Now that we’re heading into the holiday season (I still don’t have a viable costume for Halloween), I thought it might be a good time to touch on a topic that has historically been one of those very touchy ones for women. Alcohol. There was a time in the not-too -distant past when the term alcoholism held an enormous stigma for women. Polite ladies in society simply did not do it, and if they did, they were branded with that awful ‘S’ word, whether true or not. Thankfully, things have changed to a large degree from the pioneering work done by women like Betty Ford who had no other choice but to quit drinking. Rather than get into a ‘are you an alcoholic?’ discussion in this week’s blog, I thought I’d take the far simpler approach and just extol the hazards to your health as a woman from alcohol.
Men are typically drinkers in larger volume, but here’s the kicker - because of differences in chemistry and body structure, women actually absorb more of the stuff and takes longer to process it than their male counterparts. When you drink the same amount of alcohol as a male, you’re going to have a higher blood-alcohol level than that male and the effects occur faster and last a good while longer than they do in men. Now, I know what you’re thinking...‘Great! That means I don’t have to spend as much to get the same effect!’ Well, that is partly true, but the differences in how women’s bodies react to alcohol put them at greater risk when it comes to the negative effects of alcohol on their health long term.
Effects of Alcohol on Women's Health
Excessive drinking can mess up your menstrual cycle, increase your chances of miscarriage, infertility, stillbirth or delivery prematurely. Women who do what’s called ‘binge drinking’ are said to be more apt to have unprotected sex and multiple sexual partners, of which both activities can increase the risk of unintentional pregnancies and STD’s. Women who drink while pregnant can look forward to the greater possibility of their baby being born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) which can lead to mental retardation and birth defects. FASD’s are absolutely preventable if a woman doesn’t drink during pregnancy. No level of booze is safe when you are pregnant.
The risks of cirrhosis, the last stop on the train toward chronic liver disease, is greatly enhanced. Symptoms include wonderfully fun things like nausea and vomiting, abdominal indigestion, abdominal pain, confusion or problems thinking, nosebleeds or gums bleeding excessively, pale or stale colored stools, small red spider like blood vessels on the skin, edema of the legs and or abdomen, weight loss, weakness, jaundice.
Too much drinking can ultimately result in memory loss and/or brain tissue shrinkage. Studies show that women are more quickly affected by drinking and that the damage tends to show up quicker with shorter lengths of excessive drinking than in men.
Studies show that women who drink are at a greater risk of damage to the muscles of the heart than men, in spite of instances when those women were drinking at low levels.
Drinking alcohol increases the risks of mouth cancer, throat, liver, esophagus, colon and of course the more familiar breast cancer in women. The risk of breast cancer gets higher as alcohol used increases.
If you’re having trouble quitting the grape and need help, this is a really good place to start: www.aa.org