After years of alcohol use, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Yes, you can feel hungover sometimes or develop a beer belly. But behind the scenes, alcohol slowly changes your body’s chemical makeup, particularly by damaging your hormones. Therefore, one of the critical steps to recovery and regaining control over your life is restoring your hormone levels to a healthy balance. Rebalancing hormones after quitting alcohol can help you sleep better, lose excess weight, and feel better emotionally. So how do you do it? Let’s talk about how alcohol affects hormones and what you can do to get them back on track.
Alcohol and Hormones
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel throughout your body via a complex endocrine system. It controls various functions, including metabolism, reproduction, mood, digestion, and more. Many factors can affect your body’s hormone production or activity levels, including age, stress level, diet, exercise habits, and sleep schedule. But did you know that excessive alcohol consumption can also affect your hormone levels? Over time, heavy drinking can lead to hormonal imbalances such as low testosterone, insulin resistance, reproduction problems, low bone mass, and much more.
Drinking too much alcohol often affects women more than men. For instance, it can disrupt hormone production and function, leading to early menopause in older women. The health effects of disrupted hormones include weight gain, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. In women, alcohol can also reduce fertility by causing irregular menstrual cycles and interfering with ovulation. Here are some other noteworthy consequences.
Effects of Alcohol on Testosterone
Testosterone is a male sex hormone produced by the testes (and in small amounts in women via the ovaries and adrenals). It helps regulate sex drive, muscle development, bone strength, and sexual function. However, long-term alcohol exposure can significantly reduce your testosterone levels. Low testosterone levels may lead to infertility, poor libido, erectile dysfunction, depression, and osteoporosis. Studies show that men who consume more than 2 drinks per day have lower testosterone levels than men who drink less.
Effects of Alcohol on Estrogen
Estrogen is a female sex hormone produced by the ovaries and it’s also produced in men from the aromatization of testosterone. In women it helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and the reproductive system, as well as metabolism and fat storage. For women alcohol consumption can increase estrogen levels in the body and lead to bloating, breast tenderness, menstrual irregularities, and an increased risk of breast cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase the risk of liver disease, which can interfere with estrogen production in the liver.
Effects of Alcohol on FSH and LH
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are hormones produced by the pituitary gland. Both hormones are essential in regulating fertility and sexual function in women and men. Studies have shown that alcohol interferes with the production of these hormones and can cause infertility in men and irregular menstrual cycles in women. Men who drink heavily may have difficulty producing sperm, which is essential for reproduction. Women who are heavy drinkers may experience menstrual irregularities, including prolonged bleeding or infrequent periods. In other words, alcohol use may be one of the reasons 1 in 8 couples struggle with fertility.
The Effects of Alcohol on Cortisol
Alcohol also impacts the production of cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Excess cortisol can affect blood sugar control and cause fatigue and weight gain. Stress also causes inflammation, a catalyst to many of the lifestyle diseases we face today. It may also increase feelings of depression and anxiety. People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) often have elevated cortisol levels and may even need medical intervention.
The Good News? These Effects Are Reversible
The effects of alcohol on hormones can be enlightening to some and very alarming to others. Fortunately, most of the hormonal changes caused by alcohol are reversible. When you’ve cut down on your alcohol use, or quit entirely, it’s not uncommon to become more sensitive to hormone dysfunction. For instance, Alcure subscribers who use The Sinclair Method often need help with lifestyle redesign, which can also help rebalance their hormones. If you are concerned about your hormonal health after quitting drinking, try to follow these tips to rebalance your hormones:
1. Get Lots of Sleep
The optimum sleep for most people is between 7 and 9 hours nightly. High-quality sleep is proven to improve hormone function. For instance, studies show that sleep loss dramatically decreases testosterone in men. Getting enough sleep is vital for more than just balancing hormones. It can also reduce your risk of health problems like heart disease and diabetes. If you need more sleep:
Turn off screens at least 30 minutes before bed
Avoid caffeine at least 2 hours before bed
Try journaling or meditation before bed to process the day’s stressors
Incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine to promote restful sleep
Consider a melatonin supplement. Consult a doctor first before trying sleep aids
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Foods rich in protein, healthy fats, and fiber may help promote healthy hormone levels and support your body’s ability to function normally. Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates like white bread and sugar, which are high in calories but provide few nutrients. Instead, try to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins.
3. Take Supplements If Needed
Supplements such as bioidentical hormones, vitamins C, D, and calcium may be necessary for specific individuals to maintain normal hormone levels. Talk to your doctor or a healthcare professional about recommended supplements for your situation. Consider herbal remedies and natural compounds such as acupuncture and ayurvedic medicine to help support a healthy endocrine system.
4. Exercise Regularly
Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and improves circulation, which can support your natural hormone production. For best results, aim to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week. Moderate-intensity activities can include jogging, walking, swimming, or bike riding.
5. Reduce Your Stress
Stress can affect your health in many ways, including your hormone levels. To reduce stress and promote overall health, find activities you enjoy and try to make them a regular part of your life. Practicing yoga, meditation, or reading inspirational content can also help to improve your stress management skills. If you have difficulty coping with stress, you should speak to a therapist specializing in stress management techniques.
6. Avoid Exposure to Toxins
Certain chemicals in household products and cosmetics, including those used in furniture polish, aerosol sprays, nail polish removers, and air fresheners, contain toxins. Use natural cleaners and avoid fumes from artificial fragrances as much as possible. This is especially important if you suffer from hormonal imbalance, as exposure to these chemicals can further disrupt your hormone balance.
How Do You Know if Your Hormones Are Restored?
The process of rebalancing hormones can be a little confusing and anxiety-inducing. Fortunately, even after just a few days of sobriety, along with the tips we shared above, your body will start making significant changes as it returns to homeostasis. It may take time to balance out, so don’t get too frustrated if you’re having a more challenging time than your friends after quitting. Here are a few indications of when your hormones are balanced after quitting alcohol.
Your Mood Improves
Many people report feeling happier and more positive in their day-to-day lives after quitting alcohol. This is partly because abstaining from alcohol helps reduce the cortisol levels in your body.
Your Digestion Improves
One of the most significant benefits of quitting alcohol is that it helps reduce inflammation and improve digestion. When your digestive system is functioning correctly, it can also help your body produce more testosterone and progesterone, both essential for healthy hormone levels.
Your Energy Levels Improve
Getting rid of the toxins stored in your body can help improve your energy levels and reduce fatigue. You’ll feel even more energized when you exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
You Sleep Better
As your hormones return to normal, you’ll find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. You may also notice improvements in the quality of your sleep, as alcohol can disrupt REM cycles and inhibit normal breathing patterns while you sleep.
You Start to Feel Sexier
For many, one of the most rewarding aspects of sobriety is seeing an improvement in their libido. By eliminating the adverse effects that alcohol consumption can have on hormone levels, you’ll begin to experience a more enjoyable sex life and sexual gratification.
The Road to Recovery Can is Challenging, but You’ll Feel Better Soon
As you continue to experience the benefits of quitting alcohol, you’ll be amazed at how quickly and easily your hormones begin to rebalance themselves. Just remember that it takes time for everything to heal, so if you feel like you’re still having a tough time adjusting, don’t give up.
If you’ve been struggling to get your alcohol use under control, and it has affected your hormones, consider seeking a structured program to help. Using Alcure, which combines medication, online support, and self-guided courses, you can significantly reduce your alcohol intake to healthy levels. Some people quit altogether. Once you have drinking under control, you can work on becoming the best version of yourself.