18. Alcohol And Women; Menopause
There is a distinct lack of interest and funds invested in the study and exploration of alcohol in women's lives and bodies, so the information is poor and sometimes downright wrong, but here is what I found thus far, and I hope this series of blogs helps answer many of the questions you might have about yours and your daughter's bodies minds and alcohol.
The subject matter is so vast I am dividing it into a few separate blogs to avoid overwhelm. Here we will be looking at the effects of alcohol in menopause...
I haven't slept well; I've been plagued with embarrassing hot flushes all day at work, and I snapped at my partner when he innocently and kindly asked how my day had been. It's been a long one, and I just want to drop into my sofa with a large glass of Shiraz, kick off my shoes and have some time out away from everyone and everything……
But what effects is the alcohol in my glass REALLY having on my body and mind?
Firstly, looking at our body as a whole, alcohol changes the way a woman's body metabolises oestrogen. This can cause blood Oestrogen levels to rise. Oestrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers. Higher oestrogen levels are, in turn, linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and here's a scary fact; compared to women who don't drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks a week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. Well, that's utterly terrifying and shit, but it must be known to us all then we can all make our own minds up; we're grown-ups after all; aren't we?!!
Ok, so, let's get back to the menopause. The truth is that alcohol acts as a trigger for so many menopausal symptoms it's crazy; it affects sleep, making you toss and turn all night, getting up to pee more times that you like to remember, It can make hot flushes even hotter and increase already excessive perspiration and I don't know about you but I really really don't like the night sweats at all! Why does it DO that? Alcohol dilates the blood vessels in our skin, heating us up for no reason, which explains the burning skin and the wet sheets! But it doesn't stop there; it also increases mood swings which are made even worse by the lack of sleep, and the lack of sleep leads to wanting chocolate and other comforting crap, which in turn throws on the weight and bloating and all this can be linked to depression as alcohol is a depressant after all.
Does my tolerance to alcohol decrease in menopause?
For many women, menopause coincides with a reduced tolerance to alcohol. This is because we are literally less able to hold onto water than we used to be. Cartilage and tendons lose water as we age, and our bodies are less able to dilute the alcohol.
At the same time, levels of dehydrogenase enzymes in our liver decrease- these enzymes are responsible for breaking down alcohol and metabolising it into acetaldehyde (which is basically poison and is what gives us hangovers) which allows us to get rid of the stuff but at a much higher price during menopause. This is why our hangovers can feel much more severe, and a small glass of wine can make you feel like you've been out clubbing all night (hmm, that does sound like fun!).
Should I stop drinking alcohol?
Well, this is entirely up to you, but I know what I did, and I never looked back. At the end of the day, alcohol has the same chemical make-up as ethanol which is basically what we put in our cars, so my poor body deserved some proper TLC, and my drinking career came to an end. But I am in no way here to influence you or judge the way you choose to live your body, brain and life. I simply wanted to arm you with all the facts you need in order to be able to make the right decision for you! Knowledge is Gold!
A little extract from the next blog: Alcohol and women; Puberty. The problems with alcohol start the minute we're at that party, and we take our first ever drink, hate it, then drink some more, totally unknowing as to how it will affect us and our future lives. The other fundamental problem lies in the absence of education and necessary knowledge around alcohol and women, not just available to young women but also mums and post/perimenopausal women. When I started to investigate, there wasn't much to help me back the argument that alcohol is 100% detrimental to our bodies and minds, and I found that to be terrifyingly shocking….