Have you been enjoying a glass of wine in the evening? Do you enjoy a cocktail with your friends on occasion?
Many of us have come to rely on a drink to help us wind down or have fun with friends. And while there is nothing wrong with an occasional drink, it is important to understand the effects it has on the body, especially in regards to our hormones.
What Are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers within the body that are secreted by glands in the endocrine system. These messengers tell the tissue and organs in the body what to do. The proper balance of hormones is crucial for both physical and mental health.
When something happens to make one hormone increase the other hormones are affected. It's like a delicate dance with some hormones following another's lead.
Alcohol and Hormones?
Alcohol is thought to have a complicated relationship with the balance of hormones within the body. Let’s take a look at some of the ways moderate alcohol impacts this system.
- Estrogen - Alcohol has been found to raise the level of estrogen in the body. There are a few ways that this may happen, but let’s take a look at one of the mechanisms in which this happens. Both alcohol and estrogen are processed in the liver. When the liver is busy handling alcohol, it prevents the liver from detoxing estrogen as efficiently. This results in a buildup of estrogen in the system.
- Cortisol - Even moderate alcohol can impact the quality of your sleep by suppressing the amount of melatonin the body produces by up to 20%. In addition to a less refreshing sleep, this results in increased stress hormones within the body.
- Thyroid Hormones - The rise in estrogen we spoke about earlier prevents the thyroid from releasing the normal amount of hormones. In addition, the increase in stress hormones will make your body less effective in converting T4 into T3.
- Testosterone - in men alcohol decreases testosterone levels by lowering the coenzyme NAD+ which is used in the production of testosterone.
- Progesterone - As estrogen rises with alcohol consumption, progesterone decreases.
- Insulin - Alcohol may increase insulin resistance and hinder the body’s ability to process sugar in some people.
Implications for Women
When we understand the impact that alcohol has one our system, we can make an informed decision about how much and how often to drink. This is a very personal decision, hopefully made while considering your body and situation.
For example, if you are already dealing with estrogen dominance you may choose to be more cautious with your alcohol intake than someone who is not already struggling with this issue.
Other women who may want to think carefully about their alcohol consumption are those who are dealing with issues of fertility. Since proper hormone balance is crucial for conception, women may wish to limit their alcohol consumption especially during the week leading up to ovulation.
Please know that I am not saying alcohol is bad! I just want you to make informed decisions surrounding your intake.
As always, please feel free to bring your questions to me. I’d love to support you in getting the information you need - whether it is a thought about the amount of alcohol you drink, or concerns about your hormones.