It’s Friday night and your friends are insisting you join them on a night out for cocktails and a catch up, what do you do? You battle back and forth between whether to agree or to try and change the plan as you’re just not sure about the connection between PCOS and alcohol. You’ve been diligent with your PCOS diet and are concerned whether a drink (or two!…or more – let’s be realistic) will set you back. And you simply don’t want to sit there with your friends holding a pint of water with lemon slices….where’s the fun in that?
This is my life right now, and I’m still not certain on whether I can get the balance quite right, or if I need to just go all out and cut alcohol out all together. There are so many articles and blogs and recommendations which tell those of us suffering with PCOS that alcohol is one of the first things to go in order to reverse those symptoms and improve fertility. At one point I had gone cold turkey and saw an improvement in a regular cycle…which has since gone MIA unfortunately. Was it because of other contributing factors or did our frenemy alcohol had something to do with it?
It’s never very fun to be the sober one on a night out, especially when you are struggling with infertility, as if the PCOS wasn’t bad enough, now you have to put up with people questioning you all night on if you are pregnant as you’re sticking to water…if only people, if only. So in order to make a more informed decision I’ve decided to research on the subject and here’s what I have found:
10 Reasons Why PCOS And Alcohol Don’t Mix Well
The first thing to understand is how alcohol affects the body, especially of women with PCOS. Additionally, women process alcohol much slower as compared to men. This means that alcohol has a greater physical impact on women, which makes things a bit trickier. Here’s a look at 10 reasons why women with PCOS should be careful of alcohol intake.
1. It Leads To Sugar Overload
Cocktails are sugar overload. Once you mix alcohol with a sugary mixer, the result is a beverage that is high in sugars and carbs. Wine, beer, and distilled alcohols are also high in calories. Sugars from grapes or the carbs from grain can cause a spike in blood sugar levels when had in excess. And they will only add to your PCOS weight gain woes.
2. It Messes Around With Insulin
Alcohol consumption, especially in excess, can reduce insulin sensitivity. Also, alcohol increases the secretion of glucagon and other hormones that raise glucose levels. This can further cause insulin levels to fluctuate.
3. It Affects Your Fertility
Research has found that heavy alcohol consumption is associated with menstrual irregularities. These irregularities include anovulation (where the ovary does not release a ripened egg) and early menopause. In addition, moderate to heavy alcohol intake has been found to increase the risk of spontaneous abortions and breast cancer. Alcohol can also make it harder for you to get pregnant.
4. It Stresses Out The Liver
The liver gets extra-busy after a few drinks. Because the liver views alcohol as a dangerous toxin and will work hard to metabolize it first. Additionally, the liver will use up built up stores of antioxidants and vitamin C to break down the alcohol, leaving you vitamin and mineral deficient.
5. It Can Lead To Estrogen Dominance
Numerous studies find that alcohol intake is indeed associated with increased estrogen levels. PCOS already causes imbalanced estrogen to progesterone ratio. So alcohol consumption further aggravates this imbalance. You may notice your PCOS symptoms are particularly worse after a night of binge-drinking.
6. Disrupts Appetite
Women with PCOS already have to deal with appetite fluctuations due to the increased levels of testosterone. Research believes that reduced post-meal secretions of cholecystokinin (or CCK) are to blame. CCK mediates satiety or the state of being full. Reduced CCK means you don’t get a signal that you’re full. Add to that a night of binge-drinking and your appetite will be out of control! You may find it all too easy to let PCOS drift out of your mind after a couple of drinks, making you more susceptible to poor food choices.
7. Can Irritate Gut Lining
PCOS is associated with low-grade systemic inflammation. And this can lead to gut dysbiosis or an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. Alcohol only worsens this because it’s an irritant for the delicate lining of the intestine. A night of binge-drinking can further disrupt the balance of gut microflora and lead to poor nutrient absorption. This will also worsen your bloating, a common problem faced by women with PCOS.
8. Interferes With Sleep
Alcohol interferes with a night of restful sleep. While you may feel sleepy and drowsy after a few drinks, your night will be marred with broken sleep. You’ll be awake after a few hours and may find it hard to go back to sleep. And we all know that regular sleep is important for PCOS management.
9. Worsens Triglycerides
Women with PCOS are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and many of them have elevated. While moderate levels of alcohol (particularly red wine) are known to be heart-friendly, alcohol can further worsen triglyceride levels. Research shows that drinking alcohol — even in small amounts — can increase triglyceride levels.
10. It’s A Depressant
PCOS can increase the risk for depression, anxiety and mood disorders. Sadly, alcohol is a depressant and can make you feel tired and run-down, especially when overdone. Regular consumption can also affect the adrenals to make you feel more fatigued. Alcohol can also make you feel less motivated to stick to PCOS-friendly lifestyle choices.
The Dangers Of Mixing PCOS Medication With Alcohol
It also would appear that various sources are also mentioning this point above in regards to woman with PCOS who are on metformin. I’m not as of yet but at some point this information may be helpful for those who are. But if you are, you need to be particularly careful, Metformin-Alcohol-PCOS makes for a dangerous combination.
Drinking alcohol recklessly while you’re on metformin may lead to Hypoglycemia (or extremely low blood sugar levels). In some cases, mixing metformin and alcohol with PCOS can lead to Lactic Acidosis (a build-up of lactic acid in your blood.) Lactic acidosis is potentially dangerous as it damages lungs, heart, kidneys and blood vessels.
So where does this leave me? Based on my experiences with my body reacting to alcohol since coming off the pill over 5 months ago now I was already partially convinced. My tolerance is a lot worse than it once was and it is making some of my PCOS symptoms unbearable! With the addition of the knowledge I have gained through researching the links, I feel almost certain that going cold turkey is where I need to be right now in my journey.
For me, similar to the way my body reacts to gluten and dairy, it isn’t worth the nasty after affects of consumption, and alcohol is just an extension of this thought process. I know it won’t be easy and it’s going to tug on my heart strings every time I have to explain that I am not in fact pregnant, but I hope those closest to me with be understanding and those that know me and read this blog will be respectful of the steps I need to take in order to take better care of my health and our chances of conceiving in the future.
Time for Mocktails
So if alcohol free is the way to go, how can I stop things from getting boring? Pinterest has an array of alcohol free mocktail recipes which I intend to make use of and try out over the coming months, I’m hoping that they can fill the gap and aid me in attempting to regulate my reproductive health!
Mock Sangria Recipe / Mai Tai Mocktail / Non Alcoholic Mojito Recipe
Are you also battling with PCOS? How has your relationship with alcohol been? Have you decided to cut alcohol out of your diet for the foreseeable future? Do you have an recommendations or recipes? I’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
9 Comments Add yours
Alcohol is the devil! I haven’t had any for over 3 years but still no pregnancy. Life is not fair.
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I couldn’t agree more, honestly isn’t it so disheartening to know that for some people alcohol is almost the reasoning behind how the conceived their child – but for others it is meant to stop the process entirely?!
Hi! Just caught this article. I don’t have PCOS, but for the sake of sanity, balance, and my unending (and continuing) quest to have a child, I gave up alcohol completely four years ago. It was hard. I have a very high tolerance level, and used to be a real party animal. Most people probably had never seen me without a drink in my hand. But for a number of reasons that came to a head, I gave up cold turkey – and it was possibly the best thing I had ever done (including for my bank account). A lot of the points you raise affect all people (re sugar overload and sleep) and are important things to remember, whether or not they are trying to conceive. On the social aspects – yes, it is not terribly sociable to not drink (and the questions are ENDLESS – even after four years). After a while though, people will start feeling like raging alcoholics if they can’t cope with YOUR decision not to drink. I don’t have recipes (because I’ve quite happy with bubbly water) but will offer up one social trick – get sparkling water or soda water with a slice of lime in it. Everyone will assume its a gin/vodka and tonic. Good luck in your upcoming journey!
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Hi! Thank you for reaching out and sharing! I think that is one of the parts I struggle with the most, the social side. I must admit it is in three parts, 1. The endless questions about being pregnant when we are dealing with fertility issues 2. The fact that it directly interferes with my health condition and prevents me from having any kind of regular cycle and 3. My anxiety issues which unhealthily I admit myself and my partner do use alcohol as a bit of a crutch in large social settings…but your comment was definitely a bit of a reminder to get back into this mind set (as I definitely did see some health benefits fertility wise) and I really appreciate the social trick! I am going to have to give that one a go for sure! Thanks again!
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* and also all the best and good luck to you in your journey!
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Thank you. Alcohol was a big crutch for us as well…. and it’s a tough thing to leave go of. But I do promise you it gets easier, and the lack of a hangover does get addictive 😉
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ha ha yes! Lack of hangover is incentive enough I feel! Did you decide to cut it out as a couple in the end? and if so did you feel that worked better if you don’t mind me asking? This is part of what I have been discussing with my partner and why I think it hasn’t stuck so far.
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Actually, we both gave up at the same time for different reasons, and that was really lucky for me. We helped each other ride out the moments when it would have been easy to reach for a drink. We stocked up on non-alcoholic beers and soda water, juices etc. It really, really helped to have someone else to do it with. But I did outlast him. He did for a fair amount of time and then started drinking again, has beers here and there, and I’ve learnt to just deal with that. It would have been easy for me to start again too, but I decided I liked myself better without alcohol and my body probably appreciated me without alcohol, and so I pushed through. Giving up anything is tough to do alone – I struggled quitting smoking because he smokes too. Couples tend to be such enablers for both positive and negative behaviour. And I will admit that there are moments I was/am resentful (cue: “I have done SO MUCH to make this happen, can’t you do the same”, or “It’s hard for me to do this when you’re not changing your behaviour”). But the truth is that, ultimately, I can only be my own agent, and make decisions for me.
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Oh wow that is so interesting how that played out for you both and I totally feel where you are coming from! I really do get the resentful aspect of it also as last time I gave it up I felt very much unsupported in it – I know that I have it within me to cut it out, but I suppose when you are already making so many changes within your lifestyle and facing obstacles and challenges with ttc, I personally felt that it would have been nice to have my partner be involved in that one change, but I definitely agree with what you are saying about being your own agent – I think maybe I need to shift my mindset with it and remind myself why I wanted to make the cut in the first place.
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