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Alcohol and Menopause

This week we will be discussing the links between alcohol and menopause symptoms. Many people enjoy drinking alcohol, but can it potentially worsen symptoms of the menopause?

What is Alcohol and its Recommendations?

Alcohol is the chemical substance found in beer, wine, and spirits. A unit of alcohol is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, this equates to about half a pint of low to normal-strength beer or cider (ABV 3.6%), or a 25ml single shot of spirits (ABV 40%). A small 125ml glass of wine (ABV 12%) contains around 1.5 units of alcohol.

Men and women are recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. It is also recommended to spread this amount evenly over 3 or more days. Persistently drinking over this amount can lead to health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease, bowel cancer, and pancreatitis [1].

What is the Relationship Between Alcohol and Menopause?

There is limited research into alcohol in menopause. However, there is some research that suggests that alcohol can worsen the symptoms of menopause.

Weight Gain

Weight gain is a common symptom of menopause, with women gaining an average of 1-2kg during the peri-menopausal period [2]. There is mixed evidence about alcohol and weight gain. Although it is commonly reported that light to moderate alcohol intake is not associated with weight gain, heavy drinking is more consistently related to weight gain.

However, a recent study has explained that these mixed results may be influenced by the lifestyle of the individual therefore alcohol intake may be a risk factor for obesity, based on several factors. These factors include drinking frequency, amount of alcohol consumed, drinking pattern, physical activity levels, medication use, sleeping habits, predisposition to weight gain, and disinhibition eating behaviour traits [3]. To learn more about weight gain in menopause, here is the link to the blog post.

Hot Flushes

Hot flushes are when you have sudden feeling of hot or cold in your face, neck, and chest [4]. Again, there is mixed evidence for the relationship between alcohol and hot flushes. However, several studies identified alcohol as a positive predictor of hot flushes in menopausal women [5,6].

Similarly, to weight gain, one study identified that drinking pattern may be linked to the occurrence of hot flushes. This study used a 293-person sample of women ages 45 to 55 to observe the determinants of hot flushes. They found that although there was no significant difference in the occurrence of hot flushes in women who drank less than once a month or never drank, women who drank everyday were more likely to experience hot flushes, suggesting that drinking frequency has an impact on the occurrence of hot flushes [7]. 

Mood Swings

There is a risk for high depressive symptoms and disorder during menopause [8]. Research suggests a link between alcohol use and depressive symptoms, suggesting that excessive alcohol intake during menopause may worsen mood swings. One study identified a high prevalence (63.8%) of depression among alcohol-dependent individuals [8].

Additionally, alcohol can worsen the symptoms of anxiety, with one study finding a link between alcohol hangover symptoms on mood. They found that alcohol hangovers increased the occurrence of anxiety and depression symptoms. However, they also found that rehydrating with water could improve mood [9].  

Sleep Disturbances

Menopause has been associated with an increase in insomnia symptoms. Such as trouble falling asleep and staying asleep [10]. In terms of alcohol, in healthy non-alcoholics, falling asleep may be easier when consuming alcohol. However, the quality of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is often disrupted following alcohol consumption. 

Furthermore, following repeated excessive alcohol consumption, during drinking periods and abstinences, multiple sleep disruptions can be seen including insomnia, sleepiness during the day, and disrupted sleep stages. Therefore, it is important to maintain healthy drinking patterns to avoid sleep disruptions and the exacerbation of menopausal insomnia [11].

Summary of alcohol and menopause

In summary, alcohol intake can affect menopausal women in numerous ways. It can promote weight gain, alongside a healthy lifestyle, it can increase the incidence of hot flushes and mood swings, and it can cause major sleep disruptions if consumed excessively.

Top Tips for Increasing Fluid Intake

If you choose to cut down or abstain from alcohol intake, it is important to increase your fluid intake in other ways. Here are 5 top tips for increasing your fluid intake:

  1. If drinking water bores you, try adding extras like strawberries, lemon, cucumber, and herbs to make it more delicious.
  2. Track your water intake to make sure you’re meeting your recommended 6 to 8 cups of fluid per day.
  3. Incorporate it into your routine by having a glass of water after you wake up, with each meal, and by filling up a bottle when you leave the house.
  4. Try eating fruit and vegetables with high water contents, such as melon, cucumbers, lettuce, and celery.
  5. If you are struggling to give up fizzy drinks and juices, try alternating these drinks with water.

Caroline Hill Dietitian
Caroline Hill, Dietitian and owner of Caroline Hill Nutrition

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