Alcohol & Menopause: Why & How Alcohol Affects the Menopause
Hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings — these are just a few symptoms that women can struggle with during menopause.
Why? Well, as the female body ages, the number of reproductive hormones that it produces decreases. These low levels of hormones cause periods to stop and also increase the risk of heart problems, bone loss (osteoporosis) etc.
Unfortunately, alcohol can trigger some of the symptoms that women may experience in menopause.
Why Does Alcohol Affect Women in Menopause?
As women get older, their cartilage and tendons lose water, resulting in less water in the body. Essentially, the more water in your body, the better it can dilute alcohol. Therefore, menopausal women are much more sensitive to the effects of alcohol.
According to Healthline, women are less tolerant to alcohol than men are, in general. They have a lower body weight, which means that they absorb alcohol into their bloodstream faster.
Alongside this, women have less alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), an enzyme that metabolises alcohol in the stomach. In other words, their bodies are unable to handle alcohol in the same way as male bodies can.
How Does Alcohol Affect Women in Menopause?
The truth is, there are several habits that affect how frequent and severe menopause symptoms can be. Given that alcohol raises your internal body temperature, some women find that it acts as a trigger for the following:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Disrupted sleep
- Weight gain
That said, other women find that alcohol can relieve these symptoms.
Let’s investigate the results from different studies.
- A 2005 study showed that menopausal women who drank alcohol daily (especially red wine) went on to report hot flushes and night sweats.
- Another 2005 study and a follow-up 2007 study discovered that women who drank alcohol at least once a month were less likely to experience hot flushes compared to the women who were teetotal.
- A 2015 study concluded that having at least one alcoholic beverage per day could decrease the risk of hot flushes.
- Another 2015 study suggested that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of disrupted sleep in menopausal women.
- A 2017 literature review found that the nutrients in beer may help to relieve hot flushes and other associated symptoms. However, without clinical trials to prove this, it is thought that non-alcoholic beer could provide the same benefits.
How Much Alcohol Should Women Going Through the Menopause Drink?
Most women shouldn’t worry about having an alcoholic drink every now and then—just try to avoid drinking to excess.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), one standard drink is defined as:
- 5 fluid oz / 142ml (one glass) of wine
- 12 fluid oz / 355ml (one can or bottle) or regular beer
- 1.5 fluid oz / 44ml (one shot) of 80-proof distilled spirits
For women, moderate (or low-risk) alcohol consumption is no more than three drinks in one day or seven drinks per week. Heavy (at-risk) alcohol drinking is consuming more than the moderate recommended amounts.
According to the NHS, men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week. Going back to the previous examples:
- One glass of wine is roughly between 1.5 and 2 units
- One can or bottle of regular beer is around 1.7 units
- One shot of spirits is between 1 and 1.5 units
This means that 14 units per week equate to 10 small glasses of low-strength wine or 6 pints of average-strength beer.
Moderate Versus Excess Drinking
A UK-based 2017 study claimed that moderate alcohol consumption can decrease the risk of heart disease in menopausal women. Moderate drinking is also linked to a lower risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
Another South Korean 2017 study concluded that reduced alcohol consumption during menopause could lead to a boost in bone density.
On the other hand, excess alcohol consumption by women going through the menopause can increase the risk of the following conditions:
- Liver disease
- Heart problems
- Depression and anxiety
In fact, these risks exist even at just one serving of alcohol per day.
Alcohol and Menopause: The Takeaway
When it comes to drinking alcohol during menopause, follow the recommended guidelines and pay attention to what you’re drinking and how much of it.
If you find that certain drinks and quantities interfere with your menopause symptoms, you might want to cut these out or reduce the amounts you consume.
Keep in mind that just one alcoholic drink can interfere with medications. Therefore, it’s important to consult your doctor about any medications you take before drinking.