05 Apr 2017
5 Smart Reasons to Think Before You Drink
I’m giving you fair warning. This topic is a total buzz-kill for many of us. That’s because wine is our go-to BFF when we’ve had a bad day or anxiety and overwhelm has gotten out of hand. What’s the harm in having a glass or two…(or three) at the end of the day?
On the surface, it’s not a problem. Until it is. Until the glass turns into a daily numb-fest that lets you avoid all the things you prefer not to think about. Until you can’t get to sleep without a nightcap.
Here’s the thing. Women metabolize alcohol differently than men. The reasons for this 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 how we absorb it. And as we age, our livers get lazy so blood alcohol levels stay higher longer.
A drink a day has been shown to be heart protective, but more than that can result in long-term health problems. Let’s take a look:
1. Alcohol increases breast cancer risk. This is likely because alcohol raises estrogen levels and over a long period of time this increases breast cancer risk. Drinking causes your body to convert more testosterone to estradiol. And remember all that fat you’re storing with the extra calories from wine? It’s cranking out estrogen too.
Bottom line: One drink per day increases your risk by 7%. Three drinks a day ups it to around 20%.
2. Insomnia. A glass of wine at bedtime may help you get to sleep, but you may find that you’re waking up around 2 AM. This is because your blood sugar drops as the alcohol wears off. It also increases cortisol which can wake you up as well.
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.
3. Osteoporosis. 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.
4. Hot flashes and night sweats. Many women report that alcohol is a trigger for hot flashes and/or night sweats. Alcohol causes estrogen to rise. Then, once the alcohol has been metabolized, your estrogen level drops and YIKES! Hot flash! Soaking sweat!
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.
5. 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 drink one drink or less per day with a maximum of seven drinks per week. If you’ve had breast cancer, you might want to stay away altogether.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Her clients would tell you that her real gift is helping them reclaim parts of themselves they thought were gone forever.
Find out more about working with her at http://www.drannagarrett.com/work-with-me/.