How is Alcohol affecting your Hormones?

Febfast is almost over but it’s always a good time to think about our relationship with alcohol. The pandemic has brought seismic changes to our daily lives, shifting our habits of consumption and affecting our health, both physical and emotional.  Drinking became a pretty popular option during lockdown when we were looking for ways to cope with all the coronavirus feelings. 

What started during lockdown has become habitual for many people and we’re drinking more than ever before. December 2020 was the highest ever month for alcohol sales, with close to $2 billion worth of alcohol sold in Australia.  The gender difference in alcohol consumption is also shifting. Women are now drinking almost as much as men. 

Alcohol causes a range of health problems and being mindful of how much you’re drinking is an important aspect of self-care.  Drinking alcohol is associated with serious health risks including cancer, cognitive decline, heart disease, and liver failure. Alcohol can also have less obvious impacts on women’s health including worsening PMS, perimenopause symptoms and disrupted sleep. Sex related differences in the way our bodies process alcohol mean that even moderate consumption can have significant impacts on women’s wellbeing.  

Healthy Hormones

Alcohol interferes with a number of aspects of female hormone balance and can worsen symptoms of pms, perimenopause and fibroids. Oestrogen is metabolised and inactivated in the liver.  Alcohol impacts on the ability of the liver to do this important job, resulting in higher levels of circulating oestrogen, also known as oestrogen dominance. Excess oestrogen can worsen pms symptoms, and is a risk factor for breast and ovarian cancer. Alcohol also lowers progesterone. Low progesterone is associated with irregular and heavy bleeding, as well as anxiety, insomnia and depression. 

Alcohol when Pregnant or planning a pregnancy

If you drink alcohol while pregnant, the baby gets approximately the same amount of alcohol as you do. This can lead to a number of health problems including miscarriage, low birth weight, birth defects, premature birth and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. There is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy.

Alcohol Impacts Sleep Quality

A good night’s sleep is a cornerstone of optimal health and wellbeing. Poor sleep decreases our cognitive performance, disrupts blood sugar regulation and increases stress hormones. A drink in the evening might feel like it helps with winding down before bed, but even small amounts of alcohol can lead to poorer quality sleep.   

Conscious consumption of alcohol is an essential part of women’s wellbeing and self-care. Reducing or eliminating alcohol is a great first step towards better hormone balance, lower stress hormones and improving sleep quality, but sometimes our bodies need more support. As your health practitioner, I use acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrient supplements to help you find optimal health and happy hormones.

Shrub – A Non-alcoholic drinking Vinegar

I’ve been experimenting with shrubs in my search for tasty and interesting alternatives to alcohol. A shrub is a fermented fruit syrup made with sugar and vinegar. Shrubs are delicious but enjoy in moderation as they contain a fair amount of sugar ; ) 

The basic ratio is 1 part fruit, 1 part sugar and 1 part vinegar, but you can adjust this depending on the ripeness of your fruit and how pungent you like it.  Berries and stone fruit are good choices but any fruit should work. Any vinegar will work but I like apple cider vinegar to add another flavour dimension. 

Combine the fruit and sugar in a glass bowl. Mash the fruit a little to release some juices. Cover with plastic and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. 

Stir in the vinegar, cover again and leave for a further 24 hours at room temperature. 

Transfer the bowl to the fridge and leave for 7 days. 

Strain the syrup, discarding the fruit pulp. Serve with ice, fresh herbs and sparkling water.