Saturday, 6 February 2016

Alcohol and the Menopause


It's one of those words that makes me want to stick my head firmly in the sand. You know it's coming, but there's not a lot you can do about it, so best to not think about it, right?

Well, I've been forced to think about it recently, as the side effects of the breast cancer wonder drug, Tamoxifen, (which I have to take for ten years) mimic the menopause. Plus there's been a bit of chat on here about menopause recently. So I did some research.

And it's fascinating.....

Many women start drinking more during menopause. Menopause is hard. It comes with symptoms that range from annoying to debilitating, it's a reminder of the ageing process and our own mortality, it can cause/worsen anxiety and depression, and it coincides with a time when, often, our children are leaving home and our parents are in need of serious help.

Even writing that list makes me want a large drink.

The problem is, drinking during menopause is the last thing you should do!

Here's a list of reasons why quitting alcohol is a very good idea for any women approaching the change (don't you just love that euphemism?)

1. Tolerance

As you get older, your tolerance for alcohol drops off, because the proportion of water in your body decreases, and you become less efficient at metabolising ethanol.

This means that a few glasses of wine get you more drunk, more quickly, than they used to. Which means worse behaviour, worse hangovers, more self get the picture....

2. Weight gain

One of the most pissy offy menopausal (and Tamoxifen) side effects, is weight gain. Not all over, in a Jessica Rabbit kind of way, but around the middle - like a child wearing a blow up rubber ring in the swimming pool.

Sound familiar? That's exactly what drinking wine does for you too! So if you're menopausal and drinking, you're getting a double whammy! Before you know it, you'll be looking down and there'll be no sign of your feet!

Don't panic. Quitting drinking is one of the most effective ways to lose that belly fat.

(See my post: Reasons to Quit Drinking #1: Weight Loss)

3.  Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is one of the more dangerous side effects of menopause. It's a thinning of the bones which can lead to fractures and complications. And it's irreversible.

Guess what one of the other main causes of osteoporosis is?

Yup, you got it: heavy drinking.

Say no more.

4.  Depression

Many women find that menopause causes, or exacerbates, depression. All those fluctuating hormones, on top of everything else.

But using alcohol as a prop does not help. Because alcohol makes depression worse. It gives you an immediate dopamine high, followed by an inevitable crash.

(For more on alcohol and depression read: Depression and Blackberries)

5. Mood swings

Why do we women have to live with these accursed hormones?

I feel hugely sorry for Mr SM, as in our household my menopause is going to coincide with two girls going through puberty. Oh merry hell.

I'm sure you know by now that hormonal mood swings and alcohol are a lethal cocktail. Right?

(For more on rage, read: Alcohol Induced Rage)

6.  Sleep and Night Sweats

Menopause messes around with our sleep. As does (are you seeing the theme here?) alcohol. Enough said, I think, but if you'd like to find out more then read: Sleep, Glorious Sleep.

7. Hot flushes

(Known, by our American friends as hot flashes)

One of the more weird and debilitating effects of the menopause.

But, you know what the first suggestion most doctors give for dealing with hot flushes? QUIT DRINKING! (Cutting down on caffeine also helps).

So, there you have it. Seven good reasons why going sober will make The Change less of a trauma.

And, if you're looking for more help and don't want to resort to HRT, then think about this:

Many breast cancer survivors have terrible menopausal symptoms as a result of chemo and hormonal therapies, yet they are not able to use HRT. So what do many of them swear by?

Acupuncture. Don't ask me how it works, but it does.

So far, with a combination of not drinking and monthly acupuncture sessions, I've managed to avoid any hot flushes, night sweats, major mood swings or weight gain. Keeping fingers and toes crossed.

Love to you all,

SM x


  1. I'm having trouble posting a comment so I've made myself a stiff coffee and am hoping for third time lucky... Sound advice as ever. Exercise helps with some of the symptoms I find - and the mental side of things - and is one of those areas where throwing money at it (e.g. nice kit) can make it feel more of a treat. So much written about exercise seems to be aimed at younger people so my advice would be to find something you enjoy and know you will stick at, and ignore the advice re time, intensity etc (along with the suggestion that you might want to run a marathon in the Sahara). One other thing - I get day sweats, which no-one seems to mention - they all talk about night sweats and hot flushes. No alcohol helps, but I find they come on with short term stress (e.g. being late). So breathe... and get very sussed about which colours change when they get wet (which will probably sound very weird to anyone who has not experienced this!)

    1. Yes I also get those day sweats and like you they often come with a bit of stress, always when my knitting goes wrong for some reason. I am very careful about clothes and always try and wear natural fibres which helps. Hadn't thought about the color though!

    2. certain greys (I love grey T-shirts) go much darker. And I had some khaki chinos which I wore when we were packing up for an office move - it looked like I'd wet myself!

    3. Yes, "night sweats" can be a total misnomer...was for me too!

  2. Really good post today SM. I was pre-menopausal before the cancer/tamoxifen and I think the drinking got worse around then, or at least my tolerance to it and my off switch disappeared. Had night sweats and even took a bit of hrt which only helped for a bit. Since being on tamoxifen have been having a lot of hot flushes and day sweats BUT not drinking has helped dramatically. Also feel calm all the time so the horrible anxiety has also diasappeares. Very pleased to be on day 35 and feeling so much better already, also rather smug around my drunken friends which isn't very nice of me. :D

  3. Your timing on subject matters amazes me! I'm just heading into the "change" game at 53! So far, no bad symtoms, but given that I just stopped drinking 37 days ago, I figured what I've been feeling is all due to stopping the drink. I almost drank last night, but fought the wine witch with my courageous wolf and mighty lion. Yes, I needed to warriors to help beat her down last night. As is my routine, I woke up and read your blog to start my day and "wa-la" you yet again brought up another important point to this not drinking ever.

    May you breeze through the "M" symtoms; or at least continue to figure out the best course to get through them!! From what I've come to know about your through you blog, I know you will do fabulously!!

  4. I meant, "forgive" the spelling errors, grammar... :-)

  5. I never even considered menopause as part of my problem. Drinking, I had night sweats, hot flashes, depression and weight gain. I blamed it all on booze.

    But it turns out I have early menopause and at 44 am fully "changed".lol

    Drinking masks do many things, and I know I was reluctant to go to the doctor as I was scared he would tell me to quit drinking.


  6. Dear SM,
    My rant.
    Menopause sucks. No amount of feminist analysis of all the good points will convince me otherwise. Hot flushes, weight gain, mood swings, poor sleep, boney aches and pains, grey hair and lines.
    And of course let us not forget the joy of vaginal dryness.
    Someone had to say it.
    Pain with sex, bike riding and denin jeans and plenty of UTIs.

    And don’t forget that you suddenly become invisible to shop assistants or anyone else behind a counter.

    Depressed with all your physical symptoms, your friend’s marriages breaking down, your sick parents and feral teenage children ?
    Have a G and T. or 3.

    That’s why your blog and what you have to say is so important for us all SM. We’ve used alcohol to deal with everything (good and bad) in the past and it is now no longer an option.

    There is now a new normal and its good to be part of it.

    Rant finished..XX

    Ps And your vision goes
    Pps And your memory!

  7. ppps And panic attacks pretending to be hot flushes

  8. Acupuncture is incredible - we wouldn't have our children without it having sorted out my screwy hormones (and is backed up by science which always helps)

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    1. Dear SM, thank you for addressing this dealie. Sorry for the guys on this blog,perhaps they are married to someone going through all these lovely things. I have my regular Doc, but found a FEMALE nurse practitioner, that is more holistic, has made a HUGE difference.She checked my vitamin D, (low), my thyroid, (again low and something that often occurs in menopause) and I go to a compounding pharmacy that makes as many of my medications as possible. HRT is bioidentical, which doesnt take away all the risk, but I believe is what is best for me. Also using Ortho Molecular vitamins, which don't just sit there without doing anything, as well as adrenal support vitamins from this company. After four years of misery, wore a turtle neck this winter! But as to your blog, I am absolutely sure the alcohol made things worse, in many areas. Hangovers themselves aren't good for mood or motivation, menopause or no menopause. So, looking forward to great things now that the hormones are more stable and the alcohol isn't sabotaging things! Glad to hear you are having few side effects from your medication. You will be entering this part of life ready to take on those daughters and the wonderful years of puberty...I have three girls!! Their stepdad bought them bulk packages of certain girlie items as a house warming gift!! Haha..Love that guy!

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