sabbahi A, Piano MR. Ethanol induced oxidative stress in the vasculature: Friend or foe. Curr Hypertens Rev. 2020;16(3):181–91.
11 Kryger MH, Roth T, Dement WC. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. Elsevier; 2017. 1730 p.
12 Guandalini LS, da Silva EF, Lopes J de L, Santos VB, Lopes CT, de Barros ALBL. Analysis of the evidence of related factors, associated conditions and at-risk populations of the NANDA-I nursing diagnosis insomnia. Int J Nurs Sci. 2020 Oct 10;7(4):466–76.
13 Colrain IM, Nicholas CL, Baker FC. Alcohol and the sleeping brain. Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;125:415–31.