If you’re one of the thousands of people in the UK who have signed up for Go Sober for October (run by the Macmillan Cancer Support charity) and pledged to quit booze for this month, good on you! For some it’s a breeze, and for others it’s quite a struggle to go a whole month without a drink. However easy or difficult you may be finding it, it can do wonders for your health and overall wellbeing.
But what about when you’re on your period? Many of us will likely drink as normal throughout our cycle, but could your hormones affect your alcohol consumption, and vice versa? Let’s take a look-see.
Alcohol affects women differently 🍻
Yup, we got the short straw here girls. It’s common knowledge that a woman’s blood alcohol level will almost always be higher than a man’s, even when they have consumed the same amount. This is a fact confirmed by Drinkaware, and it’s because women tend to have a smaller build than men, with a higher proportion of body fat. This hasn’t always been known, as prior to the 1990s most alcohol research deliberately excluded women due to the instability of their menstrual cycle.
Jenny Valentish, author of the book Woman of Substances, found a connection between our menstrual cycles and alcohol habits, which could be the key to helping more women with alcoholism get the help and treatment they need. During her research, she actually found that female recovering alcoholics are more likely to relapse due to hormones affecting the way female bodies crave and absorb alcohol.
That’s also why research suggests that when we experience PMS, we may find ourselves drinking more alcohol during this time, as we attempt to booze away our bad mood.
Drinking while on your period 🩸
Don’t drink and bleed! Just kidding. But let’s get one thing straight before we go further: a little bit of alcohol is rarely a problem. As with any health-related issue, laying off the alcohol is advised in a general sense, but we all know it’s the excess and frequent binge drinking that we need to watch out for.
To that end, excessive drinking could definitely be negatively affecting your periods. In fact, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, regular heavy booze sessions can cause irregular periods or even skipped periods. This happens because alcohol can temporarily increase levels of estrogen and testosterone, disrupting typical hormonal fluctuations that happen during ovulation.
If you are trying to conceive, it’s also good to know that regular and excessive alcohol intake could be affecting your ovulation in the same way, and therefore your fertility. Think ahead and plan your drinking around your ovulation. Your sauvignon blanc around your sexy time, if you will. Better yet, reduce your alcohol intake for a prolonged period of time to encourage more regular ovulation.
If you’re wondering how much alcohol it takes to disrupt your cycle, there’s no data to tell us when to stop and each person’s body is different, so it’s about listening to your own body. You’ll probably want to stay under the recommended daily limit of 2-3 units, and perhaps take a few sober days each week.
Does alcohol help cramps? 🧐
Probably not. Some women believe that as alcohol is known to dull some physical pain, it can lessen the intensity of cramps. This logic falls apart when you realise alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it dehydrates your body - that’s why you get the horrible hangover the next morning.
Being dehydrated actually tends to worsen cramps, so it’s always best to avoid alcohol if you are experiencing bad cramps, or supplement with plenty of water to hydrate.
What to drink while on your period 🍷
If you find yourself becoming more drunk more quickly while on your period, having irregular periods, or experiencing bad cramps, alcohol may be to blame, and the simplest way to avoid these symptoms is to reduce alcohol intake, or have some sober time.
If you do want a drink though, it’s best to avoid fruity cocktails that are usually high in sugar, as this can create a spike in blood sugar which worsens the effects. Choose non-alcoholic mocktails that aren’t made up of mostly fruit juice, or things like sparkling water or tea if you want to order a drink socially. Coffee can worsen PMS symptoms and anxiety, so try to avoid this if you can.
If you’re out for a special occasion and want a couple of alcoholic drinks in moderation, it’s all good. Just drink plenty of H2O alongside and you’ll be good to go. Cheers to that!
Got questions about having a drink while on your period? Let us know over on Instagram at @itsyoppie. If we don’t have the answer, we’ll always do our best to direct you to the info you need.
P.S. If you’re struggling with alcohol in any way, this page has a lot of great advice, resources and support.