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Alcohol and Health

How Does Alcohol Affect You During Your Period?

August 9, 2023
10 min read
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A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 9, 2023
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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.
August 9, 2023
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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.
August 9, 2023
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Reframe Content Team
August 9, 2023
10 min read

No one has to tell you that being on your period is no fun. From the PMS and mood swings, to the cramping, headaches, and general fatigue, our body and minds can take a pretty big hit during our menstrual cycle. And while a glass of wine might sound like just the thing, adding alcohol to the mix might just make things worse.

Alcohol Can Affect Your Hormones

While we might be tempted to pick up a glass of wine or some other drink to calm our nerves, drinking during our period can adversely affect our hormone levels. Alcohol increases the body’s production of both estrogen and testosterone. Too much of either can exacerbate PMS symptoms, especially mood swings and irritability.

Several studies have found that even low to moderate amounts of alcohol can increase PMS symptoms. However, the more we drink, the greater our chance of feeling worse.

Despite the immediate “high” we might experience from increased dopamine levels, alcohol is actually a depressant that can heighten feelings of sadness. If we’re prone to feeling blue during our period, drinking will likely only increase these feelings.

Alcohol Can Worsen Cramps

Some of us might assume that the sedative effect of alcohol helps soothe cramps during our menstrual cycle. However, alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases urination and dehydrates us — and dehydration can actually make cramps worse. And if we’re prone to headaches during our period, dehydration certainly doesn’t help.

Furthermore, alcohol increases prostaglandin levels, which can worsen cramps. Prostaglandins are a group of lipids created at sites of infection to assist in healing illness or injuries. These lipids control processes such as blood flow, inflammation, and formation of blood clots. During our period, prostaglandins trigger contractions in our uterine muscle. The higher our prostaglandin levels, the more severe our cramps.

Alcohol Can Increase Cravings

If you find yourself reaching for sweet or savory treats on your period, you’re not alone. Many women experience cravings during their menstrual cycle. But alcohol can actually make these cravings worse. In fact, drinking alcohol leads to lower-than-normal blood sugar levels, triggering craving — especially for sweets.

Furthermore, part of the reason we might feel hungrier and crave certain foods during our period is a lack of hydration. Adding alcohol to the mix will likely only increase our cravings due to its dehydrating effect.

Alcohol Can Worsen Fatigue

Many women feel lethargic and tired during their menstrual cycle due in large part to lower iron levels in their blood. Alcohol has a sedative effect, slowing down our central nervous system. While it might help us fall asleep faster, alcohol causes significant sleep disruptions and can worsen our overall quality of sleep. If we already have trouble sleeping during our cycle — as many women do — alcohol will likely make us more fatigued.

Alcohol Can Lead to “Heavier” Periods

Alcohol can also make our periods heavier or cause us to bleed more during our menstrual cycle. This is largely because alcohol is a blood thinner and increases estrogen levels.

Some studies have shown that high alcohol consumption can also lead to irregular cycles due to increased estrogen levels.Furthermore, maintaining a high estrogen state over time can lead to several health issues, such as an increased risk for certain types of breast cancer.

However, alcohol affects each person differently. Other studies have found that heavy drinking doesn’t disrupt our menstrual cycle or cause irregular menses.

A Note About Fertility

It’s worth noting that heavy alcohol consumption can drastically affect our fertility. Over time, heavy drinking can diminish our ovaries’ reserve of egg cells, making it harder for us to get pregnant.

Studies have shown that more than 10 drinks per week can significantly reduce our ability to conceive. However, research also indicates that even low to moderate alcohol consumption (one to five drinks a week) can reduce chances of conception.

Effects Vary From Woman to Woman

It’s important to keep in mind that alcohol’s effect on our period varies from person to person. Some of us might notice that alcohol exacerbates our symptoms, while others might not notice any effect at all.

Similarly, even though one alcoholic beverage every once in a while likely won’t affect our period or fertility, heavy drinking and binge drinking can cause significant issues. Over time, we might find that our periods are irregular or, in extreme cases, that they have stopped altogether.

Managing Your Menstrual Cycle

If we find alcohol has a particularly strong effect on our period, it’s best not to drink. If we do choose to drink, it’s best to avoid fruity cocktails or alcoholic beverages that are high in sugars, as this can create a spike in blood sugar that can worsen menstrual symptoms.

Here are a few more tips for managing our menstrual cycle:

  • Stay hydrated: During our period, our body is losing fluid and naturally becomes more dehydrated. It’s always important to drink water, but it’s especially important to stay hydrated during our menstrual cycle.
  • Avoid caffeine: Caffeine is an inflammatory substance that might further exacerbate PMS symptoms. Try limiting your intake or drinking one glass of water alongside every caffeinated drink.
  • Eat well: Certain foods can help us manage cramps and menstrual symptoms. For instance, eggs, leafy greens, ginger, bananas, and salmon are full of vitamins and nutrients that can help ease period pains.
  • Get plenty of sleep: Getting proper sleep is always important, but it’s even more important during our menstrual cycle as our body undergoes a loss of blood. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. If possible, you might even schedule in a 10-15 nap during the day.

The Bottom Line

Mixing alcohol with our period can be a dangerous combo, worsening our cramps, increasing our cravings and fatigue, and exacerbating our mood swings. Some of us might notice more severe effects than others. Given alcohol’s negative effect on our physical and mental health under normal circumstances, it’s wise to limit our intake or avoid it altogether. If you’re struggling to control your alcohol intake, consider trying Reframe. We’ve helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and become healthier in the process.

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