Can you drink alcohol during the menopause?

10th January, 2023 • 7 min read

Uncomfortable symptoms during menopause, from hot flashes to mood swings, can be stressful. So it’s tempting to reach for a glass of wine to help you feel better.

If you’d prefer to listen to this article, please watch our video of the entire article below. Alternatively, read on below.

Video: Can you drink alcohol during the menopause?

But maybe you’ve read about alcohol and menopause and you’re worried it’ll make your symptoms worse. Should you cut back or even give up drinking altogether? Discover the effects and risks of drinking during menopause.

How much alcohol should you drink at menopause?

There’s no evidence at the moment to suggest that you should cut out alcohol altogether during menopause. As with many things in life, control and moderation are key.

US guidelines from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention state that moderate drinking for women is 1 drink a day or less.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) defines 1 standard drink as:

  • 5 fluid oz (1 glass) of wine (about 12% alcohol)
  • 12 fluid oz (usually 1 can or bottle) of regular beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 1.5 fluid oz (1 shot) of 80-proof distilled spirits (about 40% alcohol)

These are guidelines – for example, wine glasses can be a large size so can distort measures.

If you enjoy a drink, read on to get informed about how alcohol may affect you during menopause and as you get older generally.

Find useful information on other areas of menopause with our complete Guide.

You might feel more drunk with less alcohol

Keep in mind that alcohol may affect you more in menopause than it did previously.

Around the time of menopause, and as you get older, your body loses water and increases fat stores. As water in your body helps dilute any alcohol you drink, and fat retains it, having less water and more fat will make your blood alcohol concentration higher and mean you’re more sensitive to the effects of alcohol.

This is bad news as having a couple of glasses of wine could make you feel more like you’ve been on an all-night drinking session the next day. So cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink, if you need to, is important.

It’s also worth pointing out that alcohol affects women more than men because of the differences in our bodies – find out more about why.

Women who drink more than the recommended limits over a long period of time are also at greater risk of damaging their liver. Find out more about alcoholic liver disease.

Alcohol can worsen menopausal sleep problems

Many women find a good night’s sleep becomes harder during the menopause thanks to hot flashes, changing hormone levels, disrupted circadian rhythms, plus anxiety and depression.

Alcohol can make these problems worse, and affect the quality of your sleep, leaving you feeling less than refreshed in the morning.

Alcohol can weaken your bones (when you’re already at risk)

Estrogen protects your bones and a drop in levels of this hormone during menopause means you’re at higher risk of bone loss and developing the bone-thinning condition osteoporosis.

Alcohol can affect your bone health even more, meaning it’s a risk factor for fractures.

So it’s crucial to watch the amount you drink and find ways to keep your bones strong.

Drinking too much at menopause adds heart health risks

Heavy drinking has an impact on your heart health and can lead to an increased risk of blood clots, which increases your chances of heart attack or stroke.

If you’re taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) tablets there can be a small increase in the risk because blood clots can be a side effect. Always talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about HRT and health risks. In most cases the benefits outweigh the risks, if you take HRT as advised.

This said, research has found that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of coronary heart disease than non-drinkers – and this is more apparent at menopause when heart disease risk usually goes up.

So limiting your drinking and cutting back, if you need to, is the answer. Find some ways to do this.

Alcohol may affect hot flashes

You may have wondered ‘why do I get hot flashes when I drink alcohol and my friends don’t?’

Whether or not alcohol triggers hot flashes seems to vary from woman to woman – for some, certain types of alcohol such as red wine may trigger uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing episodes.

But some studies have shown that moderate drinking actually helps hot flashes. Research found that moderate beer drinking could help ease symptoms, although drinking alcohol-free beer gave similar results.

Keeping a log of what you’re drinking, how much you’re drinking, and the effect on your menopause symptoms, will help you know your limits and what to avoid.

Want to know how to get rid of hot flashes? Find some ideas.

Drinking can increase cancer risk

Alcohol can increase your risk of certain cancers, including breast cancer. While there are many other things that contribute to the risk of breast cancer – like family history – factors you can influence – such as the amount of alcohol you drink – will help lessen your risk.

In menopause you may take HRT, and some types slightly raise the risk of breast cancer. But more research is needed to understand the link.

If you take HRT it’s important to discuss any concerns with your doctor to weigh up the risks and benefits and check you are taking the right type to suit you. Find out more about HRT.

Alcohol can affect your mood

You may be more than used to mood swings during menopause due to hormonal changes. One minute you’re fine and the next your temper is flaring over the milk carton being left out of the fridge.

If you’re prone to anger issues then drinking alcohol could make the problem worse.

It’s vital to strike a balance between what makes you feel relaxed if you’re coping with menopause symptoms – which may be a glass of wine – and reaching the end of the bottle where emotions spiral out of control. Get to know your limits.

Find ways to help your menopause mood swings.

During menopause women are more vulnerable to depression because of factors like hormonal fluctuations, lack of sleep, plus life changes that may be happening at this time such as elderly parents to care for.

Heavy drinking can also raise your risk of depression – women who show signs of alcoholism are 2 to 7 times more at risk of developing depression than men.

If you’re experiencing signs of depression including persistent feelings of sadness, low appetite or overeating, overwhelming fatigue, lack of motivation or thoughts of suicide, talk to your doctor urgently.

When to see a doctor

Your doctor will be able to offer more advice on cutting back your alcohol intake. If you find drinking is becoming a problem, you can also get help online or in person from local support groups and charities.

How can you cut back on drinking?

If you want to limit your alcohol intake a good first step is to take a few days off of drinking each week. Some ideas to help include:

  • asking for a glass of water or a soft drink instead of an alcoholic drink
  • getting into the habit of checking the alcohol content on drink labels
  • asking for low-alcohol alternatives where possible
  • trying to change your habits – go to a movie or for a walk instead of a bar

Find more help to cut down your drinking or stop altogether.

Could drinking alcohol delay menopause?

There’s a small link suggesting that drinking low and moderate amounts of alcohol in the years leading up to menopause can actually delay its onset.

Alcohol can raise your estrogen levels and this has been associated with delayed menopause.

But factors other than alcohol may be the reason for the delay. More research is needed to work out the impact.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.