It’s Friday night and your friends are insisting you join them at the club for Ladies Night Out. You haven’t agreed yet ‘coz 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!) will set you back. And you simply don’t want to sit there with your friending holding a club soda with lemon slices….where’s the fun in that?
We get it. All those talks of lifestyle and diet modifications to reverse PCOS talk about eliminating alcohol from your diet. But is it really all that dangerous? Do you need to give up alcohol and become a teetotaler for life with PCOS? Let’s find some of those answers!
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. Leads To Sugar Overload
Cocktails are sugar bombs. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 triglyceride and LDL levels. 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
Now we didn’t mention this point above because not every woman with PCOS is on metformin. 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.
But, How About A Glass Of Wine?
Will a glass of wine throw off your PCOS Diet? Not really. In fact, if you want to have a drink, we recommend you to choose a glass of red wine over other liquors.
Some studies show that Resveratrol, found naturally in red grapes, can improves insulin sensitivity in humans, which might be due to a resveratrol-induced decrease in oxidative stress, leading to a more efficient insulin signalling.
Another study published in November 2016 edition of Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism followed 30 women with PCOS, who were given 1500mg of Resveratrol supplement per day. Researchers found that resveratrol significantly reduced ovarian and adrenal androgens. They concluded that this could be related to an improvement of insulin sensitivity and a decline of insulin level.
That doesn’t mean that you start drinking red wine every day, though! While red wine may be your safest choice when it comes to drinking alcohol with PCOS, we recommend you only do so in moderation. After all, red wine is still alcohol.
Smart Drinking Tips For A Woman With PCOS
Whether you’re on a Girls Night Out and fancy a drink, or have had a brutal day at work that necessitates the need for a drink, we have you covered. Here are some smart drinking tips so that you can have a drink without jeopardizing your PCOS weight loss plan.
- Choose your poison wisely. While a glass of red wine is always a good option, you don’t have to limit yourself. You can also choose a dry white wine or a pint of beer instead. If you prefer hard liquor, drink it on the rocks and avoid all sodas and sweet mixers. Stay away from all cocktails and blended drinks.
- Set limits. We know it’s all too easy to lose track of how many drinks you’ve had at a cocktail party when you’re having fun. And that’s precisely why alcohol is dangerous! Be mindful of how much you drink. Decide how many drinks you’re going to have before-hand and stick to the number.
- Eat beforehand. Drinking on an empty stomach results in alcohol being absorbed into your body much more readily, which you want to avoid. Additionally, you’re more likely to make poor food choices under the effect of alcohol. Eat a light snack with some good protein and healthy fats before you drink. You’ll be less likely to order those cheesy fries if you’re not starving by the time you sit down at the bar/restaurant!
- Pace yourself. Don’t guzzle down your drink, but savor it slowly. That’s a good way to feel satisfied with just one or two drinks, taking temptation out of the equation.
- Drink water. Alcohol dehydrates you, so chase every drink with a tall glass of water with some lemon slices. This will also help you control how many drinks you have.
- Omit the fried snacks. If you do want to munch on something while you savor your drink, get a handful of nuts of a small cheese plate instead.
We get it. Having a drink is a part of socializing and sometimes you just need it! Life for a woman with PCOS is hard enough without having to worry about alcohol messing with your hormones as well. As long as you are mindful about how much alcohol you consume and how it affects your body, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy the occasional drink.