Alcohol and Menopause
Have you noticed your capacity to drink as much alcohol has diminished as you’ve gotten older?
Well sometimes you just have to listen to your body and accept that change is inevitable!
I’ve not been able to drink alcohol for 15 months due to its over stimulatory effects on my bladder, as well it obvious not being a good idea to drink whilst trying to heal my body!
I have missed it – all social occasions are pretty much based around alcohol but I haven’t missed the thick head and slowness of brain the next day. I experienced this recently after I got over excited at being able to drink again and consumed a rather a large glass of red wine.
I used to be able to consume far more with little effect but obviously my body’s tolerance and mechanisms have changed. I have to appreciate that my body has now been working hard to try and keep me well for 50 years !
I’ve found that I can look at this change as I get older in a positive light and thought I’d share my discoveries about alcohol and hormones with you.
Alcohol and menopause
I reckon I’ve been peri menopausal ( that is pre-menopausal ) for quite a few years. It can start from when you’re 35 and last until you hit your 50’s. Looking back at some of the emotional things I did in my 40’s I wouldn’t be surprised if those hormones were to blame 🙂
So for many years I bombarded my body with toxins ( yep that’s what alcohol is, however great that cocktail tastes ) and my hormones were fluctuating wildly. My body was working extra hard trying to keep me balanced.
How the liver works with alcohol and menopause
Your body does this balancing through the process of detoxification of excess hormones through the liver. Alcohol is toxic to the liver – as you may well know – so as you can see I wasn’t off to a great start!
AMAZING FACT ALERT:
Did you know that you can cut your liver in half and it will grow back?! It’s the only organ in the body capable of this regeneration – I find that amazing! But there’s only such much magic the liver can do.
The liver is responsible for so many essential functions such as balancing blood sugar, breaking down fat and protein, producing cholesterol – 80% of which comes from your liver and isn’t all bad as the press make out it’s essential in making hormones.
The liver can’t store alcohol so it breaks it down which it can do in small amounts. Drinking more than one unit and definitely binge drinking, over whelms the poor thing.
Anyway back to the hormones: alcohol has a bad effect on hormones especially oestrogen.
The liver deactivates oestradiol and oestrone into oestriol the less harmful form of oestrogen ready to be eliminated from the body.
The liver also produces a sex hormone binding globulin ( a protein) (SHBG) which controls circulating oestrogen and testosterone in your blood.
So it’s obvious that preventing your liver from doing its hormone wrangling will affect your body over time as hormones become imbalanced.
Are you drinking enough water?
Alcohol is also a diuretic making you want to urinate more often, unless you balance this with a minimum of 1.8 litres of water daily, you’re going to be in negative balance. I preferred tea. Another diuretic.
A hormone called ‘antidiuretic hormone’ does as its name implies and helps prevent the kidneys making too much urine at night but as we get older this hormone drops leading to middle of the night toilet visits. En suite bathrooms become a MUST have 🙂
Don’t think that by not drinking much water you’ll reduce these visits- not having enough fluid makes the urine concentrated so causing the bladder to be unhappy and want to empty. Not drinking enough water can also shrink the bladder and not hold as much fluid, so again you’ll just need to go more often.
Alcohol blocks vital nutrients such as the B vitamins, essential for energy, zinc, calcium and magnesium. It also blocks the conversion of essential fatty acids, omega 3 ( see an earlier post) and decrease the production of prostaglandins which can have an anti-inflammatory and so a positive effect on your body.
Alcohol and hot flushes
During the menopause the cause of the hot flushes is a rise in temperature leading to due to vasodilation – blood vessel enlarge so more blood can flow through to the surface tissues under the skin, so that more heat is lost.
It’s been thought that hot flushes were caused only by the lowering levels of oestrogen. However, researchers now suggest that this is only part of the process. It may be more complicated.
One additional cause could be the part of the brain called the hypothalamus which controls the production of many hormones and our body temperature. It may be that it produces the hormones which cause the hot flushes. More research is required to find out the exact cause, but your hormones and their production are at the centre of it.
How to help your liver
You can support your liver through a few dietary changes but it’s no use doing these and still knocking back glasses of wine every night.
Here are some ideas to help support your liver function:
- Phytoestrogens such as soy, (not processed), edamame ( soya beans ), lentils and flaxseed ( see my earlier post on flaxseed and the menopause ) help stimulate the liver to produce growth hormone binding globulin ( SHBG) and control excess hormones.
- The allium family (e.g. garlic, onions and leeks) and the cruciferous family ( e.g. broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress,)contain sulphur compounds used in the detoxification process.
- Milk thistle is a herb which has been used for over 2000 years. Its substances, especially a flavonoid called silymarin, protect the liver from toxins with anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can also stimulate the growth of new liver cells.
Knowing all this now, I’m more cautious about getting back into the habit of drinking. I’ve decided to appreciate my wines more and drink those I really like rather than drinking for the sake of it.
One expensive bottle of wine instead of 3 cheap ones = less alcohol and more enjoyment 🙂
I hope the above has helped you understand how alcohol can affect your hormones and how, as we get older, we need to show out liver some TLC 🙂
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