What Alcohol Does To Your Period
For some, there is no better accompaniment to a long day or a fun event than an alcoholic beverage. Mimosas can make or break brunch, or a beer with greasy pizza or wings can be the perfect cure for a long week. What we don’t tend to think about, though, is how alcohol affects our bodies natural processes.
While having a drink or two may not usually affect you, for those of us who menstruate, alcohol can affect your cycle in ways you never expected. A bottle of wine has become the common comfort for PMS or period cramps, but could it actually be harming more than it is helping?
What Alcohol Does To Your Body and Cycle
While alcohol can be a great way to liven up most social situations or even soothe you on a night at home, what is it actually doing to you? Alcohol isn’t digested, which means it goes directly into your bloodstream. How that affects you is primarily based on a few factors.
Height and Weight: If you are a heavier or taller person, you are likely to metabolize alcohol much slower than someone shorter or lighter than you. The alcohol doesn’t have to take as much time to absorb into your body when you’re lighter, so you’ll likely experience the effects of drinking much more quickly.
Body Composition: If you’re someone with a vagina and a womb, you’ll react differently to alcohol consumption than someone without. Alcohol will stay in the body longer as it takes more time to break down in the system of those who menstruate. If you’re ovulating or about to experience a period, you’re also more likely to get drunk quicker.
Alcohol also dehydrates the body, so you’re more likely to feel PMS symptoms or period pain more heavily if you drink a lot. Dehydration can intensify cramping as your body needs more water during your period to help pass blood and tissue. Dehydration makes the blood more viscous, causing harder cramping to help pass it.
If you’re someone who drinks often, though, and in higher quantities, alcohol can affect your cycle as a whole. In some cases, those who drank regularly were found to have more irregularities in their cycle, such as missed periods, irregular or missed ovulation, and even shorter or longer periods. Alcohol directly impacts hormones, so prolonged instances of binge drinking or heavy drinking can increase your estrogen levels.
Higher estrogen levels can even trick the individual into believing that alcohol is more pleasurable as the release of hormones light up the part of the brain that makes alcohol feel better. The increase in consumption of alcohol and the change in your hormones can cause irregular cycles and even problems with fertility if it gets bad enough. Because heavy drinking has been linked to skipped ovulation periods or disruptions in your cycle, it could affect the likelihood of you getting pregnant.
There isn’t much research into how it affects fertility, but it can change your health for the worse, and if your body isn’t working well, it can affect getting pregnant or staying pregnant. If you’re trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments, it is highly recommended that you limit or remove alcohol from your diet altogether.
What You Should Drink On Your Period
If you’re going to be drinking during your cycle, there are things you should and shouldn’t drink. Wine or beer might make you feel better while cramping, but dehydration isn’t always worth the comfort. Here are some tips to navigate the drink menu during that time of the month.
Water-based Drinks: If you’re going to drink, something mixed with water or a sparkling water beverage may be your best option. Sugary drinks aren’t going to quench you and combined with alcohol, you’re going to get dehydrated quickly. A sparkling water cocktail or even alcohol mixed with water can help hydrate you while you’re enjoying a drink. Water-based fruits may also be good for mixers like melons, pineapple, oranges, and strawberries.
Avoid Caffeinated Mixers: Caffeinated beverages aren’t going to be easy to avoid for most during your period, but it is best to avoid using them as mixers as they can make PMS or cramps worse.
Eat and Hydrate Well Before or During: Eat something good before drinking or even during to help stave off hangover symptoms. If you get in good protein, vitamins, and minerals before or during drinking, you can metabolize the alcohol better.