Article by Dr Marilyn Glenville
Continuing our Menopause Monday series, Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritonist, who specialises in women’s health author of Natural Solutions to Menopause answers another reader’s question:
Anna: I enjoy my glass of wine in the evenings. Do I have to reduce or eliminate completely alcohol when going through menopause?
Through the stages of the menopause your body is going through a hormonal transition and the overall aim is to make this a smooth as possible. The organ that deals with the detoxification of hormones is your liver and alcohol is toxic to the liver, and you do not want to put an extra burden on this organ at any stage.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you pass more urine more frequently and cal leave you feeling dehydrated. It also acts as an antinutrient and blocks the effect of valuable nutrients such as the B vitamins, zinc, calcium and magnesium. Alcohol will also block the conversion of the essential fatty acids and you can then end up producing more inflammatory substances.
How alcohol affects your hormones during the menopause
As well as for your general health, the other reason for keeping alcohol to a minimum or even eliminating it completely at this stage in your life is the effect on your hormones, particularly oestrogen.
Your hard-working liver deactivates oestradiol and oestrone into oestrol (a less harmful form of oestrogen) for it to be eliminated from your body. Your liver also produces a protein called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), which controls circulating oestrogen and testosterone.
As your liver controls the amount of oestrogen circulating in your bloodstream, you need to treat it with respect so it does this job efficiently.
You can help to improve your liver function by making sure that you are taking a good multivitamin and mineral that contains B vitamins and magnesium, as these nutrients help your liver to detoxify oestrogen and render it harmless.
Phytoestrogens such as soya and lentils help to stimulate your liver to produce SHBG, which controls excess hormones, and also flaxseeds (linseeds) can stimulate the production of SGBG and aid the removal of excess oestrogens out of your body. Include these foods in your diet and also add artichokes and dandelion greens as they help your liver produce bile, which is needed to break fats down into small molecules so they can be digested. Onions, leeks and garlic are also beneficial for your liver as they contain sulphur compounds, which are important for efficient liver function. Other vegetables that contain these sulphur compounds are the cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli; these help the liver to detoxify efficiently.
The herb milk thistle is the herb of choice for boosting liver function; you can take it on its own or combined with other herbs that help with menopausal symptoms such as black cohosh and agnus casts (The combination I use in the clinic is NHP’s Black Cohosh Plus, which contains milk thistle and agnus castus plus dong quay and sage. See www.naturalhealthpractice.com).