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Why Every Woman Needs to Know About Menopause and Alcohol Risks

Alcohol and Menopause.....

Good?

Bad?

Ugly?


As women navigate menopause, they encounter a myriad of changes that deeply influence their physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. Amidst these intricate transitions, many turn to alcohol for solace or relaxation. 


A closer examination of the intricate relationship between menopause and alcohol reveals that this coping mechanism may not be as beneficial as perceived.


While moderate alcohol consumption is generally considered acceptable, its impact on menopausal symptoms cannot be overlooked.


Even in moderation, alcohol can significantly exacerbate common menopausal issues such as hot flushes, disrupted sleep, and mood disorders. 


alcohol and woman

It's essential to recognise alcohol as a toxin.


Regardless of stress levels, alcohol is never physiologically beneficial. When consumed, the liver prioritises detoxifying alcohol (it is seriously toxic to us physiologically) over other substances, including oestrogen. This prioritisation can lead to negative consequences since oestrogen processing is compromised.


Plus, as we age, our bodies become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol.


In essence, while alcohol may seem like a temporary solution for menopausal discomfort, its detrimental effects on symptoms and overall health should not be underestimated. 


 

The Effects of Alcohol


hot flush and woman

Hot flushes

Hot flushes and night sweats, experienced by up to 80% of women during menopause, are hallmark symptoms that can significantly disrupt daily life and sleep quality. 

These vasomotor symptoms (VMS) are already challenging to manage due to hormonal fluctuations. 


However, alcohol consumption can exacerbate these symptoms further. The vasodilatory effects of alcohol have been found to trigger or worsen hot flushes, intensifying discomfort and disrupting sleep patterns. 


Sleep

While alcohol may initially induce feelings of relaxation or drowsiness, it ultimately interferes with the quality of sleep. 


Alcohol is also a diuretic, leading to increased nighttime awakenings to urinate. 

Moreover, alcohol interferes with the production of melatonin, a hormone crucial for regulating sleep-wake cycles, further compromising sleep quality. 


Mental Health

Alcohol can have a significant impact on mood, anxiety, depression, and overall mental health, particularly during menopause. 


While alcohol may temporarily alleviate stress or anxiety by increasing the production of dopamine, the brain's "feel-good" neurotransmitter, it ultimately exacerbates mood disorders. Regular alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in dopamine production over time, resulting in heightened feelings of anxiety and depression. 


Moreover, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which can further exacerbate symptoms of depression and negatively affect mental well-being. 


 

osteoporosis

Alcohol and osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is when the bones become fragile, increasing their risk of fracture. 

Many factors can affect osteoporosis, and alcohol is one of them. 


Oestrogen is vital in bone formation, so after menopause, there is a rapid period of bone loss that then levels out.


Alcohol further compounds this by disrupting the balance of calcium, essential for bone formation, and inhibiting the activity of bone-forming cells. Moreover, alcohol consumption can impair hormone balance and affect bone density. Given the already heightened risk of bone loss during menopause, minimising alcohol intake is crucial for maintaining bone health and reducing the likelihood of osteoporosis-related complications.


The general advice is to ensure that your alcohol consumption is 'moderate.' I encourage women to have no more than one unit a day, and if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, then, in an ideal world – stop.



Alcohol and Breast Cancer

Alcohol is classified as a Group 1 human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.


Drinking alcohol increases a person's risk of developing breast cancer.


Drinking alcohol doesn't automatically mean you will get breast cancer, and not drinking can't guarantee you won't. However, there is evidence that your risk of developing breast cancer increases significantly if you drink more than one alcoholic drink a day.



Cardiovascular Disease

Alcohol consumption can significantly impact cardiovascular health, especially for menopausal women.


Alcohol is a significant risk factor for blood pressure – it affects how your blood vessels can relax, stress hormones, and what is happening in the brain to regulate your blood pressure, and, of course, it can affect your weight. 


Moreover, excessive alcohol intake is associated with heart failure, cardiomyopathy, and a higher risk of stroke and heart attack.

 

Conclusion


I don't drink excessively, I hear you say.

Maybe not.

But moderate consumption is one drink a day for women and one or two for men—but be aware of what counts as a measure.


Limiting alcohol consumption during and after menopause is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. 


Despite its initial appeal as a coping mechanism, alcohol can exacerbate menopausal symptoms and pose significant risks to women's health.


 

Reducing and stopping can be challenging without support. Especially given the prevalence and societal norms associated with drinking. 


As a grey area drinking support, I can assist you in navigating this challenging phase of life, guiding reducing alcohol intake and adopting healthier coping strategies to promote overall well-being during and after menopause.


Start with small steps each day, and you'll notice the benefits over time. 


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