Having to deal with periods is no picnic — there are the days of bleeding, the food cravings, the body aches and all the emotional fun that comes along with fluctuating hormones. If that weren’t bad enough, we’re told that eating healthily and exercising are good ways of reducing symptoms, which happens to be the exact opposite of sitting on the couch eating junk food (i.e., what I feel like doing). Now, a new study found that drinking alcohol might make premenstrual syndrome symptoms — including tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression — worse.
Published in the online journal BMJ Open, a pooled analysis of existing research aimed to find out whether the known link between drinking alcohol and worse cases of PMS had to do with the alcohol itself or the fact that the pain is so severe that menstruators self-medicated by drinking. The data indicated that drinking alcohol was associated with a 45 percent increased risk of developing PMS for moderate drinkers and an increased risk of 79 percent for heavy drinkers. The researchers estimate that around 40 percent of menstruators in the U.S. experience PMS.
The way the study was designed doesn’t allow it to establish a firm causation between drinking and increased severity of PMS, but the researchers note that the consistency of the results of their data analysis does demonstrate a clear link.
So, what’s likely behind this link?
“Together with other researchers, we believe that alcohol increases PMS risk by altering the level of hormones, such as gonadotropin, during the menstrual cycle,” Dr. Bahi Takkouche, the study’s senior author, told Reuters.
And although Takkouche said he did not want to make a recommendation based on one meta-analysis study, he would suggest that people who experience severe PMS avoid heavy drinking — which is probably good advice for everyone.