I've been noticing a trend among my female friends and clients lately; as we hit our mid-forties, many of the women I know are choosing to drink less alcohol. After using alcohol as a way to get through the pandemic and after years of associating alcohol with fun, I'm seeing more and more often that the women in my life are starting to re-evaluate their relationships with alcohol, to different degrees. Let me start by saying that I have been enthusiastic about alcohol at different times in my life, enjoying the ritual of a cocktail or a glass of wine. One year, I even chose to do 'Wet January' instead of Dry January because at that time it seemed like it would be way more fun (and it was!). All of this to say, that I'm writing this with a viewpoint of curiosity, not judgement.
If you're a woman over 40 and you feel like a trainwreck after just a couple of drinks, here are some reasons why that might be. As we age, we process alcohol differently than the younger versions of ourselves. As we get older, we have a lower volume of water in our bodies and we eliminate alcohol more slowly. This means that even if we're drinking the same amount of alcohol, we experience higher blood alcohol concentrations than we might have when we were younger. As many of us lamented, back in 2023, the new Canadian guidelines recommend fewer than three drinks per week, with consumption of three plus drinks associated with increased cancer and cardiovascular risks. We know that alcohol affects our vasomotor regulation (ability for blood vessels to dilate and constrict), which can increase hot flashes. Alchohol can also interact with the complex hormonal feedback loops in our bodies, which has potential to create more perimenopause symptoms like disrupted sleep, dehydration and weight gain. As a perimenoupausal woman, if you've ever tried to exercise the morning after a couple of drinks you may have found it to be an exercise in futility - alcohol can slow our ability to synthesize glycogen which can leave us feeling gassed during our next workout.
My personal experience is that I don't tolerate alcohol in the same way that I used to, I don't recover as well as I used to and as a result I don't perceive it to be as much fun as I once did. Once I started to notice that I felt worse while drinking and after, I've been experimenting with drinking less. I have no hard restrictions around abstaining or wanting to quit alcohol for good, but I am always curious about feeling my best. Sometimes that means enjoying the ritual of a glass of wine with a friend, and sometimes that means opting for a mocktail.
Today I'm sharing three ways that you can explore your relationship with alcohol from the lens of curiousity:
- Keep a journal. When you choose to have alcohol, take some notes. This is an opportunity to look at the data. What type of alcohol did you consume? How many drinks did you have and in what span of time? How did you feel? Do you have any symptoms to note during or after?
- Experiment with interesting mocktails. This is an opportunity to tune into how you feel when you choose not to drink alcohol without judgement and with curiosity.
- Take a pause. Put time between yourself and your instinct to have a drink. This is an opportunity to explore what's driving the choice. Do I think I need it? Do I really want it? Am I bored or stressed or is there some other emotion that's coming up right now? Is this just a routine that I'm used to? Pausing for just a few moments can help us notice if we're acting out of intentionality or habit.
Choosing to decrease or stop drinking alcohol is a personal choice. If you're experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, experimenting with decreasing your alcohol intake might help you ease your symptoms. Please always seek medical advice from your physician in relation to a specific medical condition.