How much alcohol is too much during menopause?

Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

10 December 2018

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be asking the question, "How much alcohol is too much?" If you like this video blog and would like to sign up for new ones every week, then please click on the subscribe button below or at the end of the video.

Now, we're at the start of the festive season and I know there are those of you out there who've maybe been invited to parties, there's family get-togethers, there's nights out with work friends and other friends that you might not have seen for a while.

And one of the things that seems to run through all of these celebrations is alcohol. As a nation, we don't seem to be able to do these celebrations without having something to drink. The problem here is for those of you going through the menopause is that alcohol can affect it.

Can alcohol affect menopause symptoms?

Absolutely. Definitely. Too much alcohol can trigger hot flushes, can induce poor sleep. I know for me, I actually found that if I drank cider, even organic cider, it gave me night sweats, so that was something that I had to stop. It can affect your mood. It can strip you of nutrients, especially things like calcium and magnesium, and these are the things we need a lot of in the menopause.

Alcohol can affect your joints. It can make joint pain worse, which is horrible at the best of times. And alcohol will make you dehydrated. And those of you that have been with me for a long time will know what a big part dehydration plays in a lot of the menopause symptoms that we can experience.

So this is something we really want to avoid. Problem as well, and a lot of women tell me that as they start in the peri-menopause and going through the menopause, they realise that they're less tolerant to alcohol. Some women find that it makes them really ill and they have to stop it altogether.

For others, they find that they get tipsy or even drunk that much quicker. It also gives you a worse hangover and it can take longer to recuperate the next day.

How much can you drink during menopause?

Problem here is how much is too much? And very often, we have no idea. You go to a meal or go to a pub, and you just get a glass put in front of you and you've no idea if it's one or two drinks.

The UK's Chief Medical Officer recommends that you should not take more, as a woman, 14 units of alcohol a week and that is not a lot. Even I was surprised when I started looking into this.

What's a unit of alcohol?

So 1 unit is basically a standard measure of spirit, half a pint of lager or beer at roughly 4%, and half, and this is the bit that surprised me, half a 175 ml glass of wine, and the wine's roughly at 12%.

So for those of you who're drinking wine and you're going for medium or a large glass of wine when you're out, that can be the equivalent of two or more units of alcohol while you're just sitting there drinking it. So this is something. Just be aware that the units are probably a lot smaller than what we would love them to be.

How to drink for a better menopause

So what can you do to drink better, if there is such a thing?

Drink in moderation

First of all, it is drinking in moderation. Know your own limit. But unfortunately, the problem here is the more that you have to drink, the more that your resolve and your willpower disappears, and the more often you end up saying yes.

So if there's a group of you going out, then maybe have a little group plan to keep an eye on each other to make sure that you're not drinking more than what you really should.

Don’t binge drink, spread your 14 units throughout the week

Don't binge drink and, again, this is something that really surprised me. If you have four units of any alcohol within the space of two hours, so that would only be two medium-sized glasses of wine, that is considered binge drinking.

I'm very, very surprised with that one. So spread your alcohol out. A really good way to do it is to have one glass of alcohol then maybe have a fizzy water with a little bit of fruit juice in it and that can spread things out a little bit more even, and you're getting that little bit of water to help with the dehydration, too.

Have alcohol-free days

Try and have some alcohol-free days during the holiday period if you can. I know sometimes it's difficult, especially if you're one of the lucky ones who's got a real full diary with friends for over the month.

The purer the alcohol the better

Try and go for purer alcohol. A lot of the symptoms, especially with wine, it tends to be the chemicals that are in the wine, not the alcohol itself. So if you can try and go for either better quality wines or organic, which is even better, you might find that you can tolerate those a lot more than the cheaper brands.

Consider alcohol-free alternatives

Look for alcohol-free drinks. The problem here is that a lot of them contain sugar, so maybe do a little bit of homework first because there's no point in cutting out the alcohol and then spending an evening drinking really sugary drinks because that can end up causing a whole raft of symptoms as well, probably very similar to the ones that alcohol can do, too.

Watch your mixers

Watch your mixes, especially if you're drinking spirits. Mixes tend to be a chemical combination of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and flavourings, and E numbers. And again, that particular combination can trigger symptoms such as your flushes, palpitations, and possibly give you real headaches the next morning as well. So just check with those as well.

Drink plenty of water

So yes, drink the water. Remember, if you can have one glass of alcohol and one glass of water, that can certainly go a long way to helping to reduce the dehydration.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach

Eat first if you can as well. That's a really good thing, especially before you go out because one of the things that can happen when we go to parties, especially if you're going straight from the office, is that by the time you get to the party, you're absolutely starving, so you're going to overeat, then if you're having a drink beforehand, that drink is going to hit you on an empty stomach and you will feel the alcohol a lot quicker that way.

So even if you're going from the office or if you're going from home, something like a small pot of yoghurt can be a really great thing to add in just before you start the drinking.

Don’t drink just before bedtime

Don't drink just before bedtime. And I know a lot of women say to me, "Oh, I really enjoy that glass of wine in the evening. It helps me to get off to sleep." It will certainly help you get off to sleep, but one of the things that alcohol can do is it puts you into a very deep sleep.

You don't get your REM sleep, which means that you're going to wake up not properly rested and your poor liver will get really stressed and that bedtime or night-time drink of alcohol can very often stress the liver to the point where that will wake you up between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. in the morning.

And I know, personally, if I drink too much, I will wake up between 1 and 3, usually, for me, it's about half past 2, and I just can't get off to sleep because my poor liver has been under a great deal of pressure. So be aware of that one definitely.

Support your liver

You can look at herbs such as Milk Thistle Complex to help to support the liver. A daily dose all through the party season can help to give your liver just that little bit of lovely support.

If you do find that you've got that little bit of morning-after feeling, we've got our lovely balance drink which is going to give you a nice little hit of magnesium and calcium and zinc, and it's got a little bit of an energiser in it, too. So if you're feeling a bit tired and under the weather, it can give you that lovely little bit of a boost before you go on with the rest of your day.

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Take one sachet of Balance Drink in water the morning after drinking alcohol to help rehydrate you and replace lost nutrients. It will also give you a good boost of energy too, just what you need to help you recover.

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So, these are all the bad points, aren't they, of alcohol during the holiday season. What I will say here, I'm not one of these people who is going to say, "Don't ever drink alcohol again." Because the menopause can be quite miserable as it is and looking forward to a party and a little bit of a drink is one of life's little pleasures.

All I would say here, remember the tips. Try not to drink too much, but enjoy it. Really enjoy it as much as you possibly can, but just be aware that because of all the things that the alcohol can do, you might find for the next couple of days afterwards, that your symptoms get worse or they can trigger ones that you thought you'd got under control.

So there is a little bit of a price to pay, but please enjoy yourself. And I will see you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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