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Alcohol and Health

Does Alcohol Affect Hormones in Women?

Published:
July 10, 2023
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7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 10, 2023
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7 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 10, 2023
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7 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 10, 2023
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7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 10, 2023
·
7 min read

At the heart of countless celebrations, romantic dinners, and casual hangouts is a familiar element — a toast with our favorite alcoholic beverages. Whether it's a champagne toast at a friend's wedding or a leisurely glass of wine at the end of a long day, alcohol finds a place in various aspects of our social life. 

But while these instances of joy, relaxation, and camaraderie bring us momentary pleasure, have we considered the unseen impact they might be having on our bodies, particularly our hormones? Especially for women, the interplay between alcohol and hormones is significant and warrants our attention.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through our bloodstream, influencing everything from our mood and metabolism to our growth and reproduction. They help keep our bodily functions running smoothly, and they’re instrumental in maintaining our health.

But how does alcohol influence this hormonal balance, particularly in women? The answer lies in alcohol's unique ability to interfere with various hormonal pathways, each with a distinct set of health implications.

Alcohol and Estrogen

The first hormone to note in this discourse is estrogen. Often associated with femininity, estrogen plays a key role in the female reproductive system. However, research shows that alcohol can cause estrogen levels to spike, and maintaining a high estrogen state over time may lead to several health issues. These can range from minor complications like irregular periods to severe conditions like an increased risk for certain types of breast cancer

This is especially important to keep in mind for women receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Make sure you talk to your doctor before mixing alcohol and HRT! 

Alcohol and Progesterone

Then we have progesterone, another critical player in women's health. Progesterone, in contrast to estrogen, is known to decrease in response to alcohol consumption. This hormone is vital for regulating menstrual cycles and supporting pregnancy, and lower levels can potentially result in menstrual irregularities and fertility issues. So if you’re wondering whether alcohol can affect your period, the answer is yes! While one glass of wine may not be an issue, binge drinking can worsen period and PMS symptoms. Watch out for sugary cocktails as well — blood sugar spikes are also known to make periods even more unpleasant.

Diagram about the effects of alcohol on hormones

Alcohol and Testosterone

While testosterone is usually associated with men, it plays an important role in women’s reproductive health as well. Moderate alcohol consumption may not have a dramatic impact, but heavy and chronic drinking can disrupt hormonal balance, potentially leading to reduced testosterone levels in women. This can result in various health issues and affect overall well-being. This hormonal imbalance may manifest in various symptoms, such as reduced muscle mass, altered mood, and changes in sexual function. Quitting alcohol will increase testosterone back to its normal levels, helping you feel like your best self.

Alcohol and Cortisol

Next in line is cortisol, our primary stress hormone. Its job is to prepare our body for stressful situations — a primitive response that helped our ancestors survive threatening situations. When we consume alcohol, our cortisol levels can surge, stimulating a stress response. Persistently high cortisol levels can contribute to a slew of health problems, including mood swings, weight gain, sleep disturbances, and a weakened immune system.

Alcohol and Growth Hormone

Finally, let's consider growth hormone, which, as the name suggests, is essential for the growth and repair of cells. Alcohol consumption, particularly heavy drinking, can interfere with the normal release pattern of this hormone, specifically during our restful sleep periods. This disruption may impair our body's repair and recovery processes, impacting overall health.

Alcohol and Women’s Hormones: What Can We Do?

With such profound impacts, it's clear that excessive alcohol consumption can set the stage for a hormonal roller-coaster ride in our bodies, leaving in its wake a trail of health complications. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The human body is remarkably resilient: it can often restore balance if given the chance.

Although the hormone imbalances will be worse immediately after we stop drinking, we’ll feel better within a few days. After a couple weeks, our bodies will settle into the optimal hormonal balance. The timeline can vary based on how much we were drinking and whether we cut back or quit altogether. Every body and every journey is different, but we all feel better with a healthier relationship with alcohol. 

So, what can we do to support our bodies in maintaining their hormonal equilibrium? The most straightforward strategy is to limit alcohol intake. This could mean opting for non-alcoholic alternatives at social events, limiting the number of drinks we have in a single session, and incorporating alcohol-free days into our week.

These small changes can significantly impact our hormonal health, letting our bodies recalibrate and restoring hormonal balance, promoting better health outcomes in the long run. This approach is not about depriving ourselves of the pleasures of life but rather about finding a sweet spot between enjoyment and health.

Alcohol and Women’s Hormones: The Takeaways

The bottom line is that we must foster a relationship with alcohol that prioritizes our health. It's about raising a toast to not just the moment but also to our well-being. After all, every time we sip our favorite drink, we're not merely tasting its flavors — they’re also impacting our intricate hormonal system.

So let's appreciate our hormones for the silent, tireless work they do to keep us healthy and thriving. Let's salute our incredible bodies, our invisible hormonal heroes, and our health. Because, in the end, it's not just about living the moment; it’s also about ensuring we can live many more such moments, in health and happiness. 

Find Hormonal Balance and Reclaim Your Well-Being With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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