menopause and alcohol
menopause and alcohol

How Alcohol Consumption Can Impact Your Menopause Symptoms

Posted on December 13, 2023 by Henry Ford Health Staff

For many women, navigating menopause is a challenge. Relief from hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings and sexual changes can be hard to come by. Research shows that a growing number of post-menopausal women use alcohol to escape the trials of menopause.

Unfortunately, women who turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism may not be doing themselves any favors. “Alcohol can exacerbate many of the issues women face during menopause,” says Robert Goldfarb, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist at Henry Ford Health.

Alcohol And Hot Flashes

Studies show that up to 80% of women suffer from hot flashes, night sweats or both. Hot flashes happen in response to shifting hormones that disrupt the body’s temperature regulation mechanism. And whether they come on during the day or at night, they can be very uncomfortable.

For about one-third of these women, quality of life suffers as a result of hot flashes. And reaching for a cocktail might make it worse. "For some women, drinking alcohol can trigger hot flashes and night sweats,” Dr. Goldfarb says. Your best bet: Figure out if alcohol worsens your hot flashes and adjust your drinking pattern accordingly.

Alcohol And Sleep

It’s not just the night sweats that interfere with sleep. Alcohol itself can wreak havoc on your sleep/wake cycle.

“Alcohol is a depressant, so it can make you feel sleepy initially,” Dr. Goldfarb says. In fact, some women turn to alcohol to help them fall asleep more easily. Unfortunately, the more you drink, the worse you sleep: Studies show that alcohol impacts your ability to stay asleep and get high-quality shut-eye.

Alcohol And Mood

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Menopausal and perimenopausal changes, from hot flashes to vaginal dryness to memory challenges, can make women cranky. Research also confirms that perimenopausal women are more vulnerable to developing depression.

Reaching for a drink to lift your mood isn’t the answer—other findings suggest that depression, coupled with other menopausal changes, can trigger excessive drinking. And heavy drinking (more than one drink per day or seven drinks per week) is associated with higher rates of depression among women of all ages.

“For many people, having a drink helps them relax,” Dr. Goldfarb says. “The problem isn’t having a glass of wine with dinner. It’s that one glass turns into two, or the volume of that one glass is more than people should consume.”

Alcohol And Aging

The negative effects of alcohol affect older women more than other groups. “Women are more susceptible than men, partly because they tend to have less body mass,” Dr. Goldfarb says.

Women also have less of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps metabolize alcohol in the stomach. As a result, women not only absorb more alcohol into their bloodstreams than men, but they absorb it more quickly, too.

Guidelines For Menopausal Women

To minimize the health risks associated with alcohol use, Dr. Goldfarb recommends limiting your consumption to one drink per day, or seven drinks each week.

What constitutes a drink? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a standard drink amounts to:

  • 5 fluid ounces of wine. Watch your glass size—most hold far more. Also be sure to check the alcohol content on the bottle (aim for 12% or less in wine).
  • 12 fluid ounces of beer. Typically, one bottle or can of beer is 12 fluid ounces (aim for 5% alcohol).
  • 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (about a standard shot).

Other lifestyle changes that can help during menopause include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Eating a healthy, whole foods diet featuring plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Trying stress-reducing activities, such as meditation and deep breathing
  • Getting sufficient sleep

Navigating menopause is challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. “It’s important to work with your doctor to address your menopausal symptoms,” Dr. Goldfarb says. “There are a number of things we can do, from pharmaceuticals to lifestyle changes, that can make the transition more manageable.”

Reviewed by Dr. Robert Goldfarb, an OB/GYN who sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Henry Ford Medical Center – Ford Road in Dearborn.

Categories : FeelWell

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