Do you love enjoying a glass of wine with dinner? Or, perhaps, a couple of drinks when you go out to eat with friends? Even if you’ve tolerated alcohol well throughout your whole adult life, you might find that menopause can change your response to alcohol. 

During perimenopause or menopause, many women find that their hormonal symptoms get a whole lot worse when they drink alcohol. But why? Keep reading below to learn more about the correlation between menopausal symptoms and alcohol consumption.

Poor Sleep from Alcohol 

Have you ever noticed you sleep especially poorly after drinking? Numerous studies have linked alcohol to poor sleep patterns, impacting REM sleep. When you drink alcohol, the amount of time spent in REM sleep is reduced.

Perimenopause or menopause in itself can cause impaired sleep too. Many women experience hot flashes and night sweats, impacting the quality of sleep. In addition, the changes in hormones that occur during menopause may cause insomnia too.

The combination of alcohol-related sleep impairments and menopause symptoms can cause some women to have worsened symptoms. Even many non-menopausal younger women find they have uncomfortable symptoms from alcohol at night, such as a fast-racing heart,  anxiety, or even panic attacks.

Alcohol and Hot Flashes

Some research has suggested that consuming alcohol during menopause can worsen hot flashes. In a study that examined 300 women, results showed that alcohol raised internal body temperature and increased the prevalence of night sweats and hot flashes.

Alcohol Raises Cortisol

While drinking occasionally is unlikely to have a profound effect on your cortisol levels, regular alcohol consumption has been linked to increased cortisol. Several studies have suggested that alcohol consumption enhanced cortisol production, which is exactly the opposite of what you want in menopause. Increases in cortisol can leave you with uncomfortable symptoms (that make your menopausal symptoms worse!)

Alcohol Impairs Fat Burning

Beyond the worsened hormonal side effects, drinking alcohol during menopause stands in the way of optimal weight loss. Weight loss during menopause is already difficult for many women, due to the changes in hormones during this time period. 

To understand why alcohol consumption slows weight loss, consider your body’s metabolism. When you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes burning off the alcohol first. This means that alcohol must first be burned before your body can start on the sugars and carbohydrates you’ve consumed. Only after alcohol, sugar and carbohydrates do your body transition to burning protein and then finally fats.

In menopause, your goal is to transform your body into a fat-fueled (fat-burning)  machine! Alcohol is the first food that stands in your way of reaching fat burning.

Natural Lowering of Alcohol Tolerance with Age

With age, you might also experience a natural lowering of alcohol tolerance. If you feel like you no longer can drink much without feeling it, this might be why. As we age, our bodies struggle harder to metabolize alcohol. If you drink alcohol during perimenopause or menopause, you might feel the effects more strongly. For this reason, many women tend to drink very little or not at all during menopause.

alcohol and menopause

What Does This Mean?

The effects of alcohol on menopausal women are all interconnected. Drinking alcohol can increase your cortisol and blood sugar, which thereby impacts weight loss. Consumption of alcohol impairs fat burning, which also impacts weight loss. The negative symptoms associated with drinking in menopause (like increased heart rate, night sweats, anxiety, hot flashes, etc) then contribute to worsened sleep, creating the “perfect storm”.

Whenever possible, I recommend removing alcohol from your diet to see how you respond. For some women, alcohol in moderation is fine. Others find that their decreased tolerance and uncomfortable symptoms are enough to keep them away from drinking. If you’re a regular drinker, take small steps at first to reduce your alcohol consumption. Slowly, you may find you feel better.

Alcohol and Menopause: Cutting Back

Cutting back or removing alcohol from your diet is a great step towards improving your health and managing your menopause symptoms. Want to learn more about achieving greater health? Follow Menopause the Primal Way on Instagram at @menopausetheprimalway and on Facebook too. You’ll find daily tips to help you navigate menopause and improve your health, day by day.