How Alcohol Impairs the Body’s Hormones
Frequent alcohol use interferes with many of your body’s organs and functions, and your hormones are no exception. Hormones are the chemicals responsible for conducting the complex interplay of bodily functions that keep your tissues and organs working correctly. Introducing a chemical like alcohol can throw this finely tuned system off-balance, resulting in a variety of unintended health consequences.
Many people have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer to help them de-stress at the end of a long day. When it comes to your hormones, however, even this moderate amount of alcohol can affect you. How does alcohol impair your hormonal balance, and what should you know about these dangers?
Alcohol and Your Reproductive System
Many of your most important hormones support your reproductive system throughout your life. Most of us associate testosterone with men and estrogen in women, though both are present in healthy adults of all gender identities.
In men, testosterone and estrogen are responsible for sperm development and sexual maturation. In women, they regulate the menstrual cycle, aid in conception and a full-term pregnancy and contribute to the growth of breasts and body hair during puberty.
Chronic, heavy drinking can disrupt these processes, resulting in hormonal imbalance, sexual dysfunction and even infertility. If you are a moderate to heavy user of alcohol, it’s a smart idea to have your hormone levels checked regularly as you age to determine if you are at a higher risk of any of the following issues.
For men, alcohol use can:
- Decrease testosterone levels
- Cause enlarged breast tissue – a condition called gynecomastia
- Affect normal sperm structure
- Impair sexual and reproductive functions
In pre-menopausal women, long-term alcohol use can cause a variety of reproductive issues, including:
- Irregular periods
- Menstruating without ovulating
- Early menopause
- Greater chance of a pregnancy resulting in a miscarriage
Drinking Raises Cortisol Levels
Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” helps regulate your body’s response to a crisis. After the danger has passed, your cortisol levels should gradually return to normal. However, some research indicates that alcohol consumption increases the body’s natural production of cortisol – not only while you’re drinking, but also when the alcohol is leaving your system and you’re experiencing the withdrawal symptoms that accompany a hangover.
If your primary justification for drinking is to relieve stress, you’re better off doing a calming activity such as yoga or meditation than you are reaching for a bottle of wine, beer or spirits. Chronic stress due to unnaturally elevated cortisol levels can wear your body down over time with issues such as high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia and anxiety.
Is Alcohol Use Putting Your Health at Risk?
Alcohol abuse comes with a cost. Over time, heavy drinking can wreak havoc on your body’s built-in ability to regulate its systems through balanced hormonal production.
Having a glass of wine at dinner now and again probably won’t adversely affect your health. Drinking every night, however, will eventually cause problems with your physical and mental well-being.
People who are not physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol can decrease their consumption or quit altogether when they think logically about the health benefits that will follow. However, when you try to limit your drinking, only to find yourself incapable of stopping on your own, that could indicate you’ve developed a drinking problem.
If you continue to drink excessively, despite fully understanding what health risks you’re exposing yourself to, you may need qualified addiction help. Alcohol rehabs such as Beach House focus on using evidence-based methods to heal people who have a problematic relationship with alcohol. In our treatment program, you will learn how to address the underlying reasons for your addiction and develop healthy coping mechanisms to help you live a long, sober life. To learn more, contact our admissions counselors today.