alcohol intolerance in menopause
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Menopause Alcohol Intolerance and What To Do About It

Menopause alcohol intolerance – having a lower tolerance for alcohol — became a real thing for me as my hormones were changing. I enjoyed relaxing at the end of many days with a glass of wine – with a healthy (large) pour. But I realized as my hormones changed, so did the effect wine had on me.

It seems fitting for me to write this blog post near St. Patrick’s Day weekend and shed some light on the fact that your relationship with alcohol may be changing, and it’s not all in your head.

Although the intensity of the effect of alcohol on the body is directly related to the amount consumed, other factors come into play as well. How you process alcohol can depend on your genetic makeup, the medications you are on, hormone changes, overall health, and the aging process.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient in beer, wine, and liquor. It’s produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches.

Many women admit that initially, alcohol helped them relax and temporarily escape from life’s stressors. But once their body was aging and changing, they slowly recognized they didn’t always like how they felt after a few drinks.

Time To Get Honest

This is a stage in many women’s lives where they realize they need to become aware of what they truly need, make time for true self-care, and vocalize their needs as well as set boundaries with those around them.

What Causes You to React Differently to Alcohol?

Feeling tipsy or hungover after only a drink or two can happen for various reasons.

  • METABOLISM: Alcohol intolerance can occur when your body doesn’t have the proper enzymes to break down (metabolize) the toxins in alcohol. This is usually an inherited trait (genetic).
  • DISEASE STATE: If you develop a disease, you can process alcohol differently.
  • MEDICATION: Many medications contain warning labels not to mix with alcohol. Many medications combined with alcohol can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, fainting, and/or more serious issues such as heart problems.
  • SENSITIVITY OR ALLERGY: Some people develop a sensitivity or reaction to the ingredients in alcohol — sulfites, preservatives, chemicals, grains, or histamine, a byproduct of fermentation or brewing.
  • AGING: As women age, they have reduced liver function and decreased muscle mass which increases their chances of alcohol intolerance.
  • HORMONAL CHANGES: Women going through hormone changes experience changes in their bodies which can contribute to the way they respond to alcohol.
alcohol and women and menopause alcohol intolerance

How Much Alcohol is a Safe Amount to Drink?

The answer to how much alcohol is a safe amount to drink can depend on who you ask. According to current dietary guidelines, adults of legal drinking age can either choose not to drink, or to drink moderately by limiting their intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women.

A standard drink is 0.6 ounces or 14.0 grams of pure alcohol. Twelve ounces of regular beer contains about 5% alcohol. Five ounces of wine contains 12% alcohol and 1.5 ounces or a ‘shot’ of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor such as gin, rum or vodka contains 40% alcohol.

What Happens When You Consume Too Much Alcohol?

Excessive chronic consumption of alcohol is associated with chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis (damage to the liver cells), pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), and various cancers of the liver, mouth, throat, larynx, or esophagus. Other risk factors associated with overconsumption of alcohol are unintentional injuries, such as motor-vehicle traffic crashes, falls, burns, drowning, and firearm injuries.

For women, consuming alcohol can interfere with the body’s hormonal system which leaves her at risk for changes in blood sugar levels, calcium metabolism, and bone structure.

One alcoholic drink can help create a rise in the main female sex hormone, estrogen – preventing some of the unwanted menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. But it’s important to remember that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol during perimenopause and menopause can suddenly turn into larger quantities. This can then have the potential to make changing hormone symptoms worse.

Because drinking alcohol raises your internal body temperature, it’s no surprise that daily alcohol consumption contributes to hot flashes and night sweats in menopause. This can lead to poor sleep, making it harder and harder to commit to regular exercise and choosing healthy foods, which are essential as we age.

Read more here about Reducing Inflammation During Menopause for Weight Loss.

sleep during menopause

What Can You Do To Prevent Alcohol Intolerance?

If you have a sensitivity to certain ingredients contained in alcohol, start by reading the list of ingredients or additives in the alcohol you choose to drink. Be honest with how you are feeling after consuming alcohol and if it is something that is contributing to poor health.

To avoid an adverse reaction to alcohol, it’s important to recognize that reducing your consumption or stopping completely may be necessary. Changing the type of alcohol you drink may also bring temporary relief from unwelcome symptoms. Seek support if more help is needed.

I realized that I needed to stop drinking alcohol entirely a few years ago. I had been enjoying a few glasses of red wine regularly but knew it affected me differently as I got older and went through hormonal changes.

For me and many women I work with, it contributes to poor sleep, lethargy, weight gain, and hot flashes. All of these things made it almost impossible for me to make the best overall health decisions to feel my best. It was time to find enjoyable mocktails that I could enjoy.

This decision helped me get the sleep I needed and left me feeling proud of how I felt the next morning! I woke up energized and excited to make plans for the day ahead. Something I was feeling less and less when I was consuming alcohol.

Please reach out to me if you would like help in your journey to feeling your best in midlife!

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