15 Apr 2015
6 Reasons to Think Before You Drink (Especially if Your Hormones are Wacky)
Women metabolize alcohol differently than men for several reasons. These include having less water in our bodies to dilute the alcohol; fewer enzymes to digest the alcohol; smaller body size; and hormonal differences that may affect absorption. And as we age, we metabolize alcohol less efficiently so blood alcohol levels stay higher longer.
A drink a day can actually be heart protective, but more than that can result in long-term health problems. Let’s take a look:
- Alcohol makes you fat. At 100+ calories or so per glass of wine, it’s easy to run up the calorie scoreboard. Do the math. Take the number of drinks you have per day and multiply by 365. Take that number and multiply by 100. Then divide by 3500.
The result is the number of pounds you could lose over a year simply by not drinking. Plus, alcohol has no nutritional value, raises your cortisol level and gets insulin out of whack, which contributes to further weight gain and a bigger muffin top.
Bottom line: If you want to lose weight, skip the booze. Really.
- Breast cancer. Alcohol increases breast cancer risk. This is likely due to an alcohol-related increase in estrogen levels. High levels of estrogen over a long period of time have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.
Drinking causes your body to convert more testosterone to estradiol. And remember all that fat you’re storing with extra calories? It’s cranking out estrogen too.
Bottom line: One drink per day increases your risk by 7%. Three drinks a day ups it to 51%.
- Alcohol use contributes to insomnia in 2 ways. One is an increase in cortisol production. The second is that alcohol disrupts sleep patterns (even though you may fall asleep more easily).
Bottom line: No sleep’s not cheap. Don’t drink within 2-3 hours of bedtime. Read more about the importance of good sleep here.
- Alcohol can increase the risk of osteoporosis by increasing parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels. This throws off the body’s calcium balance. In cases of chronic alcohol abuse, blood levels of PTH stay elevated, which puts a strain on the body’s calcium reserves in bones.
Alcohol also inhibits the production of enzymes found in the liver and kidneys that convert the inactive form of vitamin D to its active form. This interference with the body’s vitamin D also affects calcium absorption.
Go here for more about signs of osteoporosis.
Bottom line: Keeping your bones strong is incredibly important for overall health. Hip fractures in older women are a common cause of nursing home admissions and 1 in 5 people with a hip fracture die within a year. No thanks to that.
- Hot flashes. Many women report that alcohol is a trigger for hot flashes. Alcohol causes estrogen to rise. Then, once the alcohol has been metabolized, your estrogen level drops and VOILA! Hot flash!
Bottom line: Hot flashes don’t happen to all women, but if they affect you, try cutting out alcohol to see if that helps. Stabilizing estrogen levels is key to stopping those personal days at the beach. I’ve had clients completely banish hot flashes with this change ALONE.
- More cases of alcoholism start in midlife women than at any other time of life. This is a big deal. Empty nest syndrome, loss of identity, divorce, and chronic health problems are just a few of the reasons women turn to alcohol to take the edge off of loneliness and pain.
Bottom line: Numbing behaviors may help temporarily, but drinking is a poor long-term band-aid. It wrecks lives and health if things get out of control. If you’re having trouble dealing with midlife transitions, get help. There’s no shame in that…remember, we’re all in this together.
Understanding the impact that alcohol has on your body is important. Once you know the risks, you can make better choices. Current recommendations for women are to limit intake to one drink or less per day with a maximum of seven drinks per week.