How Alcohol Affects Your Period
Dr. Ashley Margeson
I love this topic – because it’s something that we don’t talk about enough. Research (as usual) is conflicting here and there is no clear answer. Some studies note relationships between alcohol consumption and cycle irregularities, but generally only when alcohol is consumed chronically at high doses. When looking at moderate drinking, there may be no measurable change in menstrual cycle function. In fact, in one study, people who abstained from alcohol had more cycle irregularities.
So, if you drink alcohol in moderation, it probably won’t throw your menstrual cycle out of order. But if you might consume chronic amounts of alcohol, you may experience many different types of menstrual disorders, including amenorrhea (not getting a period for 3 months or more), irregular cycle lengths, and anovulation (ovulation does not happen within the menstrual cycle).
There is some evidence suggesting alcohol consumed in your luteal phase (the second half of your menstrual cycle) may have more of an effect on your mood, than during the follicular phase, by both increasing feelings of depression and anxiety, while at the same time increasing feelings of enjoyment from the effects of alcohol. Researchers suspect that people who experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may tend to drink more alcohol premenstrually, but some research has shown no change.
So how does alcohol affect my hormones?
Drinking alcohol affects the body’s hormone levels. After drinking, multiple studies have measured increases in estrogen levels, and sometimes increases in testosterone and luteinizing hormone (LH). One particularly rigorous study examined how drinking affects hormone levels during different phases of the menstrual cycle. Multiple hormonal differences were measured, such as increases in androgen levels during the follicular phase, and increases in estrogen levels around ovulation, which persisted throughout the second half of the cycle. This effect has been shown to be stronger after binge drinking. However, the hormonal effects of moderate drinking did not to lead to changes in menstrual cycle function.
There is also some evidence to suggest that drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol may be associated with delayed menopause, but more research is needed here too.
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