We’re becoming ever-more educated about our cycles and what it takes to have a better period experience, from exercise and food to stress reduction. So, where does alcohol fit in?
So, it’s your time of the month again, and all you want to do is take the edge off with a glass or two of wine. All the moodiness and cramps are a bit much, so in a bid to relax or plough on with prearranged social plans, you’re keen for a drink. But with all the hormonal changes going on in your body during your period, might alcohol actually make symptoms slightly more difficult to handle?
“Alcohol can increase the production of oestrogen and testosterone in the body,” says Dr Kenosha Gleaton, OBGYN and medical advisor at Natalist. “Too much of these hormones can exacerbate PMS symptoms, specifically mood swings and irritability.”
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She explains that alcohol can also worsen cramps by messing with the balance of prostaglandins (a group of lipids that help to reduce inflammation) and make your period heavier (annoying).
The fact that alcohol can dehydrate you unfortunately doesn’t help either. “Separate from the direct effect of alcohol intake, dehydration itself leads to worsening cramps and the passing of thicker blood. It can also lead to heavier bleeding,” says Dr Alexandra Stockwell, a relationship and intimacy coach. She suggests that if you do struggle with PMS and its associated symptoms, you might want to consider having a dry week to coincide with your period.
Does alcohol affect everyone’s periods in the same way?
As with almost anything health-related, different people have different experiences, and according to Dr Gleaton, how alcohol affects your period depends partially on a couple of things, including how much you drink and your overall health.
“This is down to a range of points, such as individual hormone levels, sensitivity to those hormones and the individual personal circumstances and association with periods,” adds Dr Gareth Nye, a lecturer at Chester Medical School, who specialises in maternal and foetal health. “If you are more prone to dehydration generally, then you will experience the effects more.”
Why drinking alcohol is fine for most of us
But generally speaking, some alcohol won’t hurt. “If you find yourself wanting to drink while on your period, it’s recommended to limit yourself to one to two drinks,” Dr Gleaton says. “Be sure to drink plenty of water when consuming alcohol.”
Dr Stockwell agrees, encouraging us to pay more attention to how we feel: “Most people who tolerate alcohol at other times of the month can drink a small amount of alcohol while menstruating without any negative impact,” she says. “However, if you want to drink, you should notice what actually happens in your particular body and then decide whether it makes sense to continue drinking when on your period in future cycles.”
If you do experience side effects, Dr Nye advises drinking lots of water to offset them. “Ensuring you are topping up your water intake during the bleeding is a massive boost to all.”
Prefer to avoid the risk, but still want something fun to drink while you’re out? Try one of these alcohol-free cocktail recipes, and you’ll be the star of the party.
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