Thoughts on Better Aging

How Much Alcohol Should Menopausal Women Drink?

April 24th, 2015

Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption can complicate many menopause symptoms.

Due to differences in their body size, as well as hormonal differences that can affect alcohol absorption, women are not able to tolerate the same quantities of alcohol as men without ill effects. Menopausal women are able to tolerate even less alcohol, due to changes in their metabolism related to aging.

Menopausal women’s reduced tolerance for alcohol doesn’t just result in them feeling the effects of alcohol more strongly after fewer drinks. It can also make certain specific menopause symptoms worse.

According to the North American Menopause Society, alcohol consumption can affect the following menopause symptoms:

  • Weight Gain: Because alcohol is high in calories but low in nutritional value, it can worsen weight gain issues in women who are struggling to adjust their diet and lifestyle to their newly altered menopausal metabolism.
  • Hot Flashes: Many women report that alcohol is a trigger for their hot flashes.
  • Insomnia: Drinking alcohol can lead to sleep problems, even when the alcohol is not consumed near bedtime.
  • Osteoporosis: Drinking alcohol increases the levels of parathyroid hormone (PTH) in the body. This hormone disrupts the body’s calcium balance, which increases the risk of osteoporosis. In the case of chronic alcohol abuse, PTH levels remain elevated for longer periods of time making the risk even worse.
  • Skin Changes: Menopausal women are already facing changes such as a loss of skin elasticity and moisture. Drinking alcohol (even in moderation) can make these changes worse, causing a dull appearance for the skin as well as the hair.
  • Depression: Alcohol does not cause depression in menopausal women, but it can make it worse. Because individuals suffering from depression often drink to self-medicate (which only makes the depression worse), menopausal women who find themselves drinking during the day or having more than 3 drinks in one sitting are encouraged to seek treatment for depression.

Alcohol and Overall Health

Alcohol abuse has been linked to many significant health problems, including increased risk of mouth and esophageal cancers. There is also a link between alcohol and breast cancer, though the exact nature of this link has not yet been determined. Having more than 7 drinks per week has also been shown to increase heart problems such as hypertension, stroke, and coronary artery disease. However, studies have also suggested that light alcohol use (less than 7 drinks per week) could actually be cardio-protective, especially for women over 50 at high risk for heart attack.

So How Much Should You Drink?

Currently, most experts recommend menopausal women imbibe no more than one alcoholic drink per day. This is believed to allow for the enjoyment of alcohol and possible heart health benefits without exposing women to serious health risks or exacerbating menopause symptoms.

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