The Grapevine

Drinking Lesser Alcohol Could Make PMS Symptoms Better, Study Says

Another glass of wine may not be the best idea if you are prone to cramps or mood swings during your time of the month. According to a new analysis, women who indulge in alcohol may be more likely to experience strong symptoms of Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). 

The study titled "Premenstrual syndrome and alcohol consumption: a systematic review and meta-analysis" was published in the journal BMJ Open on April 16. According to the researchers, this is the first meta-analysis carried out on the relation between alcohol intake and PMS risk.

"Together with other researchers, we believe that alcohol increases PMS risk by altering the level of hormones, such as gonadotropin, during the menstrual cycle," said senior author Dr. Bahi Takkouche, a professor of preventive medicine from the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Using multiple databases, researchers gathered and conducted an analysis of 19 studies published any time between inception up to May 2017. In total, they comprised of 47,000 participants from eight countries. 

The findings estimated that alcohol intake was associated with a "moderate" heightened risk of PMS by 45% compared to non-drinkers. Meanwhile, heavy drinkers were 79% more likely to experience PMS symptoms.

But before you decide to pour your drink down the sink, the study did not prove that alcohol itself causes PMS symptoms. It is also unclear whether some women consume alcohol to cope with pre-existing symptoms. But there are speculations from experts on how it could work as an aggravator.

"Alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration which can leave people more susceptible to cramps," said sexologist Dr. Marie Stubbs. The cramps may also last longer than usual due to water retention. In addition, it can also "increase the risk for prolonged cramping (dysmenorrhea) during menstruation."

In terms of emotional health, it can cause problems by increasing levels of estrogen and interfere with the production of "mood" chemicals such as serotonin. Many experts have stated that alcohol acts as a depressant, contributing towards irritability, mood swings and an increase in depressive symptoms among vulnerable people.

So the results of the analysis are worth exploring since it could help professionals prescribe more effective methods to ease periods. The study stated that if the association is of causal nature, eliminating heavy drinking in women would help alleviate symptoms of PMS for one in every 12 cases in Europe.

The researchers pointed out that around 30% of the global female population consume alcohol while 6% are heavy drinkers. According to the 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended alcohol limits for women in the U.S. is up to one drink per day.

Female drinkers are typically more prevalent in the U.S. and most European nations. "These findings are important given that the worldwide prevalence of alcohol drinking among women is not negligible," the study stated. 

The study concluded that further research was needed to understand the link and also take other lifestyle factors into account. Dr. Takkouche and co-researchers are currently investigating the role of tobacco smoking and psychological factors in PMS.