ALCOHOL AND ITS UNIQUE IMPACT ON THE FEMALE BODY

This is a bit of a long post but contains a lot of information.  I do hope this post is informative, especially considering how much females are affected by prolonged overuse and abuse of alcohol. I myself learned a few new facts and although I am already sober living, knowledge is power for me.

So, you’ve read about my struggles with alcohol and my realization that I was abusing alcohol. I also touched on some of the many negative complications that can arise from prolonged use and abuse of alcohol. In this post, I have highlighted some of the pitfalls and pressures women face that seem to be driving more and more to drink, and why this is especially unsafe for our gender.

A Woman’s Unique Body Chemistry Interacts With Alcohol Differently Than Men1

Women on average tend to weigh less than men and hold less water in their bodies (alcohol resides predominantly in body water). For example, if a woman and a man of similar weight were to drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman will tend to have a higher level of blood alcohol concentration, hence women tend to have alcohol-related problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse for Women2:

  • Brain function abnormalities – Women experience shrinking brain tissue, declining brain function, and brain damage faster than men as a result of alcohol use.
  • Liver disease – Women are at greater risk of developing alcohol-associated liver diseases such as alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis than men.
  • Heart problems – Damage to the heart muscle, heart disease, and high blood pressure can occur faster even if women consume less alcohol.
  • Infertility – Chronic use of alcohol may lead to irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation patterns resulting in reduced fertility and can also lead to an earlier onset of menopause.
  • Pregnancy complications – Women who drink while pregnant are at risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It can also raise the likelihood of miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Cancer – Alcohol has been linked to many types of cancer that affect multiple organs. Women who drink are also more likely to develop breast cancer, and the risk increases with regular alcohol consumption.
  • Increased risk of blackouts – Women black out more easily than men as a result of alcohol.
  • Mental health disorders – Women are more likely to develop mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression as a result of alcohol use.
  • Dehydration – Alcohol is a diuretic (it eliminates water from the body), and since women already have less water in their bodies compared to men (on average), alcohol can be more concentrated in female bodies. This can increase dehydration, hangover symptoms such as headaches and muscle cramps, and worsen potential long-term health effects of chronic alcohol use.

Why Do Women Drink?

Factors That Contribute to Alcohol Abuse in Women include but are not limited to the following:

  • Genetics and Biological Factors
  • Environmental Factors (having direct access like living close to a bar or liquor store, income, and the bombardment of advertising)
  • Social Factors (family, culture, work influences, etc…)
  • Psychological Factors (people with high stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions are more vulnerable to developing alcohol abuse disorder).

Alcohol abuse in women can also be linked to partner violence, trauma and abuse experienced as a child and sexual assault4.

Another group of women who tend to have a propensity for alcohol abuse are stay-at-home moms (stay-at-home dads are in a similar boat, but we are focusing on the female body and its interaction with alcohol). Stay-at-home moms have a very tiring, relentless, and oftentimes thankless job. “Being a stay-at-home parent can be really difficult. The children need their mother, but life can become quite isolated beyond that.” – Love to Know

Whether used for de-stressing, unwinding or out of sheer boredom, this group of women seem to have turned to the bottle for comfort. This has become so prevalent, that there is even a trending hashtag on Instagram #winemom.

For Me, It Was Competing In The Workforce – It really came down to my need to hold my own when trying to compete with my male counterparts.

In the early years of my career, it became evident that I was viewed differently. The two biggest reasons are that I am a visible minority, and I am female. Which one do you think hindered me more? In my humble opinion, it was my gender…and this was reaffirmed in a number of situations. I was told that given my age (at the time early ’20s), employers would always have the pregnancy question in the back of their minds, “she’ll probably be looking to start a family at some point, which means I’ll lose her for at least a year.” That’s gender discrimination at its finest.

But the other thing that I quickly came to realize was that the corporate world was very much a boy’s club. And the fastest way to be a part of that club was to join them and keep up. This meant playing as hard as they did.  Late nights, partying and of course, copious amounts of alcohol. This unspoken rule wasn’t even that unspoken at times. At a point later in my career, I was told by a CEO that if he was drinking, I was drinking. This particular CEO was about 6 feet tall, weighed way more than I did and, happened to be quite a heavy drinker himself. Now don’t get me wrong, I already had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, but add in the pressure to keep up with my male counterparts, the feeling that this was an expectation of my job, and that my career depended on it…I took my consumption to a whole new level. A professional drinker if you will.

Bottom Line – Alcohol Has A More Severe And Quicker Effect On The Female Body

After drinking the same amount of alcohol, women tend to have higher blood alcohol levels than men, and the immediate effects of alcohol usually occur more quickly and last longer. These differences make women more susceptible to the long-term negative health effects of alcohol in comparison to men.

I have noted the sources for the health facts at the end of the blog for anyone interested in doing some additional research. You could also speak with your physician if you have any specific questions or concerns.

MedTalks – Women’s Health & Wellness Fair – Knowledge is Power!

For anyone that will be on the Sunshine Coast on Friday, September 9, 2022, then I encourage you to attend MedTalks, Women’s Health & Wellness Fair, produced by Sechelt Hospital Foundation in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health.  This educational event will focus on ‘understanding breast health’ and ‘managing hormonal changes’.

DRNK is proud to be one of the sponsors for this event, which will be sure to be informative and interactive!

Sources used:

  1. Women And Alcohol – Source: Rehabspot.com
  2. Health Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Women – Source: American Addiction Centers
  3. Factors That Contribute To Alcohol Abuse in Women – Source: Centre of Excellence of Women’s Health
  4. Women Drink to Cope – Source: NPR.org

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