Alcohol and the Menopause

It’s likely that when scrolling through this site, you’ll see this advice: try to avoid alcohol.

On one hand, this might be obvious. As much as we like to believe in those studies that say that drinking wine every night will help you live a longer life, we know that alcohol and the menopause don’t mix. On the other hand, the effects of alcohol on your symptoms might not be immediately obvious. Alcohol increasingly affects both men and women as they age. This is because as we age, our tendons and cartilage lose fluid, which causes us to retain less water. The less water we have in our bodies, the less capable we are of diluting alcohol, leading to higher sensitivity to the effects of alcohol. For women going through the menopause, alcohol directly affects and amplifies your symptoms.

Because menopausal women are more susceptible to anxiety and depression, alcohol can amplify those negative feelings.

Let’s take this scenario: you’re having a quiet night in and decide to pour yourself a glass of wine. That should be fine! But sometimes, that one glass of wine can turn into two, or three (or the entire bottle). Despite how it might initially make you feel, alcohol is above all a depressant. That means that after a few drinks, your brain chemicals will start unbalancing, and your emotions and inhibitions will be more out of your control. Because menopausal women are more susceptible to anxiety and depression, alcohol can amplify those negative feelings.

Beyond the negative emotions, alcohol can disrupt your sleep. Of course, you may fall asleep faster, but you won’t easily fall into REM sleep, which is the kind of sleep where you dream, process, and restore. As the alcohol wears off, your sleep will get lighter and lighter until you eventually wake up; and as you might be aware, a hangover now is a lot worse than a hangover in your early 20s. You’ll be dehydrated, tired, and nauseous. This is the worst state to be in when you’re already suffering from hot flushes, difficulty concentrating, and memory lapses, and will only push you further into a state of anxiety and depression. As just one glass of wine can often lead to more, it’s best to be sure you are in control and that you monitor your alcohol intake if you do choose to take a drink.

Many women use alcohol as a crutch for dealing with the menopause, finding it comforting in the moment.

Yet, the problem could be more than that of the occasional night of over-drinking. Many women use alcohol as a crutch for dealing with the menopause, finding it comforting in the moment. This can be for a lot of reasons, including thinking that it can cure your insomnia, giving you a moment of relief and escape from all your thoughts. But there’s a thin line between a moderate amount of alcohol and too much. The fact of the matter is, using alcohol as a treatment will never fix the problems. Temporary relief is not a solution, at least not when the risks are so high.

First, it’s important to understand why you may have the urge to go for the bottle. If your drinking comes from a place of insecurity, of fear, or of need for relief or escape, then you should try to remember and remind yourself that it is not a solution in the slightest. You will only wake up feeling worse, and getting yourself stuck in a cycle. Remember, you can’t find happiness at the bottom of a bottle. Instead, try to understand your problems more deeply and find a longer-term solution to achieve happiness. Alternatively, if you drink as a remedy for more physical symptoms, like insomnia or body aches, know that there are healthier, alternative treatments that will get to the root of the problem, rather than cover it up (see our symptoms page for further tips)!

It’s important to be honest with yourself and your habits to get the help you need.

The worst-case scenario is that you fall into alcohol dependence or alcoholism. If you think you may be heading down that path, or feel you are already there, do not hesitate to reach out for help, even if it’s just to a friend at first. This is a serious issue that will not just affect your life, but will affect the lives of the people around you. It’s important to be honest with yourself and your habits to get the help you need. You’ve still got a long time to live life and so many people who want to see you happy. This is your life, and it’s not to be wasted!

If you are struggling to control your alcohol intake and want to speak to someone about it confidentially, visit the AA website or freephone the national helpline on 0800 9177 650.

RELATED ARTICLE: THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING


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