Alcohol and the effects on our Hormones
Alcohol is, without doubt, one of the most widely abused drugs in Ireland. Although it helps us loosen up and feel more relaxed and helps break down barriers socially, there is a darker side to this widely accepted drug that we feel is necessary to highlight.
Alcohol is a neurotoxin; this means it poisons your brain and disrupts your hormonal balance. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, women who drink two or more drinks a day increase their risk of breast cancer by more than 40 percent!
Other types of cancer linked to excessive alcohol consumption include cancer of the:
- Mouth, larynx and esophagus
Alcohol consumption also inhibits your body’s natural stress response by reducing a key stress hormone, known as corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). CRF is produced by your hypothalamus and helps trigger your body’s reaction to stress.
If your stress response is impaired, your immune system will also be inhibited, which can have any number of health implications, from reducing your ability to fight infections to increasing your cancer risk.
Thyroid function may be disrupted by alcohol consumption, and as a result, affect other bodily functions. The thyroid is a complex gland that creates hormones with the help of iodine. These hormones are vital to many body functions, including metabolism, brain function, menstrual cycles, temperature regulation and organ function. If the thyroid gland is suppressed, then it cannot function properly, thus disrupting these bodily functions. A suppression of the thyroid hormone production is known as hypothyroidism.
As alcohol is a depressant, it can affect the thyroid by suppressing its functions, resulting in the thyroid gland not producing enough hormones. This can be worse for someone who already has an under-active thyroid and may disrupt any hormone replacement medications that are being taken. However, alcohol also suppresses normal-functioning thyroids as well.
* Alcohol should be avoided completely during pregnancy. The myth behind Guinness being ‘good for you’, or the odd glass of wine being OK is not good enough. Everything you consume, your growing foetus consumes too. They are not exactly in a position to make a choice, so it’s up to you.
Alcohol and it’s affects on men & women
Women are much more vulnerable than men to adverse consequences of alcohol use.
Women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men; in general women have less body water than men of similar body weight, so that women achieve higher concentrations of alcohol in the blood after drinking equivalent amounts of alcohol.
Women have smaller quantities of the enzyme dehydrogenase that breaks down alcohol in the stomach. A Woman will absorb about 30% more alcohol into her bloodstream than a man of the same weight who has consumed an equal amount.
An additional factor is hormone differences. Research suggests that the menstrual cycle and the use of any medication that affects the liver (because of the change in hormones) may intensify a woman’s response to alcohol. Women have been shown to develop their highest blood alcohol concentrations immediately before menstruating, and their lowest on the first day of menstruation. When men and women of the same weight consume equal amounts of alcohol, women have higher blood alcohol concentrations. Women have proportionately more body fat and a lower volume of body water compared with men of similar weight (Romach and Sellers 1998). As a result, women have a higher concentration of alcohol because there is less volume of water to dilute it.
Physiological effects of alcohol
Alcohol has been proven to have negative affects on:
- Liver and Other Gastrointestinal Disorders (Fatty Liver, Alcohol Hepatitis, Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer, Ulcers/Gastritis, Pancreatitis, Diabetes)
- Cardiac-Related Conditions (High Blood Pressure (hypertension), Cardiomyopathy, Stroke, Arrhythmia)
- Nutritional Deficiencies (Malnutrition, Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies)
- Reproductive Consequences (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Fetal alcohol syndrome, alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), partial fetal alcohol syndrome (pFAS), and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder (ARND), Low Birth Weight, Miscarriage, Painful/Irregular Menstruation, Underproduction of Hormones)
- Cancer, (Breast Cancer, Throat and Mouth Cancer, Stomach and Colon Cancer)
Some clients may argue that alcohol is “good for you”. This is probably based on resveratrol in some alcohols. One of the most widely accepted health benefits of alcohol comes from resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, which acts as a:
- Cancer-preventing agent
- Blood thinner
- Vaso-expanding agent
- Blood pressure lowering compound
- Anti-aging chemical
But resveratrol cannot explain the health benefits ascribed to the moderate consumption of other types of alcohol (ethanol & methanol). The negative affects on large consumption of alcohol, far outweigh any ‘medicinal or health-giving’ benefits.
We do recommend you to have fun over the holidays but everything in moderation. At least, after reading this article you are aware of the risks associated with binge drinking.
Try and alternate your drinks with some soda water or still water and remember to pace yourself on nights out.