Menopause and Alcohol: How It Affects You?

Last updated 12.05.2023 | by Sabrina Johnson | 10 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


As per 2021 data around 84% of adults aged 18 and above consumed alcohol at one time or the other in their life. Of them, around 81.9% were women, and 86.2% were men. The effect of long-term usage of alcohol on the heart isn’t an unknown fact. The data above reveals that women have less alcohol than their male counterparts in their lifetime. Yet, they are more prone to alcohol-induced heart ailments than the latter.

So, from these findings, you can understand that if you are AFAB (assigned female at birth), you should be more cautious about your alcohol intake, particularly when you are nearing the menopausal age.

One of my friends had hot flashes in their severest form at least thrice a week. Moreover, the flashes were even more each time she took to alcohol consumption. Upon seeking medical help, she was advised by the doctor to stop having alcohol for the time being until things got better. And it worked. She felt a lot better, and her sleep improved as well.

Not everyone drinking alcohol may be impacted the same way as my friend. However, facts do state that regular alcohol consumption affects the severity of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

Are you in your mid-40s? Do you drink? Do you find yourself getting warmer after a few glasses of beer or red wine? Well, if you are going through these experiences, let me assure you aren’t alone. Many are going through the same phase, especially if they find it difficult to restrict or limit alcohol intake.

This article will be of immense help if you wish for an insight into the effects of alcohol on women going through menopause. The write-up answers questions like if you can drink alcohol in menopause. It also speaks about the probable risks of overconsumption of alcohol in menopausal women. Let’s take a look.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Symptoms of Menopause? 6 Possible Risks

How does Alcohol Affect the Symptoms of Menopause

When women are in the perimenopause or menopause phase, their bodies undergo many changes. As a result, they experience many symptoms, the intensity of which varies from one woman to the other. Some symptoms that most women experience include hot flashes, sleep problems, night sweats, heartburn, difficulty concentrating, tender breasts, etc.

Alcohol is said to exacerbate most of the symptoms of menopause. Let’s take a look at them one after the other.

1. Alcohol & Hot Flashes

A friend once said, “I thought a few glasses of red wine would make me feel relaxed after a hard day at work. That’s how it was until late. I can’t explain how miserable my flashes would get after every drink. It would keep me awake every night. This wasn’t the same before”. I’m sure this is not just my friend’s story. Many women have faced such an experience as well.

It has been validated through studies that drinking alcohol in excessive amounts increases the incidence of hot flashes. One survey conducted on 293 women between 45 and 55 stated that increased alcohol consumption aggravated hot flashes.

There’s a science behind this. The estrogen hormone plays a significant role in regulating the hypothalamus. It’s the portion of the brain responsible for controlling body temperature, hunger, mood, and heart rate. So, when the estrogen level drops, it loses its ability to regulate the hypothalamus properly. It’s why there’s a fluctuation in the body temperature, resulting in hot flashes.

2. Alcohol & Night Sweats

If you’ve added spicy foods and caffeine to your list of don’ts since they are badly affecting your night sweats, you have one more of your choicest things to include. Yes, you’ve got that right – it is alcohol.

As mentioned, alcohol dilates the blood vessels, increasing the body temperature and heartbeat. It makes the body warm and causes the skin to flush, making you sweat even more. Drinking alcohol near bedtime could worsen your night sweats further. So, if you’re in your menopause or close to it, stay away from alcohol at night. You might think that a drink before bedtime would soothe your nerves. But you are mistaken. It’ll pose more of a trouble than doing good.

3. Alcohol & Sleep Problems

Did you know that women have more sleep disorders in the menopause transition and menopause stage? Studies show that about 47% of women face sleep problems in the menopause transition phase. The percentage is high post-menopause, rising to approximately 60%. To top it all, increased alcohol consumption would worsen things further.

Research shows that an increased alcohol intake is one of the several reasons for reduced sleep in menopausal women.

In cases where you’ve consumed excessive alcohol, you’ll have to get up to pee quite often. It’s because of the diuretic properties alcohol has. When you wake up too often at night, sleep goes for a toss.

Moreover, alcohol also disrupts your circadian rhythm (brain clock), preventing you from a deep night’s sleep. And, if it’s the perimenopause or menopause phase, alcohol could do more harm than good, leaving you sleep-deprived.

4. Alcohol & Mood Swings

Most of us battle with mood swings, mainly when we cross 40s. It doesn’t take much time for us to get upset about the most insignificant thing that otherwise wouldn’t have mattered. You’ve got to blame the hormones with the same. It’s the estrogen in particular. The levels dip drastically. It impacts your thinking and behavior, making you irritable, anxious, and tired.

Alcohol worsens things since it is known to be a CNS (Central Nervous System) depressant as it slows down brain activity. It also affects your self-control, mood, and behavior.

So, you can very well understand the ill effects drinking could have on your mood when you are in the menopausal phase.

5. Alcohol & Bone Health

The estrogen levels are again the main culprit, leading to poor bone health and loss. Studies have also linked the increased consumption of alcohol to low bone health. As the bones become fragile, menopausal women are at a greater risk of fractures. So, during this phase, if you don’t keep a check on your dietary habits, particularly alcohol intake, things could get worse for you healthwise.

6. Alcohol & Other Health Problems

Increased alcohol consumption over a prolonged period also affects your overall health, particularly when you have hit the menopausal phase. It puts you at risk of obesity, increasing the possibility of heart disease. A study conducted on postmenopausal women found that those who consumed alcohol over a long time were at a greater risk of breast cancer.

Can Women Drink Alcohol in Menopause?

After everything we spoke about above, you must be wondering if you could still have alcohol in menopause or not. Well, the amount you have actually matters. If you wish to continue drinking after you’ve stepped into your late 40s, you must take utmost care of the quantity.

Your alcohol consumption depends on your overall health. Say, if you are on any medication, you must talk to the doctor before considering having a drink. Some medicines do not go well with alcohol, and even drinking in fewer amounts may lead to serious concerns.

However, to get the maximum amount of health benefits and to be at a lessened risk of health problems during menopause, moderate consumption of alcohol is fine. It means women can have up to one drink daily, which means no more than seven drinks weekly.

The North American Menopause Society mentions that menopausal women consuming 2-5 drinks daily are at an increased risk of health hazards.

When talking about a glass of alcohol, you should ensure you have the measurements in place to avoid overdrinking.

A standard drink means 14 grams or 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. A beer of 12 ounces has a 5% alcohol content. In malt liquor of 8 ounces, the alcohol content is 7%. At the same time, a wine of 5 ounces contains 12% alcohol. It’s the data provided by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Can Alcohol Help During Menopause

A lot has been mentioned about the adverse effects of alcohol in menopause. But certain studies have highlighted the positive aspects. According to one study, if consumed in measured amounts, alcohol contributes to a woman’s overall well-being in and after menopause.

Increased consumption of alcohol could trigger hot flashes. But moderate amounts may even help provide relief from hot flashes. One study associated the benefits of beer with lessening incidences of hot flashes.

Another study deduced that women consuming one or one and a half glasses of white wine a day were less prone to have early menopause by about 19%. Contrastingly red wine was a little less effective, lessening early menopause chances by 10% on average.

I would still say that you have to consider your overall health before deciding on your alcohol intake. A drink once or twice a week will perhaps be fine. However, if hot flashes, night sweats, moodiness, and sleep issues keep getting worse each time you have a drink, then you would have to give it a second thought.

A Few Tips to Keep in Mind

It would help to remember a few things regarding alcohol consumption in the perimenopause and menopause phases. Let’s take a look at some of the things that you need to keep in mind for improved health.

  • Make sure that you set a limit for yourself regarding the amount of alcohol you should consume each day.
  • Healthy women can have a glass of alcohol daily, as mentioned above. Yet, it would be better if you went without alcohol some days a week.
  • Refrain from Binge Drinking that’s what many of us do, and unknowingly harm ourselves
  • If you’ve resorted to drinking to stay stress-free, try alternative techniques like yoga, meditation, etc.
  • Maintain a healthy diet to compensate for the alcohol you consume.
  • Keeping yourself physically and mentally stimulated will positively impact your mood.

FAQs

Q. What are the substitutes for alcoholic beverages that women may shift to in menopause?

If you want to say no to alcohol and can’t get over your liking, you can choose similar substitutes. Several non-alcoholic beverages and cocktails are available.

Q. Can drinking alcohol in menopause make you forgetful?

The low estrogen levels affect brain function, leading to forgetfulness. And when you have a combination of alcohol and menopause, things will worsen. Remembering important things will be a challenge. You wouldn’t want to get into a severe situation of brain fog, right?

Conclusion

So to sum it up, it’s essential to control your alcohol cravings during menopause. One drink daily is fine, but anything more than that will add to your menopause woes. Stay healthy, eat well, and work out well. It will help you remain stress-free and keep you happy.

References:

  1. Can You Drink During Menopause?
  2. Why Alcohol Affects Women More in Menopause
  3. Why menopause and alcohol don’t mix
  4. Perimenopause and Drinking Alcohol
  5. Menopause care you can trust
  6. Estrogen signaling in the hypothalamus
  7. How to Protect Your Brain Health During Menopause
  8. Determinants of hot flashes and night sweats
  9. How Alcohol Affects Your Body
  10. Mayo Clinic Minute: Why alcohol and menopause can be a dangerous mix
  11. Sleep Problems and Menopause: What Can I Do?
  12. What causes mood swings during menopause?
  13. medlineplus.gov
  14. Menopause and osteoporosis
  15. nih.gov
  16. bmj.com
  17. cdc.gov
  18. 9 Tricks to Battle Memory Loss in Menopause
  19. Moderate alcohol consumption contributes to women’s well-being through the menopausal transition
  20. health.gov
  21. Do Alcohol and Menopause Mix?

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.