As you reach menopause, you may be wondering if you should still be consuming alcohol. You may be noticing that alcoholic beverages are contributing to weight gain, other menopause symptoms, or that you just don’t enjoy them as much as you used to. In this article, I explore the benefits and risks of drinking alcoholic beverages. Most likely moderate alcohol consumption can still be part of your life after menopause, but the risks increase significantly with increased alcohol consumption.
You may find that alcohol starts to affect you differently than it did when you were younger, or you may find that what were pleasant effects when you were younger, are now annoying. You also become more susceptible to the effects of alcohol as you get older.
Alcohol can affect several menopause symptoms. Just as many women experience symptoms differently, women can react differently to alcohol.
Women may also feel tempted to turn to alcohol to reduce some of the symptoms of menopause they are feeling like stress and trouble sleeping but this can backfire.
Some women find that alcohol makes hot flashes worse. Alcohol can bring warmth and a flush to the face and this can be enough to trigger a hot flash for some women.
Excessive alcohol can affect your cognition and even damage your brain so it is not surprising that it may make your brain fog worse. Many parts of the brain are affected when you drink alcohol, including the parts that help you process information.
Alcohol can make some women feel happier but can make some feel more depressed. If you are experiencing mood swings from menopause, consuming alcohol can potentially make these worse.
Issues with sleep are common for women going through menopause. They can be caused by night sweats or stress. While some women may turn to alcohol, it can actually make it harder to get a good sleep. You may experience waking in the night because of the diuretic effect of alcohol, or your sleep may be disturbed because of the alcohol.
Alcoholic drinks are higher in calories than many other beverages. And drinking alcoholic beverages is often accompanied by poor eating choices. Both of these situations can lead to weight gain.
Drinking alcohol can lead to more storage of fat in the belly. Women going through menopause may already start to notice an increase in fat in the belly area from the changing hormones.
While drinking moderate amounts of alcohol doesn’t pose much risk, (and may even provide some benefits – see below), excessive alcohol can contribute to the risk of getting several health conditions.
Even a moderate amount of alcohol can contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases as you drink more. The risk of other types of cancer is also increased with alcohol consumption.
Excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking increase the risk of developing heart disease. Since women are already more prone to heart disease after menopause this is something to consider. Since drinking alcohol can also lead to weight gain, this can put women at a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Your liver helps to rid your body of toxins like alcohol. But too much alcohol can cause damage to the liver.
Heavy drinking can lead to loss of bone density and even osteoporosis. Women are also more likely to fall when they have been drinking because of the effects on their balance. So the combination can cause fractures which can have a debilitating effect on your health.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also destroy brain cells and actually shrink the brain. This can increase the risk of developing dementia. Alcohol consumption also reduces the absorption of B vitamins which are important to brain health.
There are some benefits associated with moderate drinking. These include a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and dementia. But keep in mind this is for moderate levels of drinking – one to two drinks per day. Any more than two drinks per day and the benefits are not seen.
Most experts don’t feel that the benefits are great enough for you to start drinking if you don’t already. And the studies that show benefits may not be as reliable as the studies showing risks.
Just because you have reached menopause does not mean that you have to completely avoid alcohol. However, you should take a closer look at your alcohol consumption and how it is affecting you.
If you liked this post, take a look at the Healthy Changes Ebook, a comprehensive guide to fitness and nutrition during menopause.