If you have endometriosis, you may be wondering how alcohol consumption can affect the condition’s progression and your symptoms, such as pain, bleeding, and infertility. “Does anyone have flare-ups after having a few alcoholic drinks?” one MyEndometriosisTeam member asked. “Alcohol has always turned my flare-ups to a level 10.”
Endometriosis is affected by the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The natural rise and fall of these hormones can aggravate your symptoms, which is why many people with endometriosis seek out treatments such as hormone therapy.
Therefore, it's no surprise that alcohol, which affects your hormones, is one of many factors that is debated for its role in endometriosis development and symptoms.
Endometriosis can be extremely painful because tissue like the endometrium (the inside of your uterus) grows on other areas where it typically shouldn't — for example, it can grow on the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
Because of the intense pain caused by this misplaced endometrial-like tissue, many people are interested in learning more about how diet can affect their condition. For example, in efforts to reduce bloating and increase intake of anti-inflammatory foods, people with endometriosis often discuss the impact of things like red meat, processed ingredients, or antioxidants. This topic can also prompt discussion about whether alcohol should be avoided.
Research shows that people with certain chronic conditions may be more likely to consume unhealthy amounts of alcohol when compared to the general population. Debates over whether or not you should drink as someone with endo are similar to those over different dietary factors. MyEndometriosisTeam members note alcohol's effects on them and how they react.
“I always have terrible pelvic pain after alcohol,” shared one member. “Every single time! Even sometimes during. I guess it’s a strong indicator that I shouldn’t drink alcohol.”
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking alcohol can harm the female reproductive system throughout various stages of life. Researchers point out that alcohol can alter the typical menstrual cycle and reproductive function, and can also lead to changes in hormone levels among postmenopausal women.
In addition, some studies indicate that excessive drinking is not the only way that alcohol can impact endometriosis. A 2013 meta-analysis (review of multiple studies) found that “any alcohol intake is associated with an increased risk of endometriosis compared to no alcohol consumption.” The authors suggest that one reason for this may be because drinking increases the amount of estrogen the body makes.
While research on whether alcohol amplifies endometriosis symptoms is limited, many MyEndometriosisTeam members have noted that drinking can exacerbate their pain. “I have noticed my pain is really bad today since I drank alcohol last night. Do any of you ladies have your pain worsen after alcohol consumption?” asked one member.
"It stinks, right?" wrote another member. "In the morning, we don’t wake up with a hangover — we wake up with back and pelvic pain!"
“I’m okay if I have one glass of wine,” shared another member. “But last night I drank a lot … and I have woken up today with such bad abdominal pain and a backache! Won’t be drinking more than my glass of wine ever again.”
It’s also possible that alcohol can interact in a negative way with medications you may be taking, so always check drug labels and talk to your doctor about whether this might be an issue for you.
When you're discussing risk factors and treatment options with your physician, be sure to bring up any questions or concerns you have about alcohol. Remember that your health care provider is there to work with you on how to achieve the best outcomes and minimize side effects, not to judge your lifestyle choices.
Though it can seem like an uncomfortable topic to broach at first, being open and honest with your doctor about your goals is the best way to make healthy lifestyle adjustments. Whether you want to reduce drinking or cut it out entirely, your health care team is there to support and advise you.
Making the decision to adjust your alcohol consumption may not always be easy, but if you decide to do so, you have 117,000 people on MyEndometriosisTeam who you can talk to.
Has alcohol affected your endometriosis symptoms? Share your experiences in the comments below, or by posting on MyEndometriosisTeam.