With festive season almost in full swing, year-end celebrations, gatherings and parties will be taking place! If there’s one thing that we can all agree on about South Africans, it’s that we love any excuse for a party, especially in December. However, periods don’t stop just because it’s that time of the year, and what we put into our bodies over the next few months will have an impact whether we like it or not. This includes alcohol and the amount of alcohol that’s consumed.
Below we break down the different ways alcohol can potentially affect different aspects of your period, like how heavy the flow is, how regular your period is, period pain and PMS.
1. It begins with your hormones:
Hormones initiate and control all of the different processes and systems of the menstrual cycle. The liver, which is responsible for processing alcohol is also involved with processing hormones. In a study it was found that drinking caused an increase in hot flashes and night sweats in individuals experiencing perimenopause and menopause.
Alcohol can also impact the endocrine system which is responsible for producing hormones. This means that cortisol, estrogen and progesterone levels – all key hormones – can be directly impacted by consuming too much alcohol. Changes in these hormones can impact the whole body, not just the menstrual cycle or reproductive system.
2. Alcohol can cause menstrual cycle irregularities:
The menstrual cycle functions optimally when all the hormones that play a role are working. However, when these hormonal functions are disrupted or when there’s an increase or decrease of a particular hormone, the cycle becomes out of sync. This means that alcohol can disrupt hormones, which can cause period irregularities.
Alcohol can also worsen PMS symptoms, because it increases estrogen levels which is the hormone responsible for releasing the egg, thickening the uterus lining and it regulates the menstrual cycle.
3. Can alcohol worsen period symptoms?
As we touched on in the point above, alcohol can worsen PMS symptoms. But, how does it impact other symptoms? Alcohol can increase cramping or period pain because it causes dehydration. It impacts your gut microbiome which causes inflammation, it can reduce magnesium levels leading to an increase in cramps and PMS. Alcohol can also make your period a lot heavier than usual because it increases estrogen levels significantly.
Although your hormones and menstrual cycle aren’t the biggest fans of alcohol, drinking isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to your period, however, moderation (like with everything else) is key. Knowing your body and observing how it responds to changes and substances is so important, especially with the reproductive system.
This will help you identify if something is off, and will make it easier for you to pinpoint the cause of a specific bodily response. For example, as it’s December the reality is that individuals will generally be drinking more alcohol than usual and eating foods that are quite unhealthy. Let’s say you notice that your period is a lot heavier than usual after a few weeks of drinking and eating excessively. In a case like this, if you’re able to gently monitor what you’re consuming and how much, this will make it a lot easier for you to identify the cause of your sudden heavy flow.
As always, if anything feels drastically unusual or painful make an appointment with a qualified medical professional.