Women's Health

Alcohol and Estrogen: What Are the Facts?‎ ‎ ‎

A hangover isn’t the only side effect of alcohol — it can disrupt estrogen production, too. Read on to learn more with Thrivelab.
Dr. Nayan Patel
PharmD

Alcohol consumption has long been linked to a variety of health risks, but recent research suggests that the effects of alcohol may be even more pronounced in women due to their unique hormonal makeup. Estrogen plays an important role in many physiological processes, but unfortunately, alcohol can disrupt the body’s natural balance of estrogen.

In this article, we'll dive into the facts about alcohol and estrogen so you can make informed decisions about your drinking habits. We'll discuss how alcohol affects estrogen levels, potential risks associated with excessive drinking, and tips for making healthier choices when it comes to consuming alcoholic beverages. 

By understanding the facts about these two substances, you can ensure your safety while still enjoying an occasional drink or two!

What Is Estrogen?

Estrogen is a sex hormone that is produced in women’s ovaries, adrenals, and adipose tissue, as well as in men’s testes. This hormone plays a crucial role in sexual development, ovulation, menstrual cycles, and pregnancy and can affect various organs, such as the brain, heart, and skin. 

Estrogen levels naturally fluctuate throughout a woman's life. In fact, estrogen levels tend to increase during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, which may lead to some of the well-known symptoms associated with each of these stages, such as mood swings, hot flashes, and irritability.

The impact of alcohol on estrogen levels is most concerning for women, as it can potentially lead to excess estrogen. If left untreated, this imbalance in the hormonal system can cause a variety of symptoms, which can include:

  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods
  • Infertility
  • Mood swings and anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Low libido
  • Frequent hot flashes and night sweats
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Thinning hair
  • Memory loss
  • PMS

It's important to note that alcohol consumption is not the only factor that can affect estrogen levels — factors such as stress and smoking can also influence them. That's why it's important to work with a doctor or healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause of any hormone-related symptoms you may experience. 

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is also a great option that can help restore balance. This revolutionary treatment uses bioidentical hormones to regulate hormone levels and reduce symptoms of hormonal imbalance. 

Schedule your first consultation with the professionals here at Thrivelab for more information about HRT to discover if it’s right for you.

How Does Alcohol Affect Estrogen?

Some studies have reported that alcohol intake, especially moderate to heavy drinking, may have negative effects on estrogen levels in women — and this can lead to an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis due to poor bone density, weight gain, and other health consequences.

Alcohol increases estrogen because both substances are metabolized through the liver. The liver naturally removes excess estrogen from the body, but drinking alcohol can affect this process.

When alcohol enters your body, your liver immediately starts removing it from your system. Unfortunately, your liver can only do so much at once, which means that estrogen can get pretty backed up over time. 

Alcohol may also prompt the liver to begin converting androgens to estrogen, which can also raise your estrogen levels. This may be why alcohol consumption has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen due to its link to breast cancer. 

However, not all studies agree on the harmful effects of alcohol on estrogen levels. Some suggest that moderate alcohol consumption, defined as one drink per day for women, may have health benefits for the cardiovascular system, bone health, and cognition. 

This may be because certain beers, wines, and liquors contain phytoestrogens — which are plant compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. Phytoestrogens can bind to estrogen receptors in the body, but they’re often much weaker than naturally-occurring estrogen. This can be helpful for women with high estrogen levels, as it can help minimize the symptoms of imbalanced estrogen.

However, the effects of alcohol on estrogen levels may depend on various factors, such as age, genetics, menstrual status, or body weight. For instance, some studies suggest that premenopausal women may be more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than postmenopausal women due to their differences in hormonal profiles. 

Lastly, it's important to note that alcohol consumption may have other effects on women's health, such as increasing the risk of liver disease, depression, and accidents. Alcohol may also interact with other medications or substances, leading to adverse effects or even death. 

With this in mind, it's essential to drink alcohol responsibly, which includes knowing your limits, avoiding binge drinking, and not drinking if you're pregnant or driving. If you have concerns about your alcohol intake or its effects on your health, don't hesitate to seek medical advice or talk to a counselor.

What Types of Alcohol Can Affect Estrogen?

When considering which types of alcohol may affect estrogen levels, it's important to keep in mind that alcohol itself can have an effect on the hormones. Generally speaking, any type of alcoholic beverage can increase estrogen levels in women. However, some types of drinks may have greater potential to do so due to their specific composition. 

For example:

  • Red wine may contain higher levels of phytoestrogens due to its fermentation process.
  • Beer also contains phytoestrogens, and its effect can be seen even with moderate intake.
  • Hard liquor is metabolized faster than beer or wine, so it may have a more immediate effect on estrogen levels.

On the other hand, non-alcoholic beverages such as soda or sugary drinks may also have an effect on estrogen levels. In general, the consumption of sugary drinks has been linked to higher estrogen levels in women, which may increase their risk factors for developing certain health conditions.

How Can You Drink Responsibly?

Now that you know the facts, here's some advice to help you enjoy your favorite drinks while still being mindful of your health.

1. Pace Yourself

If you want to remain out of harm's way while drinking, pacing yourself is paramount. Drinking too much too quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning, which is a life-threatening situation. 

Furthermore, consuming too much alcohol too quickly can increase cortisol levels, which can block estrogen and lower progesterone. Instead, try to sip your drink, limit your drinks to one to two an hour, or maybe even switch out your alcoholic beverage for a non-alcoholic one every once in a while. 

2. Eat Before and During Drinking

Eating before and during drinking can help reduce the amount of alcohol absorbed by your stomach. Food can also slow down the process of alcohol metabolism, which can help reduce the risk of over-drinking. 

Make sure to eat a balanced meal with complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats. This can not only help you maintain a healthy estrogen level but also prevent a hangover from happening the following day.

3. Know Your Limits

Everyone's body is different, and therefore, everyone's tolerance to alcohol is different. Knowing your limits can help you avoid pushing your body past its limits. 

The more alcohol you consume, the more likely you are to experience hormonal imbalances, which can wreak havoc on your mood and energy levels. Knowing when to stop can help you feel balanced and confident.

4. Hydrate

Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks can help you stay hydrated and avoid symptoms related to dehydration. Staying hydrated is also important for optimal hormone levels, including estrogen. Also, make sure to hydrate after drinking to flush out the toxins from alcohol and help encourage healthy hormone levels.

5. Tip Plan Ahead

Always plan ahead when it comes to drinking responsibly. This means knowing how you're getting home ahead of time, having a trusted friend accompany you, and keeping your cell phone charged. 

Make sure to plan activities centered around non-alcoholic drinks, like dancing or playing games. This way, you can have just as much fun without having to consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

6. Get Help

If you find yourself struggling to control your drinking, don't hesitate to seek professional help or join a support group. Talking to a therapist or attending support meetings can help you identify why you're drinking so much and work through any issues that may be causing the problem.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Understanding the relationship between alcohol and estrogen is crucial for maintaining a healthy hormonal balance and reducing the risk of estrogen-related health issues. When enjoying alcoholic beverages, it's important to consume them in moderation and make informed choices about the types of alcohol you're consuming. 

Remember to pace yourself, stay hydrated, and eat well to further support your hormonal health. By incorporating these tips and maintaining responsible drinking habits, you can continue to enjoy your favorite drinks while prioritizing your overall health and well-being.

Here at Thrivelab, we want you to live your healthiest life. If you ever feel like your hormones are out of whack, let us help you get back to balance. Our medical professionals can listen to your needs and help build a bioidentical hormone replacement plan to help you get back to normal. We’ll raise a glass to that!

References

  1. Estrogen: Hormone, Function, Levels & Imbalances | Cleveland Clinic 
  2. Drinking Alcohol - Breast Cancer Risk | Susan G. Komen 
  3. No level of alcohol consumption is safe for our health | World Health Organization
  4. Alcohol use: Weighing risks and benefits | Mayo Clinic 
  5. Alcohol's Effects on Female Reproductive Function | PMC 
  6. Study Links Sugar-Sweetened Soda to Higher Estrogen Levels | University of Utah Health
  7. Alcoholic Beverages as a Source of Estrogens | PMC 
  8. Alcohol and oestrogen metabolites in postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study | British Journal of Cancer
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