If we take a common sense approach, it seems fairly likely that alcohol consumption may well have an impact on your menstrual cycle; after all, the ways alcohol affect general health are well known; reduced inhibitions, slowed reflexes and cognition and all of the infamous hangover symptoms are well known.
Alcohol consumption is particularly risky if you have a family history of alcohol abuse; we know that drug alcohol depend ence causes massive issues within our society.
Alcohol consumption, especially excessive alcohol intake, can affect every aspect of your physical and mental health. It is believed that alcohol consumption may worsen cramps and affect your menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods.
While alcohol consumption will affect all women differently and there is some conflicting research, it’s clear that alcohol affects the menstrual cycle too- and how much alcohol you consume plays a role too. More research is clearly needed.
What is a menstrual cycle?
Menstruating is the monthly shedding of the womb lining.
Immediately after a menstrual period, the follicular phase commences and estrogen levels begin to rise again. The uterus begins to build a cushioned layer of tissue and extra blood, in anticipation of a fertilised egg. The luteinizing hormone causes the ovaries to release an egg.
During the luteal phase, the egg that was released from the ovary travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. If pregnancy does not occur, that womb lining will shed, commencing a new period. Menstrual fluid is released from the uterus to the vagina. This is the menstrual period or menstrual bleeding.
Also known as the menstrual cyle, this process of preparing for possible pregnancy usually takes around 28-30 days. The menstrual cycle is usually 4-7 days long and occurs when the woman does not fall pregnant.
Women and alcohol
Alcoholism causes an enormous burden for society with estimates averaging 223bn annually. ( Bouchery et al. 2012). Although alcohol addiction was historically higher among men, recent epidemiological evidence suggests the gap in alcohol abuse among women compared to men is decreasing.
Besides the above, the genders are also prone to certain health conditions and diseases. For example, women who drink more often will develop liver problems eg liver cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis or heart problems such as heart disease ( NIAAA 2011 ).
Alcohol consumption will affect all women differently, with some reporting hormonal fluctuations, premenstrual symptoms/ PMS symptoms, irregular cycles, and some even worry that high doses can affect fertility.
The National Institute of Alcohol abuse and Alcoholism states that regular binge drinking can cause delayed or skipped periods, along with other period problems.
For pregnant people, even relatively small amounts of alcohol affect the development of the baby, so it is best to avoid alcohol consumption completely. Research has shown that alcohol consumption can affect the possibility of conception, and, indeed, live birth.
Does alcohol affect menstrual flow?
It’s possible that alcohol consumption may increase your menstrual flow- Not only does alcohol act as a blood thinner, it also increases your estrogen levels. Therefore, heavy drinking may lead to a heavy period, and subsequently, very unpleasant menstrual cramps.
It is thought that the dehydration associated with heavy drinking can impede the flow of menstrual blood, further contributing to cramps. So, if you are planning to consume alcohol, it’s a good idea to prevent nasty aftereffects by staying well hydrated.
Furthermore, it seems that the more alcohol you consume, the greater the impact on your hormone levels. Also, alcohol affects you differently depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle.
Does alcohol consumption affect your hormone levels?
Absolutely! It seems that just one alcoholic beverage can impact your hormones, and the more alcohol you drink, the greater the impact. It’s very clear that alcohol consumption affects the endocrine system, the network of glands which moderates estrogen levels, progesterone levels, cortisol levels and bone density, affecting the entire body.
Drinking alcohol can also increase your androgen levels during the follicular phase. Binge drinking will clearly have an impact on menstrual cycles.
Furthermore, alcohol consumption keeps your liver busy- in turn affecting your blood sugar levels and hormone levels- menopausal and perimenopausal women may experience an increase in night sweats and hot flashes after just an alcoholic drink or two.
Young women will also feel the affects of binge drinking after just a few fruity cocktails- so it’s well worth keeping an eye on how much alcohol you are consuming, particularly during your menstrual phase.
Can drinking a lot of alcohol delay your period?
Can alcohol consumption delay your period? Absolutely. Regular binge drinking- as in, consuming around 4-5 drinks move times a month- can cause all sorts of havoc for your menstrual cycle. If your alcohol consumption is high enough to affect your menstrual cycle, we would recommend looking at the frequency at which you drink alcohol.
We’ve even heard rumours of women increasing alcohol intake in the hopes of stopping their menstrual cycle while they’re on it: Let’s be clear, it won’t work! And if it did, amenorrhea is actually pretty serious and worth a trip to the doctor.
Your menstrual cycle is a healthy process and not worth messing around with- especially when high alcohol intake can have all kinds of negative effects on your body, even aside from irregular periods, fluctuating hormones, off blood sugar levels, and worse period cramps.
Generally, the effects of alcohol- dehydration, fatigue, and headache- will only be worse for menstruating women.
A few alcoholic drinks every now and then is fine, but aim for moderate alcohol consumption.
Does being on your period make alcohol hit harder?
Alcohol can affect everything from your heart health to your uterine lining! It’s especially important to be aware of the impact of alcohol consumption if you have a family history of estrogen dominance or cycle irregularities. Ideally, you would avoid alcohol during your periods.
Alcohol tolerance seems to be affected by the menstrual cycle, furthermore, the dehydration associated with drinking chronic amounts of alcohol seems to intensify this affect. If you do choose to drink alcohol, ensure to drink plenty of water.
Menstrual cycles run in phases, and it seems that women are more likely to consume alcohol during particular stages- namely, the follicular phase and the luteal phase, and, unfortunately, these are the times when alcohol is more likely to hit harder.
If possible, choose alcohol free drinks such as mocktails or sparkling water instead of drinking alcohol, especially during that luteal phase. A good multivitamin is essential to help you replenish your lost vitamin stores.
Alcohol consumption throughout the menstrual cycle: The bottom line
Generally, the affects of alcohol consumption are very well documented-there is less research on the affects of drinking alcohol on the menstrual cycle.
Anecdotally, many women report an increase in period cramps and pre menstrual distress, particularly after binge drinking alcohol. The limited research also shows that the menstrual cycle as a whole might be impacted, with periods showing up late or not at all.
It is thought that the dehydration associated with alcohol consumption can lead to a thickening of menstrual fluids, which, in turn, can worsen cramps.
It would be advisable to avoid drinking alcohol entirely while you’re on your period. If you do choose to drink alcohol, try to stick to the guidelines, not exceeding 14 units per week.