Updated: Feb 2, 2021
For the last two weeks, I've been traveling to beautiful Sedona, AZ with my husband (road trip there and then we stayed for 1.5 weeks). We celebrated to our first wedding anniversary, then he threw a bachelor trip for one of his best friends while I had a girl's weekend with two of my sisters-- all in one of our favorite places!
Needless to say, this trip called for a margaritas! I love having a wine night with my girls, a champagne brunch, or enjoying a drink on a date night as much as anyone… but my relationship with alcohol has changed to make sure that my hormones stay happy and healthy all month long.
If you’re working on balancing your hormones or want to curb PMS and period symptoms like depression, anxiety, bloating, this information can help you out!
How Alcohol Affects Your Hormones
Alcohol can affect how you metabolize estrogen. Estrogen is an amazing hormone! Estrogen not only affects fertility, but it also helps our communication skills, fine motor skills, mood, skin appearance, protects us from osteoporosis, and more. However, you don’t want estrogen to be too high or it will likely inhibit your body's ability to produce the progesterone needed to feel chill and content before your period (that's right-- I said chill and content before your period! It's not only possible, but truly how your body wants to feel). Alcohol can change the way your body deals with estrogen by preventing healthy metabolization. In a woman’s cycle, our estrogen begins to rise during follicular phase, peaks during ovulation, and then declines in luteal phase (this is when progesterone becomes dominant). When estrogen is properly metabolized, that encourages progesterone levels to be optimal-- that will help you feel cool as a cucumber instead of like a raging, scatter-brained mess once a month. Your liver needs to be able to properly eliminate your estrogen so that you can have a healthy cycle and reduce your chances of irregular periods, bloating, weight gain, mood swings, depression, and more. If your liver is preoccupied because it’s processing alcohol instead, this could lead to increased PMS symptoms later in your cycle (even if it’s not immediately after the way a hangover would be).
Alcohol can contribute to stress and poor sleep. The “work hard, play hard” mentality when it comes to drinking can stop feeling good when it means your circadian rhythm is disrupted or your stress hormones are spiking. When you drink, your pancreas needs to produce insulin for glucose uptake. The insulin lowers your blood sugar levels, and then your adrenals respond by releasing cortisol to try to counterbalance this reaction. Because cortisol is a stress hormone, this could interfere with your sleep and cause more stress by making you feel groggy the next day.
Alcohol can deplete valuable nutrients. Alcohol prevents your body from absorbing vitamins and nutrients like magnesium, B12, folate, and zinc-- all of which could otherwise help you have a healthier cycle! Magnesium helps you feel calm, B12 helps with energy and red blood cells, folate impacts fertility, and zinc is vital for immune support and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Having an occasional drink won’t ruin these levels for you, but if you’re working on feeling and looking your best, you don't want to deplete your body of the chance to use them!
Decreases Human Growth Hormone production. HGH is our anti-aging hormone. It helps us build and maintain healthy tissue and muscles. HGH is produced at night while you sleep, but not if you’ve just had a cortisol spike or if your liver is still trying to process sugar. Alcohol, excess sugar at night, and poor sleep all reduce the amount of HGH you produce.
All of these factors are important when it comes to our wellness as women, but that doesn’t mean we can never have a drink. Instead, we can use the information we have to strategize our alcohol intake and minimize the negative impact on our hormones.
Here’s how you can navigate balancing your hormones and drinking…
Avoid drinking during peak estrogen times. This means that during the later part of follicular phase, ovulatory phase, and early luteal phase, you should avoid drinking. Here’s the truth: a bad period or PMS isn’t from having problems exclusively with your menstrual cycle. It’s from having problems with other parts of your cycle that manifest before or during your period. I know you may be feeling extra social and might feel like a happy hour, but with high energy and mood, you’ll already feel bubbly and happy! Try to opt for a mocktail instead and reduce undesirable symtoms later.
Pair it with food. If and when you do drink, never do it on an empty stomach or without food. Healthy fats especially are a great way to help stabilize your blood sugar. To make it even better, also include protein or fiber. Think about wine with charcuterie and crudité boards (I avoid dairy and focus on the meat and veg.), margaritas with guacamole or tacos, mimosas with breakfast, or beer with burgers. Creating the perfect pair for your drink is something you probably already do and now you know it also benefits your health!
Know when to call it a night. Give your liver time to process and try to cut yourself off sooner rather than later-- both in the number of drinks and in time. Remember how we talked about HGH? You give human growth hormone (your body's very own anti-aging bestie) more of a chance if you can cut yourself off and wind down by about 9pm.
If you have a late night out with friends or don’t follow the guidelines perfectly all the time, don’t sweat it! I never believe in guilt or missing out on life’s celebratory moments. You should put them into practice and track your cycle to support your hormones and lifestyle. Each time you go through your monthly cycle, you give your body a chance to reset and feel better!
If you're interested in learning more about how biohacking your hormones can lead to more happiness and confidence if life and want to work 1:1 with me, let's schedule a Discovery Call! During this call we'll identify your goals and challenges, answer any questions you have about working together, and you'll leave with one easy strategy you can start implementing.