Does drinking alcohol affect your period?

Does drinking alcohol affect your period?

If you are an avid Period Talk reader (bless you!) you might have caught the surprising PS about alcohol in our post on PMS-related depression. It left us a little confused so we asked our founder, Kirsten, if alcohol affects our periods. Here’s her response:

You’d think that drinking alcohol would exacerbate both PMS and depression, right? As someone who has been working with women to improve their cycles and fertility for over two decades, this seemed like a no-brainer question. But I recently read a
study on PMS-related depression that found women who reported moderate to severe alcohol consumption actually had a lower risk for PMS(!!).

I was so surprised I had to read it twice. At first, it didn’t make any sense to me because the job of the liver is to metabolize hormones, alcohol impairs liver function over time, and when your liver isn’t working optimally it leads to PMS 

I did some research and couldn’t find any explanation for why the women who drank more in this study experienced less PMS. But here’s my theory: 

    1. Small amounts of alcohol can stimulate the liver.
      (So, in the case of the women in the study, in the last week of their cycles, when the liver tends to get bogged down from hormonal overload, drinking stimulated their livers.)

    2. In the short term, drinking can help relax the body – especially in really stressed individuals.

Does this mean you should drink more alcohol to eliminate your PMS? Definitely not. The risks that come along with drinking alcohol far outweigh the potential short-term benefits teased in that study. 

I haven’t come across any other data supporting alcohol consumption for the betterment of health. On the contrary, current research shows that NO amount of alcohol is beneficial to women’s health. Disappointing but true.

FYI, here are some of the key health risks that go hand-in-hand with excessive alcohol consumption:
    • Certain cancers, including breast cancer and cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and liver
    • Pancreatitis
    • Sudden death if you already have cardiovascular disease
    • Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure
    • Stroke
    • High blood pressure
    • Liver disease
    • Suicide
    • Accidental serious injury or death
    • Brain damage and other problems in an unborn child
    • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Bummer. I know. So… now what? Should you or shouldn’t you drink when you have PMS or cramping? 

If you’re able to skip the drink, do it. It is hands down the best answer for your health. I realize that may be easier said than done though. If you want to have a drink, I’d say a little bit is fine. Just try and keep it to one or two and remember NOT to combine it with Tylenol. The booze plus Tylenol combo can be super detrimental to your liver (like liver failure detrimental in some cases).

Whether you’re going to drink or not, if you landed on this article you’re likely looking for ways to improve your cycle, PMS and/or cramps. Here are three resources that can help you achieve healthy, cramp-free, symptom-free cycles:

    • Tips to Improve Your Cycle  (7 tips for all people with periods)
    • The Healthy Period Handbook  (a free e-book that teaches you how to read your period, what an ideal cycle looks like, and how to get rid of cramps and PMS.)
    • Seeing Red  (our founder’s new book, “a bold, practical, and data-driven handbook for menstrual periods that provides an easy-to-navigate roadmap for improving your reproductive health—and your everyday quality of life.”)


PS: We kind of feel like a team of wet blankets for telling you that alcohol is not your friend. You should know that while we can’t in good conscious encourage people with periods to drink, the hype around cacao benefits IS real. So, full clearance for dark chocolates (the darker the better!) and anything you can whip up with cacao. (One of our teammates blends cacao nibs, vanilla extract, and frozen bananas together for an easy only-the-good-stuff chocolate ice cream). 

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