Still debating the benefits of Dry January? Understanding alcohols effect on your hormones may make it an easy choice!
January. The days are short, the temperature has plummeted and we’re all feeling the effects of our festive overindulging; we can’t bear to even look at a mince pie or a glass of wine. Instead, we’re ready to start the new year how we mean to go on; fitter, healthier and making our wellbeing a priority.
January is the perfect time to drop bad habits and after the festivities of December it’s no wonder cutting down alcohol is high on many people’s list of New Year’s resolutions. Every year millions of Brits sign up to Dry January, vowing to stay off the booze for an entire month. According to Alcohol Change, 4 million people took part in Dry January in 2020, a number that is sure to increase this year as pubs and bars remain shut due to Coronavirus lockdowns.
The benefits of going alcohol-free are well known; brighter skin, more energy, stable moods and saving money just to name a few. But what about our hormones? Does quitting alcohol have an affect on our hormones?
Let’s take a look!
Alcohol and Hormones
Our hormones play an important part in keeping our mind and bodies healthy. They act as messengers, releasing the right amount of hormone at the right time, keeping the body functioning and coordinating correctly but alcohol stops the glands that produce our hormones from working properly. This can then in turn lead to a variety of health issues that affect the following.
Hormone Health Issues As A Result Of Alcohol
Energy levels drop because of alcohol
As our bodies struggle to release the right amount of hormones we might find that we become tired and lack energy. This is because alcohol affects the hormone that regulates glucose levels which is responsible for keeping our blood sugar levels healthy. Long term heavy drinkers may experience a glucose intolerance or find they suffer both hypoglycemic (dangerously low bloody sugar levels) and hyperglycemic (dangerously high blood sugar level) episodes.
Cut down alcohol for Bone Health
Hormones help to maintain calcium levels in the body which is essential for strong, healthy bones. Too much alcohol can disrupt the production of these hormones which can lead to bone diseases and deficiencies such as osteoporosis or reduce bone mass which can lead to fractures.
The female hormone estrogen is essential for healthy bones but as we enter the menopause, estrogen levels begin to drop putting us at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis. Doing all you can to keep your bone density high and healthy is essential and cutting back on the alcohol will allow your hormones to do just that!
Alcohol’s effect on the Cortisol hormone
As well as affecting our hormone production alcohol can also increase our body’s cortisol production. High levels of cortisol in the long term can have negative effects on our health including:
- Anxiety and depression
How does alcohol and its effect on hormones relate to Fertility?
Unsurprisingly, alcohol has a negative effect on our reproductive health. Heavy drinking affects our ovaries which can result in hormone deficiencies, fertility issues and a lowered sex drive. Studies suggest that when we drink our bodies begin to produce more estrogen while our progesterone levels start to lower. Although our bodies need estrogen there is evidence to suggest too much can increase your chances of getting breast cancer. Recent studies have shown that women who were heavy drinkers before the menopause had a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those who didn’t drink or who were moderate drinkers.
For menopausal women, it’s a slightly different story. Research suggests that some women develop alcohol intolerances as they approach the menopause but if you don’t experience any adverse reactions to drinking then a few drinks could actually be just what you need.
As mentioned earlier, as we approach the menopause our bodies natural production of estrogen begins to slow down but alcohol can help stimulate this process. Estrogen has a variety of health benefits including supporting our immune systems, increasing bone density, assisting with cardiovascular health and slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s.
However, if you’re having hormone replacement therapy (HRT) during the menopause it’s important to moderate how much you’re drinking as again too much estrogen can increase the chances of getting breast cancer.
Just as alcohol increases our estrogen production it also lowers our testosterone levels. In women testosterone (often referred to as the male hormone) is responsible for:
- Healthy bones
- Healthy breasts
- Sex drive
- Menstrual and vaginal health
When our testosterone levels become low we can feel tired, worn out and exhausted with no motivation to do anything. This can be particularly damaging to our mental health when we consider that alcohol is a depressant and will only make these feelings stronger. If you’re more predisposed to mental health issues quitting alcohol completely is a good idea.
Alcohol, You and Your Hormones
Cutting down or completely quitting alcohol has a variety of long term health benefits both on your mental and physical wellbeing. When our bodies aren’t flooded with alcohol or battling the effects of a hangover our hormones are able to work correctly: regulating our bodies and keeping everything working as it should.
While it’s ok to enjoy the odd drink, excessive drinking creates far-reaching, long term damage which is why it’s always important to stick to the government guidelines when it comes to alcohol consumption: consuming no more than 14 units a week and spreading these over the course of a week.
While Dry January is a great way to start when it comes to exploring your relationship with alcohol try and incorporate mindful drinking throughout the rest of the year; your body, especially your hormones, will thank you for it!