One in five women could ease PMS symptoms by abstaining from alcohol, study suggests

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 24 April 2018 11:59 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Drinking alcohol could exacerbate PMS symptoms in as many as one in five European women, a new study suggests.

Researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 19 studies including more than 47,000 participants and representing eight countries before concurring that drinking was associated with a “moderate” increased risk of PMS.

Those who drank alcohol were 45 per cent more likely to experience symptoms such as tender breasts, mood swings, fatigue and food cravings before their periods compared to those who abstained from alcohol completely, the authors found.

Meanwhile, this propensity rose to 79 per cent for participants who drank heavily.

“These findings are important given that the worldwide prevalence of alcohol drinking among women is not negligible,” reads the study, which was published in the British Medical Journal Open.

“Based on the figures above and on our results, we estimate that 11 per cent of the PMS cases may be associated to alcohol intake worldwide and 21 per cent in Europe,” write the researchers.

“Furthermore, heavy drinking may be associated with four per cent of the PMS cases in the world and over nine per cent in Europe.”

It’s estimated that six in 10 women in Europe drink alcohol and 12.6 per cent of these are classified as “heavy” drinkers.

"If this association is of causal nature, eliminating heavy drinking in women would then prevent one in every 12 cases of PMS in Europe," the authors concluded.

Various studies have linked severe PMS symptoms with alcohol consumption, however, the correlation could simply be because women drink more to mitigate their symptoms.

In terms of explaining their findings, the authors speculate that drinking alcohol may alter the levels of sex steroid hormones and gonadotropin, which could subsequently affect levels of serotonin.

"The finding that there is a potential causal association of alcohol consumption with PMS is interesting and not surprising given the impact of alcohol on hormones and neurotransmitters," explains Dr Nick Panay, consultant gynaecologist and director of Hormone Health at 92 Harley Street.

Panay added that while the study considered other crucial variables, such as lifestyle, diet, smoking and stress levels, further research is needed in order to clarify the links between PMS and alcohol consumption.

“It is limited in its usefulness by the studies which have been included," he added, "a number of which were not designed to study the impact of alcohol consumption on PMS as a primary outcome measure; it is therefore essential that further research is conducted to confirm the findings.”

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