Alcohol and its Effects on Women's Hormones
Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

Dr. Geeta Aurangabadkar

Apr 14General wellness

Alcohol and its Effects on Women's Hormones

This article is compiled by Sanjana Varma, a freelance writer at Proactive For Her.

The effects of alcohol are known to all. Women and men should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week to keep health risks from alcohol low. In case you choose to drink more, it's best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days. Alcohol directly affects your hormones in several ways.

Alcohol affects men and women similarly and on some accounts, differently. The alcohol level in a woman’s blood will always be higher than that of a man even when they drink the same amount. Some alcohol is broken down in the stomach before it reaches the bloodstream and this is even less in the case of women who drink a lot.

Let’s take a look at them.

Alcohol can increase your risk of getting breast cancer

Several studies have found a link between alcohol consumption and cancer. A 2014 report by the World Health Organisation concludes that around one in five (21.6%) of all alcohol-related deaths are due to cancer. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women. The more you drink the higher your risk of developing cancer. Alcohol also increases your risk of liver cancer, bowel cancer, mouth cancer, oesophageal cancer (gullet) and laryngeal cancer (voice box).

Alcohol can affect your appearance

Tired eyes, spots and weight gain are common with people who drink too much. Your sleep pattern is affected by alcohol abuse. It dehydrates your body and skin, depriving the skin of essential vitamins and nutrients. The number of calories in a burger is almost equal to two large glasses of wine, hence the weight gain. The amount of fat burned for energy is low in the body of a person who drinks heavily. Alcohol is not meant to be stored in the body, our systems get rid of it as quickly as possible. This process takes precedence over the absorption of nutrients and burning of fat.

Ageing and alcohol

We lose muscle and gain fat as we age. Alcohol breakdown slows down with the creeping age. Menopause triggers hormonal changes which can be a nightmare on its own. Those who take alcohol increase their risk of hot flashes and night sweats which impedes sound sleep. Weight gain is also a known effect. Drinking a lot of alcohol can increase your risk of osteoporosis (a condition that causes bone weakness and promotes easy breakage).

Increase in cortisol levels

Researchers have found that alcohol consumption also increases the body's production of cortisol, your body’s stress hormone. Cortisol can increase blood pressure, focus alertness and attention in the short term. In the long term, cortisol can adversely impact body functions such as bone growth, digestion, reproduction, and wound repair.

Effect on your fertility and menstrual cycle

Heavy alcohol use has negative effects on the female reproductive systems. It can throw your menstrual cycle off the charts. Chronic heavy drinking can affect the ovaries, resulting in fertility issues, hormone deficiencies, and a lowered sex drive. Drinking while pregnant is dangerous as alcohol can increase your chances of miscarriage and numerous birth defects.

Alcohol can cause fluctuating blood sugars

Alcohol interferes with the hormones that regulate glucose levels. Alcohol is known to interfere with insulin secretion, causing temporary hypoglycemia. Glucose production is affected while alcohol is being metabolized. It even limits the intake of glucose by not eating properly when drinking. It can add extra calories and lead to high blood sugars in known diabetic patients.

How does alcohol affect women after menopause?

Alcohol can increase the amount of estrogen in your system. Mild to moderate drinking may have some beneficial effects once your ovaries are less active. Some studies demonstrate improved cardiovascular health, stronger bone density, and better immune function in older women. Higher estrogen levels may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, these positive effects may vary individually and depend on the type, quantity and duration of alcohol intake.

Three ways to cut back on alcohol

Alcohol consumption should be limited. It might seem difficult at first, but here are three ways you can cut back:

  • Try to have many drink free days a week.
  • Indulge in hobbies and other ways of relaxation to beat the stress.
  • Switch to low-alcoholic drinks by checking the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) of the alcohol before you buy it.

Keeping a Healthy Balance

Light drinking may benefit older women, while for younger women moderate drinking seems to have more negative, or neutral impacts. Heavy drinking is certainly a bad idea, no matter your age. Menstrual cycles and fertility are affected in younger women who drink a lot. If you find it hard to cut back on alcohol, join group therapy sessions or enlist the help of a coach to help you through. The support of your family and friends can help tremendously. You can seek the advice of your practitioner, they might prescribe medication for reducing alcohol craving.

Disclaimer - This information is provided for educational purposes and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare practitioners before undertaking any changes in your diet or adding supplements.

Proactive is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalized, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer products and services for out-patient health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause. To know more on the sexual and reproductive health of women, visit