Alcohol and women

Home/Alcohol and women


Alcohol and women2

Women’s bodies, in general, process alcohol slower than men’s. When they drink similar amounts of alcohol, women tend to feel the effects more than men, even compared to a man of a similar weight. Traditionally and statistically in Northern Ireland, women have drunk less than men. But in recent decades, the gap has narrowed in relation to alcohol consumption. And with this closing in the gap of alcohol consumption between the sexes, there is a number of resulting health implications for women to consider.  Alcohol can affect fertility, put you women at risk of breast cancer and increase some side-effects of the menopause. Whatever age you are it’s important to keep an eye on how much you’re drinking and be aware of the short to long term effects of alcohol use. Why are the recommended limits for men and women different? The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men and 2-3 units of alcohol for women. ‘Regularly’ means drinking every day or every other day (having a minimum of 2 alcohol free days per week). Women are advised to drink less because, in general, their bodies can’t process alcohol as well as men’s. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. The average man weighs more than the average women. This means she has less tissue to absorb the alcohol.
  2. Women have a higher ratio of fat to water than men and so they’re less able to dilute alcohol within the body. It’s why women will tend to have a higher concentration of alcohol in their blood than men after drinking the same amount.
  3. Alcohol stays in a women’s system longer before being processed than it does in a man’s. This is because women generally have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase (AHD) the chemical that metabolises alcohol in the liver.


woman-2Heavy eyes, bad skin, increased weight. There’s no doubt alcohol can have some unwanted effects on the body. Alcohol impacts on the normal sleep process so you often wake up feeling and looking like you haven’t had much rest. Alcohol dehydrates your body, including the skin causing poor skin conditioning.

It’s also thought to deprive the skin of certain vital vitamins and nutrients, so when you look in the mirror the morning after, you may not be so happy with what you see. Because we can’t store alcohol in the body, our systems want to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and this process takes priority over absorbing nutrients and burning fat. Alcohol can affect your fertility and sexual performance Women who are trying for a baby should think about taking a break from alcohol and also encourage their partner to do the same. The Department of Health recommends that women trying for a baby, should avoid alcohol altogether. If you are trying for a baby and do choose to drink, the government’s advice is to not have more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week (two units is the equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine), and not to get drunk. Alcohol can disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle and studies have shown that even drinking small amounts can reduce her chance of conceiving. But if you’re trying for a baby, make sure you’re not the only one on the soft drinks. Alcohol affects male fertility too, so it’s best for your partner to stop or cut back as well.

In men, alcohol reduces testosterone levels and can harm sperm so that it’s less able to move towards an egg. Alcohol can increase your risk of a host of serious health conditions About one in six women may develop a health problem caused by alcohol.


  1.  Try having Alcohol free days. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is one of the main reasons why it’s important to consider taking regular breaks from drinking. Test out having a break for yourself and see what positive results you notice.
  2. Stress less. Some people drink alcohol to relax, but in reality alcohol can make you feel even more stressed out. Try not to make alcohol key to your after work wind down, and consider some alternative stress-busters like hitting the gym or having a hot bath.
  3. Know what you’re drinking. Check out the ABV on a bottle of wine before you buy it. ABV stands for Alcohol by Volume, which is the percentage of the drink that is pure alcohol. It’s not uncommon for a bottle of wine to be verging on 15% ABV, which could easily push you over the daily unit guidelines if you drink more than one glass. Producers are increasingly introducing 10% or lower ABV wines that are as palatable as their stronger counterparts. Look out for them when you’re next buying a bottle.


little advert

Alcohol and you Health Risks for men and women guide.

Try out our interactive guidto learn more on how alcohol affects your body depending on your gender.