Many people wonder if it is safe to drink alcohol while on hormone replacement therapy.
If you are already taking or considering taking hormone replacement therapy, that means you are already thinking about your health. If you are trying to enjoy a healthy lifestyle, generally speaking, it is a good idea to try to limit your alcohol consumption. But specifically, is it a good or a bad idea to consume alcohol while undergoing hormone replacement?
Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between alcohol and hormones.
What Is Hormone Therapy?
As the name suggests, hormone replacement therapy is designed to replace the natural decline of hormones that occurs as men and women age. The most common forms of hormone replacement therapy are:
- Testosterone replacement therapy (men and women)
- Human growth hormone (HGH) therapy (men and women)
- Estrogen therapies (woman only)
Other types of hormone replacement could include thyroid hormones and adrenal hormones, but the above mentioned three therapies are the most commonly prescribed to treat age-related hormone loss, and they are all negatively impacted by alcohol.
How Does Alcohol Affect Hormones?
Excessive use of alcohol is never a good idea. Even moderate drinking poses some health risks for those on hormone replacement therapy – particularly women – drinking alcohol while on HRT can increase some of those risks. Drinking while on HRT, in general, may also decrease the effectiveness of hormone replacement therapy treatments in men and women.
Before we discuss the direct and indirect impacts that alcohol consumption can have on the benefits or side effects of HRT, let’s first take a look at the impact of drinking on your hormone levels in general.
As mentioned above, two of the most common hormone therapies prescribed – particularly for men are human growth hormone (HGH) replacement and testosterone therapy. Your natural levels of both of these critical hormones are negatively impacted by alcohol consumption.
Studies have shown that alcohol use lowers testosterone levels in men. The heavier you drink, the greater the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol consumption will be on your testosterone level.
Some specific ways that alcohol affects testosterone levels include:
- Alcohol damages specialized cells, known as Leydig cells, in the testes, which produce and secrete testosterone.
- A coenzyme, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), is used for both alcohol metabolism and testosterone synthesis. When alcohol is consumed in excess, your body’s NAD+ gets tied up, helping to metabolize alcohol and sober you up, so it is not available for synthesizing testosterone.
- Drinking alcohol results in the release of certain endorphins. While these endorphins produce pleasant and relaxing feelings, they can also interfere with the production of testosterone.
- Alcohol can increase a stress hormone called cortisol, which is known to decrease testosterone synthesis.
- Alcohol may increase the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in the body.
As to HGH, alcohol consumption also has negative impacts on your HGH levels. Drinking impairs sleep, which can lower your HGH level, as most of your HGH is produced during your period of deepest sleep.
Understanding how drinking alcohol can and does interfere with your body’s natural production of critical hormones, you can also begin to see why it is NOT recommended that you drink beyond moderation while undergoing any kind of hormone replacement therapy.
Can You Drink Alcohol While Taking Testosterone Injections?
There is evidence that excessive drinking while undergoing testosterone replacement therapy can undermine the effectiveness of the treatment. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a link between alcohol abuse and low testosterone.
As far as drinking while on testosterone, if you cannot cut out drinking altogether while you are on T-therapy, you should keep it to a minimum. Not only can drinking negatively impact the benefits of your testosterone injections, men with low testosterone often already have significant liver damage and other conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, that are only worsened by alcohol. Plus, as mentioned above, alcohol lowers testosterone, so drinking while taking your injections only negates their actions.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Efficacy of HGH Therapy?
As you have probably come to see by now, drinking excessively while on any kind of HRT is not a good idea, and that includes if you are taking HGH injections.
The worst impact that drinking alcohol has on HGH therapy is that it leads to impaired sleep, and a good night’s sleep is imperative to keeping the gains you are trying to make with HGH injections. Beyond that, for the reasons mentioned previously that alcohol impairs testosterone production, it should not be consumed while on HGH, because testosterone and HGH work together for optimal health in males.
What About Alcohol and Women on HRT for Menopause?
In addition to the negative impacts that alcohol consumption can have on both men and women who may be on testosterone and/or HGH therapy, women who are on traditional estrogen therapy for the treatment of menopausal symptoms must take extra special care to limit alcohol consumption. One of the rare, but possible side effects of HRT for women is an increased risk of breast cancer. There have been clinical studies that suggest alcohol consumption while undergoing HRT for menopausal symptoms in women raises this risk.
If you want to live a healthy and long life, excessive drinking is never a good idea. If you are on any kind of hormone replacement therapy, it is best to minimize drinking or avoid alcohol altogether if you want to maximize the benefits of HRT.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol and Hormones
Do hormones affect alcohol tolerance?
Hormones can influence how well we tolerate alcohol. For example, in women, the higher the estrogen in the blood, the better alcohol is tolerated, which means women have peak alcohol tolerance right around when menstruation begins, and they become less tolerant to alcohol as they age and enter menopause.
Does alcohol trigger hot flashes?
Alcohol can make anyone flush or feel like they are having a “hot flash” because alcohol speeds up your heart rate and widens the blood vessels allowing more blood to flow, causing the skin to feel warm and flushed. In menopausal women, who are already prone to hot flashes, this effect can be increased.
Can I drink alcohol while taking estradiol?
No, it is not a good idea to drink while on any kind of HRT. Women who are taking estradiol should, in particular, avoid drinking alcohol because it could increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
What should you avoid while on HRT?
In addition to minimizing alcohol consumption, if you want to maximize the benefits of HRT, you should also try eating a healthy diet, cutting down on coffee and spicy foods, and stopping smoking.
Can you drink alcohol while taking progesterone?
It is not a good idea not to mix alcohol with progesterone or any form of HRT. There is some risk of blood clotting when taking progesterone. There is some evidence that taking it with alcohol can increase this risk.