At the end of a long day or week, it’s normal to want to unwind. For lots of us, that means pouring a glass of wine or heading out to happy hour with friends or coworkers. We all know that alcohol, especially too much alcohol, can seriously impact our bodies both while we are drinking and afterwards.
Most of us have experienced those slightly embarrassing nights and sluggish hungover mornings. It might feel fun in the moment, but the ramifications just aren’t worth it.
But what most people don’t know is how alcohol affects your hormones, specifically those hormones that are linked to your menstrual cycle and mood. Studies have found that even a single drink can impact your reproductive hormones by more than five percent.¹
We don’t mean to scare you, but we think that knowledge is power and moderation is key when it comes to alcohol. We trust you to take in this information and make the best choice for your body and health.
Alcohol & Hormones
Studies have shown that alcohol is linked to an increase in estrogen levels, which can exacerbate PCOS, endometriosis, or any number of estrogen-dominant hormonal health issues.² Even moderate drinking, between 1-2 glasses a day, has been shown in multiple studies to increase breast cancer risk by 50 percent or more, likely due to the spike in estrogen from regular drinking.³
Alcohol can also decrease levels of progesterone, a key hormone that affects the regularity of your cycle.⁴ Low levels of progesterone directly affect your ability to get and stay pregnant, and can also cause mood changes, leading to anxiety and depression.⁵
And while we may reach for a cocktail to help us have a good time, alcohol is a known depressant. So while those first few sips might give you that feel-good boost you’re looking for, they will ultimately lower your mood in the long run.
While it’s very unlikely that a single glass of wine will cause irregular cycles, heavy drinking, defined as having more than three drinks a day, can lead to irregular or missed periods, weight gain, and a significant increase in testosterone levels in women (while testosterone tends to decrease significantly for men).
Some other not-so-fun effects of alcohol on your cycle?
Well, for one, dehydration and depleted magnesium can worsen menstrual cramps. And because alcohol can increase your blood sugar levels, it can not only worsen PMS symptoms but can worsen PCOS and other blood sugar related health problems.
How To Protect Your Health From Alcohol
One option is to forgo alcohol completely, but we know how hard it is to get rid of alcohol altogether, so here are some steps you can take to have a healthier relationship with alcohol:
- Make a conscious choice about how much you’re going to drink before you go out so you don’t accidentally veer into heavy drinking territory. Keeping it at one glass of wine is probably your safest bet since your inhibitions and good intentions might be harder to hold onto after that second glass.
- Stay hydrated. You really need to hydrate, not only before and after but while you are drinking to offset alcohol’s dehydrating effects. Adding in electrolytes can also be key to keeping you hydrated.
- Watch what you eat. Alcohol has been shown to have a direct and negative impact on diet, leading you to eat more unhealthy fats and added sugar.⁶ Yet another reason to plan ahead so you don’t drink too much and add the effects of unhealthy food on top of your booze. Eating healthy fats like nuts or seeds alongside your drink can help counterbalance the effects of alcohol.
- Try to minimize alcohol (esp. a week before your period). Estrogen levels peak just before ovulation and about a week before your period starts, so those would be ideal times to avoid drinking.
Now when you do decide to kick back with a cocktail at the end of the week, you’ll be ready to make it a conscious choice that won’t derail a week’s worth of healthy lifestyle choices.