Like age, hormones can also affect how we process alcohol. Higher estrogen levels, for example, slow alcohol metabolism. For women, that means tolerance is generally highest around menstruation, when estrogen levels drop, and lowest around ovulation, when estrogen is high. (Other factors can affect this equation: Overall hydration, for instance, can dip during menstruation, decreasing tolerance.)
In general, excess alcohol consumption increases production of estrogen and decreases the ways it’s metabolized, says functional-medicine practitioner Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN, NP. “There are different pathways where estrogen is metabolized, and some pathways increase the risk of breast cancer. That may be one reason there’s an association between regular alcohol consumption and breast cancer.”
People with uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or PMS symptoms may want to be especially careful to moderate their consumption, says Haas. “PMS symptoms like breast tenderness or night sweats are indicative of an estrogen imbalance.”
Alcohol may exacerbate perimenopause symptoms, too, in part because it increases noradrenaline, which contributes to hot flashes. It can also lower testosterone by increasing levels of the enzyme that breaks it down.
This was excerpted from “A Toast to Moderation” which was published in the December 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.