The festive season is almost upon us and this year time spent with family and friends is going to be even more special than usual. Treating ourselves to extra food and alcohol after so many months of lack of social connection is going to be a great temptation.
Pause for reflection. How do our bodies cope with alcohol as we grow older? In the perimenopause, menopause and especially the post-menopause stage of our lives hormone levels change and so too do the enzymes that process everything that we ingest, including alcohol. In addition, as women we are naturally less alcohol tolerant than men. This is because we have smaller quantities of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that metabolises alcohol in the stomach and, also, is relatively inactive in the liver of women. The end result is that we tend to absorb far more alcohol into our bloodstream than men do. Hence Alcohol and the menopause is a very important subject.
Alcohol is a toxin and while it remains within our bodies it can cause plenty of damage. Specifically, in menopausal women, although the evidence is not conclusive, it can exacerbate symptoms, such as hot flushes, mood swings and insomnia. For example, since alcohol causes dilation of blood vessels, this could trigger hot flushes.
The overriding evidence suggests that it all depends where you are on your menopausal journey. Being post menopausal should normally suggest that some of the symptoms actually decrease, but if you are still experiencing hot flushes, alcohol may be the culprit.
We all know that as we age our bodies lose water volume. We can see this in our skin, both facial and body. Drinking plenty of water can help, but so can decreasing the amount of alcohol we consume, as one of its less desirable effects is dehydration. So, the morning after can be much worse as we get older.
If you do want to drink alcohol think about the choice you make. Swopping your wine for a version of aperitif or digestif is a healthy option. For example, why not fill a glass with citrus slices (try freezing slices of lemon, lime or orange, or even grapefruit) and tonic, with just a splash of gin. Or soda water with a splash of vodka. Craft beers are also increasing in popularity and can be found with low alcohol content and be exceptionally tasty.
Enjoy your time this Christmas, whatever you are doing. Think about what you have achieved this year already and look forward to the small changes you can make in your lifestyle and health next year.