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Alcohol and the Menopause - By Sarah Rusbatch

Sarah is a grey area drinking coach and her April challenge, starting next week, still has a few spots left. If you think you need a helping hand in your sobriety just click the link - All the details are here -

Alcohol and the Menopause

As I've continued to learn, study and upskill myself both in terms of Alcohol and also Menopause I am realising more and more how intrinsically linked alcohol use is with middle aged women, why we are the only demographic where alcohol use is going up and how alcohol affects us so differently after the age of 40.

I know that for me, my desire for alcohol seemed to increase the older I got and yet the impact it had on me was also becoming more and more detrimental. What used to leave with just a slight headache and nothing that a diet coke and couple of Panadol couldn’t help now had me floored for hours, lying on the sofa playing candy crush with little energy or ability to do much more. And I know I’m not alone. After finally quitting alcohol 4 years ago and re-training as a Women’s health and Grey Area Drinking coach, I became curious to learn WHY our desire for booze increases while our ability to process it decreases. What I've learnt has left me, at moments, with my jaw on the floor. How can we not know this? How can this information not be more widely shared? I am pretty sure if it were men being impacted in this way that the information would be shared far and wide...

But instead of sitting in anger and frustration, I have decided to continue on my path, with my small voice in this big world to share as much as I can with other women, to empower them to make decisions for their own health based on ALL the facts being available to them, and not just some.

This isn't about saying 'you must not drink alcohol' but it is about saying 'this is what alcohol does to women, this is why we're drinking so much and here's something you may want to try if you want to cut back or quit your drinking'. I hope you take this information as it's intended - with love, compassion and support for fellow women across the world. Before I explain why we are the weaker sex when it comes to alcohol, let me also explain why, I believe, we are drinking at record levels ('We' being women aged 35-60). When we hit our mid - late 30's, the amount of progesterone we produce begins to decline. We produce progesterone in the 2nd half of our cycle and it's responsible for us feeling calm, relaxed, able to sleep well and generally experience feelings of contentment. What this decline means is that from our late 30's onwards, we naturally begin to feel more anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, have difficulty sleeping and often on edge. Couple this with the fact that for many of us, life at this age is simply a never ending, relentless 'to do' list as we juggle the increasing mental load leading to us becoming more and more overwhelmed - raising kids, working, running the house, keeping friendships going, relationships, caring for ageing parents.... (and don't even get me started on bloody book week - I think it's sent me over the edge on more than one occasion!).

In summary, physically, we are feeling more stressed and anxious anyway with less natural ability to relax and mentally, our lifestyle means we are experiencing a double whammy of overwhelm with a side of utter exhaustion.

YES that’s me screams every woman over 40 reading this right now. So now that we have an idea of what's happening on the outside, let's look at what alcohol is doing to us on the inside. But firstly let me say that it's no wonder we drink. Alcohol is a depressant that works on releasing GABA, the neuro transmitter that makes us feel calm and relaxed. We aren't stupid afterall! In the short term, alcohol works, hence why we’re doing it! We are feeling more stressed and anxious and the alcohol helps, temporarily, to relieve us of that feeling. Hence, we go back for more, and more, and sometimes even more. What starts as an innocent glass of wine 'to take the edge off' becomes half a bottle, then a bottle and before we know it, we are drinking a bottle most nights, sometimes opening the 2nd. And yet, it's the absolute worst thing we could be doing. Here's why: 1. In the perimenopause years, reports show that a woman's liver shrinks in volume by up to 40%. Are you as surprised as I was to read this? This is why we can't process alcohol in the way we could in our 20's and 30's. It's why we experience worse hangovers in our 40's and onwards and it's why we have the alarming statistic that women in menopause years are twice as likely to develop liver disease as men. Our liver simply doesn't function the way it used to. 2. On top of this, women actually produce less of the alcohol metabolising enzyme 'alcohol dehydrogenase' which means regardless of age or hormones, we cannot process alcohol in the same way men can. More alcohol enters our blood stream and we are more prone to alcohol related illnesses such as stroke and heart disease. 3. And I can't mention this impact without mentioning breast cancer. 1 in 5 breast cancer diagnoses are directly caused by alcohol according to a 2021 article and on the Huberman podcast on alcohol he declared for every 10g of alcohol (a small 100ml of wine) we consume, we increase our chance of developing breast cancer by between 4-13%, As I said, I don't share this to scaremonger. I am simply passionate about sharing facts. Honestly and openly.

Because once we have this information, we can start to find other, healthier, ways to support ourselves, manage our stress and reduce our anxiety.

For me this has been an ongoing journey of experimentation. It has involved breathwork and yoga, sound healing and hiking, ice baths and saunas, sober raving and sober spocialising. And along the way I’ve learnt what works for ME, outside of booze, to soothe my frazzled nervous system, relax my tired mind and finally find peace and contentment at a time that it’s most hard to do. We have to start supporting women in this stage of their lives through education, resources and strategies. And we have to stop marketing wine as self care.

Because it’s anything but.

I support women all over the world to change their relationship with alcohol and if this resonates with you and you are looking for support, connection, resources and someone to support and guide you through changing your drinking habits, I would love you to join my April alcohol free challenge that starts on the 1st April

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