Don't ask me to give up my wine: why alcohol and menopause don't mix
"Don’t ask me to give up my wine!"
This is something I regularly hear from coaching clients, and sometimes, jokingly from those who decide to train to become Menopause Champions or Coaches.
The thought of being asked, or required, to give up alcohol can be quite a terrifying thought for some.
After all, we live in a society where enjoying an occasional drink is utterly normal, often expected, and it might even seem harmless.
Social occasions are often based around alcohol – we catch up with friends for a glass of wine in a pub, or we go for drinks after work. Meals start and end with a drink and we all like to offer a toast at a wedding or special occasion.
Alcohol and menopause - the risks
However, there are growing concerns about the relationship between alcohol and the challenges posed by menopause, and while it is never my intention to tell someone how to live their life – I am a Menopause Coach after all – it is worth looking at the risks associated with alcohol consumption.
Because when we take a closer look at the risks, it certainly points towards a re-evaluation of our habits and patterns around drinking alcohol.
Let's take the one thing everyone thinks about: breast cancer, an ever-looming concern for women, which presents a complex relationship with alcohol consumption. Even moderate drinking shows a small yet notable increase in risk, while heavier consumption magnifies this threat.
There is a lot of research yet to be undertaken to better understand the interplay between alcohol and oestrogen levels. Until we know more, it seems sensible to err on the side of caution.
Beyond breast cancer, alcohol's role in some of those key menopause symptoms is bigger than you might realise: the trigger effects of alcohol on hot flashes is well known but there are many other effects too – such as the ability of alcohol to interfere with the deep sleep that we all need during and after menopause.
Many people enjoy a drink or two, assuming it will help them to relax, and yet this aspect of sleep disturbance shows that there are better ways, other than booze, to help improve sleep.
When we think about the impacts of alcohol consumption during menopause, we need to bear in mind the broader health effects. From heightened risks of various cancers to harmful interactions with common medications, the consequences of alcohol are far-reaching.
For example, the correlation between alcohol consumption and cardiovascular risks is well known: with women facing an increased susceptibility to alcohol-related heart disease, particularly with excessive intake.
Likewise, the relationship between heavy drinking and the onset of central obesity, coupled with the risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis, and increased chances of type 2 diabetes is worth bearing in mind.
Alcohol and Mental Health
On of the most common concerns seen in people going through menopause is the toll on mental health. Menopausal people are, as you probably know, vulnerable to low mood and depressive feelings, which can be exacerbated by almost any level of alcohol intake.
There is a spike in suicide ideation and death by suicide around the age of menopause. Due to the way that alcohol reduces social inhibitions, we often forget that it is itself, a depressant.
When it comes to alcohol and menopause, a proactive approach to health seems prudent. Equipping ourselves with knowledge about the risks associated with alcohol consumption empowers us to make informed choices for our immediate and long-term well-being.
Talking about our reasons for drinking, and encouraging mindful consumption rather than ‘banning’ alcohol, paves the way for a healthier, more informed approach to navigating alcohol and menopause.
We can still enjoy all the moments where alcohol is found - exploring alcohol free alternatives can be a delight in itself!
This way, we are able to prioritise our health and well-being during this transformative phase of life.
While it's okay to enjoy an occasional drink, it's crucial to be mindful of the potential risks that come with any level of alcohol consumption during menopause.
By being proactive and making informed decisions, we can take control of our health and enjoy this new phase of life to the fullest.
So, let's raise a glass (of sparkling elderflower perhaps?) to a healthier, happier menopause!