Do you drink too much alcohol?


Alcohol Awareness Week 18-24 November

Do you drink too much alcohol?

What is too much?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) defines high-risk drinking as more than 7 drinks a week, or more than 3 on a given day. They break it down by types of alcohol:

  • 1 glass of wine (5 oz) at 12% ABV
  • 1 can of beer (12 oz) at 5% ABV
  • 1 shot (1.5 oz) of 80-proof distilled alcohol such as whiskey or gin

On the whole, men still drink more than women do according to drink studies, but women are well on their way to catching up.

Alcohol use is growing among women of all ages, but what’s interesting is that the prevalence of binge drinking is rising among post-menopausal women.

The experience of going through the perimenopause or menopause, can be so stressful and debilitating, who could blame us for wanting to regulate ourselves with a glass of wine… or two?

As it is, women are less alcohol tolerant than men, partly because our bodies are smaller, but we also have less alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol in the stomach, we also tend to absorb far more alcohol into our bloodstream than men.

Doctors are also warning that alcohol can be more dangerous the older you get, especially for women. Eeek!

It’s associated with the following health risks:

  • All cancers, especially breast cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Organ damage, including brain, nerve, heart, and liver
  • Irreversible bone mass loss
  • Depression, even for people who were not previously depressed
  • Interactions with medications (and we tend to take more meds as we age)
  • Accidents leading to bone fractures
  • Sleep disruption

Alcohol has been known to disrupt the sleep of both men and women but us women appear to be even more susceptible to insomnia after drinking, than men.

I find it’s about 4am when my eye lids peel open, and I cannot get back to sleep. Grrrrr

Menopause + Alcohol

Oh, the menopause, yes it brings a myriad of symptoms, mood swings, insomnia and sleepless nights, the very embarrassing hot flashes, the waterworks, yes, we can cry at the drop of a hat one minute and want to take someone’s eyes out the next, and we can’t control it.

But anecdotally, many women say that drinking makes those mood swings, hot flashes, and insomnia worse, I found that red wine particularly upset me, and there are a number of small studies that seem to hold up to that claim.

But where you are in your menopause transition seems to matter too.

A 2007 study showed that perimenopausal women who drink had a lower risk for hot flashes compared with women who never drink alcohol. The researchers measured the participants’ sex hormone levels and noticed that they were not affected by alcohol use.

It could be that higher blood glucose levels are decreasing the hot flashes and it is also possible that the alcohol is causing dilation of blood vessels, which could be linked to hot flashes.

If you’re postmenopausal and wondering why you’re still having hot flashes, alcohol could at least partially be at fault.

As for wine, anecdotally, the dryer the red the worse the hot flashes, guess what my favourite wine is???? A lovely glass of Amarone, a dry red.

Is it the tannins? We don’t know yet.

And, of course, it varies from one woman to the next.

Natural wines, which contain fewer sulphides, sweeteners, colourings, and other additives, may agree with you better, but again, there’s no data to back that up yet.

Regardless of what’s in your glass, let moderation be your guide or try the non-alcoholic versions or fizz, gin or vodka that are becoming more readily available.

I’m off to get a large glass of water…..

More information Menopause & Alcohol Article