Middle-age woman drinking a glass of red wine in restaurant.

Estrogen and Alcohol: Exploring the Impact on Women’s Health

Certain lifestyle choices may seem harmless yet profoundly impact our health. One such example is alcohol consumption. 

Maybe you like to pair a glass of wine with dinner or enjoy a craft beer or cocktail with friends. Even if this is done in moderation, the fact remains that alcohol and estrogen don’t mix.

From disrupting women’s menstrual cycles to increasing their risk of breast cancer, studies reveal that alcohol consumption can disrupt estrogen production, leading to serious health issues. 

Alcohol and Estrogen: What’s the Big Deal?

Estrogen is the female’s primary sex hormone, yet it also helps regulate other essential bodily functions. 

Most of us know estrogen’s influence on menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. But did you know that it also plays a key role in the health of your heart and blood vessels, urinary tract, skin and hair, and breast tissue?

How Does Alcohol Affect Estrogen?

Alcohol consumption has been shown to disrupt the delicate balance of estrogen in the body. When alcohol is consumed, the liver prioritizes metabolizing it over other functions, including hormone regulation. 

As a result, estrogen levels can fluctuate, leading to short-and-long-term effects on women’s health. For example:

  • Alcohol consumption can disrupt regular menstrual cycles, leading to irregular periods. In contrast, it may also cause menopausal symptoms to worsen.
  • Studies have also shown that women who consume more than 7 alcoholic drinks per week while undergoing fertility treatment are less likely to become pregnant.
  • Women who have as little as 1 glass of alcohol a day can increase their risk of breast cancer by up to 10%.

If you have concerns about the impact of alcohol on your estrogen levels or reproductive health, it’s crucial to seek professional advice. A healthcare provider, such as a gynecologist or primary care physician, can offer personalized guidance based on your unique circumstances.

Additionally, they can help assess your alcohol consumption, evaluate your hormone levels, and provide recommendations for managing estrogen balance. 

Alcohol and Breast Cancer

One major concern with alcohol consumption among women is an increased risk of breast cancer. 

Research has consistently shown that women who drink alcohol, even in moderate amounts, have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than non-drinkers. 

There may be several reasons why this may be the case. 

  • One possibility is that alcohol can increase estrogen levels in the body, which has been shown to promote the growth of breast cancer cells. 
  • Additionally, alcohol may damage DNA in breast cells, leading to mutations that can contribute to cancer development. 
  • Finally, alcohol consumption can also weaken the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off cancer cells. 

While the exact mechanisms behind the link between alcohol and breast cancer are not yet fully understood, it is clear that cutting out alcohol may help lower a woman’s risk of developing this disease.

We say “may,” because it’s important to remember that other risk factors for breast cancer are also at play.

Tips for Reducing Alcohol Consumption

Reducing alcohol consumption or adopting an alcohol-free lifestyle can provide multiple benefits. But as we all know, alcohol is often a staple at social gatherings and events, so kicking the habit completely can feel isolating at first. 

Here are a few tips to help with the transition:

  • Set limits and stick to them: Work with your doctor to decide on an appropriate amount of alcohol to consume and how often. Be sure to stick to it and remember that measurements do make a difference. 
    • For example, a 12-ounce beer is the alcohol equivalent of a 5-ounce glass of table wine or a 1.5 fl oz of distilled spirits.
  • Plan ahead: If you’re going out to dinner or attending an event where you know others will be drinking, decide on which drinks you’ll have and how many before you arrive. 
  • Switch to sparkling water: Carbonated water is typically filling and satisfying, so it can help prevent you from reaching for another glass of wine or ordering another cocktail.
  • Swap for a mocktail: Believe it or not, many women and men around the country are trading in their adult beverages for delicious, refreshing mocktails that leave the alcohol behind. 
    • You can order them at bars or try one of these fun mocktail recipes at home. You’ll learn how to make a classic Moscow Mule or mojito with zero alcohol and less sugar!
  • Drink more water: Keeping hydrated with H20 is the best way to stay full and healthy. 
  • Get Moving: Research has shown that people who exercise and pursue active lifestyles regularly are less likely to indulge in cravings like alcohol consumption.

Stay Proactive in Your Breast Health Journey!

In addition to making mindful decisions about your alcohol intake, be sure you’re staying on top of your annual mammograms! If you haven’t scheduled one yet, or it’s been a while since your last screening, The Breast Center of Maple Grove can help.

We offer convenient appointments available Monday-Friday, 7:30 am-5:00 pm, with extended hours on Tuesdays from 7:30 am-8:00 pm. 

Remember, early detection can save lives. Make the call to schedule your appointment now, or use our online form!