Alcohol - how drinking harmed my hormones

{ Warning, this article contains intimate and graphic information } 

If you feel like your hormones are all over the show it might be time to check your alcohol intake.

Until now I haven't spoken about this publicly. My intention behind this article is to give you hope and to remind you that everything changes. Many of the women I work with share a similar story. These women feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Not only do they wish to give up alcohol, but they also desire happier, healthier hormones. 

As I write this my period just started. I've just turned 40 and these days my periods are regular - every 28 days. My PMS is vey mild. I have a light bleed that usually only lasts 4 days. I have no pain. My skin hardly breaks out. My cycle no longer dictates my life. 

My hormones haven’t always been this happy…

A few years ago my cycle ruled my life. Something wasn’t right. I had horrendous PMS for two weeks out of every four. My moods would swing from sadness to raging anger outbursts to anxiety. When I was premenstrual I’d get sharp, shooting and paralysing pains in my rectal area - so intense that I couldn’t walk or pass stools without wanting to faint. Monthly I had what seemed like the symptoms of a bladder infection - frequent urination, burning in my bladder and fevers. My breasts were swollen and painful for at least 10 days out of every month. I broke out in large cyst-like acne on my neck, jaw and back. Once my period arrived I’d be curled up in bed with my hot water bottle and relied on pain killers for the first 24 hours. I bled so heavily that I used maternity pads and needed to change them hourly. 

Doctors couldn’t find anything to explain these symptoms and yet I just knew something wasn’t right. 

I was a heavy drinker also. A bottle of wine per night was standard for me. I understood the impact my alcohol consumption was having on my hormones and yet I didn’t stop. 

The connection between our wine and hormones. 

Our body's hormones work together in a finely coordinated and complex system to keep us healthy. Chronic drinking can interfere with all of these functions. Alcohol can impair the adequate functioning of the ovaries and result in hormonal deficiencies, sexual dysfunction, and infertility.

A review of studies published in the medical journal Alcohol and Alcoholism found that, for women in their 40s and 50s, even just “moderate” consumption of alcohol (one drink per day) can affect the hormonal system.

In fact, according to research published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, drinking alcohol can cause a spike in oestrogen levels and a decline in progesterone in premenopausal women.

In February 2015 my life changed forever...

I discovered I was pregnant despite my hormonal issues. I had the copper IUD so the news came as a shock. My boyfriend at the time and I had mixed emotions about it all. Knowing that I was at high risk of a possible ectopic pregnancy I insisted on an emergency scan.

The ultrasound revealed a large mass on my right ovary. My doctor was almost certain that the mass was the embryo and that it was ectopic. Within hours I was rushed into theatre to terminate the pregnancy. When I woke up I remember seeing my whole family standing around my hospital bed.

Something felt off.

My older sister looked at me and said “Irma, the doctor informed us that the embryo was in fact in utero, but they still terminated. They discovered that you have fibroids and you will need surgery to remove them.” 

Still hazy from the drugs I just remember crying.

What are fibroids?

Fibroids are the most frequently seen tumours of the female reproductive system. 

Also known as uterine myomas, leiomyomas, or fibromas, are firm, compact tumours that are made of smooth muscle cells and fibrous connective tissue that develop in the uterus. It is estimated that between 20 to 50 percent of women of reproductive age have fibroids, although not all are diagnosed. Some estimates state that up to 30 to 77 percent of women will develop fibroids sometime during their childbearing years, although only about one-third of these fibroids are large enough to be detected by a health care provider during a physical examination.

In more than 99 percent of fibroid cases, the tumours are benign (non-cancerous). These tumours are not associated with cancer and do not increase a woman's risk for uterine cancer. They may range in size, from the size of a pea to the size of a softball or small grapefruit. 

My surgery was scheduled a few weeks after the abortion. The procedure went well. I had 7 fibroids in total. The largest was the size of a lemon. Who knows how long I had them. Years I suspect. This explained my chronic pain, PMS and recurring ‘bladder infections’. Fact was my fibroids were placing so much pressure on my ureter that my right kidney was starting to show early signs of damage due to urinary reflux.

Surgery was the best thing I could've done at the time.

It was unlikely that I would've had a healthy pregnancy considering the size and position of the growths.

It's taken time to let go of blame, shame and anger, but I'm starting to feel fully grateful for it all. I believe my unplanned pregnancy was a universal message from the divine. Forces far greater than me were in charge. Nothing ever happens per chance. 

What causes fibroids?

While it is not clearly known what causes fibroids, it is believed that each tumour develops from an aberrant muscle cell in the uterus, which multiplies rapidly because of the influence of oestrogen.

Goodbye wine, hello happy hormones.

I knew that my years of drinking had damaged my hormones in a major way. You don't need to google search for too long before you realise that there’s a link between liver health and oestrogen metabolism.

If I wanted happy ovaries and a resilient womb I had to let go of anything that placed excessive stress on my liver. It’s not rocket science. 

I needed/wanted/had to change my whole way of being if I was going to recovery fully. Alcohol did not fit into that picture - not even moderate drinking. 

In July 2015 I had my last drop of alcohol. The break up was hard, but necessary. I knew I needed help to shift my relationship with alcohol so I got professional support and I’ve never looked back. 

Not drinking is the single most important thing I’ve done to enhance the quality of my life. I have no doubt that the state of my current hormonal and mental health is linked to my sobriety. 

Apart from not drinking I also looked at other ways I could prevent my fibroids from growing back - they often do in up to 25% of cases. 

Acupuncture, eating good fats and adequate protein, meditation, forgiveness, counselling, exercise, liver support remedies like milk thistle, supplements like MSM, N-actetyl cysteine, No-flush Niacin and homeopathic remedies have all contributed to my healing in mind, body and soul.

MACA.

The most important discovery I’ve made to support my hormonal health is maca. 

When I eat maca regularly I feel more comfortable in my body.

This ancient Peruvian super food calms my mind, turns on my 'happy', supports my adrenal glands, regulates my hormones and gives me strength.

The more I learn about this super food the more I'm blown away by it. New research suggests that it might be helpful in the early stages of drug withdrawal. 


PLEASE NOTE.

Not all maca is made equal. I trust and use only Seleno Health Maca. In my experience it's the most therapeutic maca. It’s ethically sourced straight from the farmer and it’s cooked, not raw. RAW MACA CAN BE TOXIC AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSUMED. 

CHANGE IS CERTAIN.

At 40 I feel stronger than I did at 20. 

My story is not unique or special in any way. If you’re reading this and you resonate with my words I invite you to trust the force which has led you here. You can recreate a new way of being. Health and vitality is your birthright. Your body is on your side. Your symptoms will guide you back to yourself. The intelligence which created you is incredibly wise and wants you to thrive. 

You know your body. If something doesn't feel right keep looking until you find the answers. And once you are clear and desire change, show up and take inspired action. There is a world of support waiting to help you reach your full potential. 

In service always.

Irma.