Making it through the menopause, one drink at a time…

— by Alyson Walsh

Nigella Lawson, Martini_1341955711_n

Nigella photo: AFR

Enjoying a drink with an old journalist friend of mine, we couldn’t help but mention the differing affect alcohol has on the body during menopause. Our main concern being: is it possible to carry on drinking without things turning into a Hot Flush Fest? I’d just been reading Christa Da Souza’s book and the author of The Hot Topic had given up the booze completely. Neither of us wanted to do that, and so my pal Adrienne agreed to write a ‘thinking about drinking’ piece for That’s Not My Age:

As we get older, our ability to handle alcohol decreases, says Adrienne Wyper. Yes, men’s, too. But for women, it really seems to kick in around the time of the menopause, and those of us who ‘like a drink’ notice that we feel drunker quicker, or have a hangover that’s out of all proportion to our consumption. But make a few adjustments to what and when you drink, and you can be good to your body, and help manage the menopause.


Wine: ‘Wine – in particular red wine – can be an instant trigger for a hot flush or a night sweat,’ says menopause health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville. It relaxes blood vessels and brings more blood to the skin’s surface.

Don’t bother with low-alcohol wine-based drinks, those around 5% alcohol, often labelled as ‘light’. They tend to taste a bit…odd, not like wine. Frankly, I’d rather have a bit less of the real thing than drink them. However, wine that’s naturally low in alcohol (as low as 9%) is a different matter. It’s been produced in the usual way (without having its alcohol stripped out) from grapes that grow in cool climates, like England, Germany and northern Italy.

Cocktails: One thing you can drink is tomato juice – which contains oestrogen-like compounds called phyto-oestrogens. A Japanese study of a daily dose of two 200ml glasses reported a halving in the participants’ symptoms of menopause, including hot flushes, anxiety and irritability. Vodka is the drink least likely to cause hangovers because it’s lowest in ‘congeners’ (by-products of fermentation). So a Bloody Mary is an option (maybe hold the Tabasco; chilli is a hot-flush trigger).Too standard? Try a matcha green tea cocktail. Beloved of the clean eating brigade, matcha green tea, contains masses of bioflavonoids, which help keep the skin elastic, including the skin in the vagina and bladder. . Upmarket bars are likely to have a made-with-matcha-cocktail on the menu. Into DIY? Try Ocado’s matcha martini HERE.

Beer: Low-alcohol beer is a little more watery than the original, but still good. (My personal favourite is Erdinger Weissbrau, at 0.5% ABV: very frothy wheat beer brewed according to Bavarian purity laws, with depth of flavour and vitamin B12.)


Drink earlier in the day. I don’t mean at breakfast (unless it’s brunch). Think a couple of glasses of wine with lunch (keep the afternoon free), or a late-afternoon segueing into early evening pair of pints; works very well with gallery visits and country walks.

Or how about reviving the cocktail hour? Go out for (or mix at home) something memorable, sip it and feel sophisticated, then have dinner and relax.

Drink with food; it slows down the rate that alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream, and the rate at which you raise your glass to your mouth. Pair the wine with the food and appreciate it more.

Say no to a nightcap. Alcohol is a sedative, so it helps you fall asleep, but your sleep quality suffers. Menopausal women are four times more likely to suffer from insomnia (and that’s not including being woken by night sweats), so need no extra sleep deprivation. Late-night drinking can also bring on night sweats.

Life is short, and sometimes, on balance, in the way you want to wear something that suited you in your 30s (and still does), you may be in the mood for a bit of a sesh, thrashing out the world’s woes with a drink in hand, or thoroughly over-indulging in both food and drink around a table with good friends. Solo on the sofa, glass in hand? Who’s judging? Cheers!

Adrienne Wyper @TyperWyper


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