Is it okay to drink alcohol with PCOS? Let’s chat about it! Let’s talk about how alcohol can affect the body, and some alternatives to drinking alcohol.
Why do you drink alcohol?
Before you think about the potential downsides of alcohol, it’s important to think about why you might drink in the first place.
- Coping mechanism for stress – Alcohol can help “numb” emotions, but of course this is only temporary. If you’re stressed about having PCOS, maybe alcohol temporarily helps you to stop thinking about it.
- You enjoy the taste – Maybe you’re a beer or wine connoisseur. Or maybe you enjoy mixing up cocktails for fun.
- Habit – You may be used to opening a bottle of wine with dinner, or you relax in front of the tv with a drink. It could be a personal habit, or something that you’ve taken on from family or a partner.
- To be social – Alcohol is often the center of social situations. Actually, sometimes my clients share that their friends make comments to them if they DON’T drink in social situations.
These reasons are nothing to be ashamed of. Reflect on your “why” when it comes to drinking. This can help if you want to make changes to your habits.
What are the downsides of alcohol?
- Alcohol and Dehydration
Even though alcoholic beverages are liquid, they do not count towards your fluid needs. Staying hydrated is important whether or not you have PCOS. Hydration helps to absorb nutrients, push out toxins, and prevent constipation.
When you drink alcohol, the body works hard to remove it from your body. It does this by pushing out more urine, which is why you may notice yourself going to the restroom a lot more when you’re drinking alcohol.
If you’d like a deeper dive into the best drinks for PCOS, check out my blog post on that topic.
- Alcohol and Sleep
Sleep is an important piece to PCOS management, and one that often gets downplayed in favor of nutrition. Getting enough sleep can help with insulin resistance and cravings, which are both so common with PCOS. Diet culture spends a lot of time telling us that we need to cut out sugar, instead of focusing on where those cravings might come from in the first place.
Even though alcohol might make it feel easier to fall asleep, it can actually affect your quality of sleep. Alcohol lowers the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep throughout the night. REM sleep is important because it helps with memory, mood, and focus. It may even help with immune health.
But does alcohol carry any benefits for PCOS?
You’ve probably heard that red wine has antioxidants, which can help fight chronic diseases like diabetes. Some beers have B vitamins, which help convert the food we eat into energy. BUT all of these benefits can be found in food or non-alcoholic beverages, and don’t have the negative qualities that alcohol does.
So, do I need to cut out alcohol if I have PCOS?
Not necessarily. If you enjoy having a drink, you don’t need to feel ashamed about that. Occasional drinking is likely fine for PCOS.
PCOS and Alcohol: how much can I have?
That’s a great question. You don’t need my permission to drink a certain amount of alcohol.
However, I will tell you that the less you drink, the better. The general recommended limit is 1 drink per day – but that does not mean that you should reach 1 drink per day. Drinking less than that is best for your sleep quality, hydration status, and overall well-being with PCOS.
What counts as 1 drink?
- 12 ounces of beer. This is the standard size of most cans and bottles of beer. However, this is less than a pint, which is 16 ounces! Restaurants often serve beer in a pint sized glass.
- 5 ounces of wine. That means that there are five 5 ounce glasses of wine in a standard bottle of wine…..not two or three glasses for the generous pourers out there.
- 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. This is typical for a “shot” of liquor.
What are some alternatives to drinking alcohol?
If you want to reach for a drink because of the taste, there are plenty of alternative beverages.
- Mocktails – You can get the taste of a cocktail without adding alcohol. You can get creative and make your own mocktail, or try one of these recipes.
- Non alcoholic beer, wine, and cocktails – There’s an abundance of brands that have gained popularity with the sober curious movement
- Seltzer water – Spike it with some lemon or lime juice or use those to garnish your drink
- Kombucha – Get some probiotics instead of a buzz
If you reach for a drink to cope with stress, there are other ways to cope with stress.
Other options for coping with stress:
- Therapy – A trained therapist can help you find better coping strategies than alcohol
- Movement – Some people find movement helpful in lowering stress
- Boundaries – Setting boundaries with work – and even loved ones – may help lower your stress
Bottom Line for Alcohol and PCOS
Alcohol doesn’t carry many benefits for your PCOS. It can affect your hydration status and lower your sleep quality. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to eliminate it completely. If you’re looking for ways to cut back, there are alternative beverages that can simulate the taste of an alcoholic beverage. If you drink alcohol to cope with life stressors, it’s best to find other coping strategies.
**Please note that this post is not talking about alcohol addiction. If you are struggling with alcoholism, please seek help from a professional – not from this post.**
Johnson, J. (2021, October 25). Overview of dehydration: What to know, drink types, and tips. Medical News Today. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dehydrating-drinks#Alcoholic-drinks
Rossi F, Spigno G, Luzzani G, Bozzoni ME, Donadini G, Rolla J, Bertuzzi T. Effects of the intake of craft or industrial beer on serum homocysteine. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2021 Feb;72(1):93-98. doi: 10.1080/09637486.2020.1760219. Epub 2020 May 4. PMID: 32366139.
Ebrahim, I. O., Shapiro, C. M., Williams, A. J., & Fenwick, P. B. (2013). Alcohol and sleep i: Effects on normal sleep. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(4), 539–549. https://doi.org/10.1111/acer.12006
What is REM sleep? National Sleep Foundation. (2020, November 1). Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://www.thensf.org/what-is-rem-sleep/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). What is a standard drink? National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink#:~:text=In%20the%20United%20States%2C%20one,which%20is%20about%2040%25%20alcohol