Hormones are most commonly associated with both mood and sexual function. However, these chemical messengers also help regulate a number of other functions in our bodies, including metabolism, growth and development, blood pressure, energy production, and of course, reproduction.
If this complex system, known as the endocrine system, is in full swing, releasing the right amounts of hormones at the right time so our organs, muscles and tissues get exactly what they need, when they need it, explain the experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to mess up this whole operation. Common culprits include stress, changes in diet or exercise, various medications, or insufficient sleep.
However, there might be something you drink (maybe even daily) that messes with your delicate endocrine system — especially if you’re a woman. Read on to find out which popular drink might throw your body off balance.
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Hormonal imbalances are just one of many health risks associated with alcohol consumption. According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine large amounts of the substance cause “hormonal imbalances that lead to profound and serious consequences at the physiological and behavioral levels”.
While your first few drinks can release “feel good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine, prolonged drinking can actually impair a person’s ability to naturally produce these chemicals and can also increase levels of cortisol – the body’s main stress hormone. Alcohol’s impact on hormones extends to physical health, and men’s and women’s systems respond differently.
“Women and men produce hormones differently and therefore have different effects on alcohol consumption,” she says Brooke SchellerDoctor of Clinical Nutrition at Condition Nutrition LLC. “This means that women are typically more likely to experience hormonal effects from alcohol consumption, as we regularly have larger fluctuations in hormones during the female cycle.”
A study published in the journal alcohol and alcoholism found in Sept. 2000 even moderate amounts of alcohol may increase estrogen and testosterone levels in premenopausal women while lowering progesterone. Alcohol consumption also puts a strain on our body, which can inhibit hormone production.
“All of these changes can affect our reproductive system and contribute to PMS, irregular periods, missed periods, menopausal symptoms and more,” says Scheller. “Fertility can also be affected,” she adds, pointing to you Study 2021 who discusses the burden that alcohol has on implantation and ovulation and who found a negative association between alcohol consumption and a woman’s likelihood of conception.
When you drink alcohol, the liver focuses on removing alcohol from your blood instead of doing its job of regulating the body’s insulin and glucagon hormones. Because these hormones help control blood sugar levels, it can lead to low blood sugar levels in the short term — and prolonged heavy drinking can lead to hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar. For this reason, people with diabetes Special care should be taken when drinking alcohol.
Chronic alcohol use can also disrupt the hormones that regulate calcium absorption and distribution in your bones, causing them to weaken. In more extreme cases, this can also increase the risk of osteoporosis. (It’s worth noting, however, that the opposite may be true for postmenopausal women, in part due to their naturally lower levels of estrogen. Since higher estrogen has been shown to increase bone density, Studies suggest that light drinking in this group may increase estrogen levels and actually reduce the risk of osteoporosis.)
Alcohol consumption can also increase your risk of breast cancer. “Estrogen levels are higher in women who drink alcohol than in non-drinkers,” he notes Susan G. Komen Foundation. “Higher estrogen levels, in turn, are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.”
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Timing isn’t an exact science – some Hormone-related functions can recover faster than others – but in most cases, alcohol-related hormone damage can be reversed.
“The schedule can vary based on the level of alcohol consumption and other factors such as stress, digestive and gut health, thyroid health, and more,” says Scheller. “Focusing on dietary changes like increasing fiber to improve hormone balance, adding omega-3 rich foods, and even increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables will help improve and balance the system more efficiently.”
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