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!
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,