A funny thing happened on the way to the bar: Booze doesn’t always agree with us after 40.
We saw it happen to friend after friend:
- The ex-Happy Hour Queen was done after one.
- The Wine Lover stopped drinking reds.
- Girls trips wound down around 10 pm vs ramping up.
It’s not that we don’t like drinking, it’s that it doesn’t seem to like us as much.
And despite all the wine culture talk and Mommy Juice merch, this is common. The body’s booze resistance may even increase the further past 40 you get.
You may have noticed:
Your tolerance feels lower after 40.
Alcohol hits you faster, delivering too much of a good thing too soon.
Or alcohol hits you harder, increasing much higher level of buzz before you finish that cocktail.
You get a headache right away.
And you weren’t really even done drinking yet.
Your hangovers are worse.
A few margaritas leave you laid out like you raged all night. But you were home by 10.
As our body shifts, it takes longer to break down alcohol and it also stays in our systems longer—more buzz, potentially more hangover. But why? It’s likely a combination of some of these factors:
You’re Dehydrated. All the Time.
Our bodies—including our blood cells—retain far less water from midlife on. Less water means our blood alcohol content (BAC) rises far more quickly. And higher BAC is what makes you feel buzzed or drunk. Sure, drinking water between cocktails helps but it will not immediately uptake into your blood cells.
Less Estrogen, Less Buzz?
Early studies showed that increasing estrogen makes rats choose to consume more alcohol. Does that mean less estrogen, less desire or enjoyment of alcohol? Too soon to say but it's possible lower rates = less desire or less buzz.
Blame Your Changing Body Composition
Women tell us weight gain is a top concern after 40. And if your body composition has changed since your 30s, that can be an issue. The National Institutes of Health report those with higher body fat and less body water feel alcohol’s effects more than those with higher muscle mass.
Your Liver May be Losing Steam
The liver changes over time, becoming less efficient as we approach 50. There’s a key enzyme called dehydrogenase (ADH) responsible for metabolizing booze. That means alcohol has a longer time to hang out in your system, its processed less efficient and you may be more buzzed.
BTW—women have less ADH anyway. Men naturally have more in their stomachs (we have very little) and carry more ADH in their livers than we do. This ADH load and the body mass situation are reasons why men can often drink more than women can.
Your Liver May Be Stressed Out
If you’re stressed, excess cortisol (remember, we call it the “other” female hormone) can harm the liver. Cortisol expands Natural Killer Cells (NKTs and yes that’s the real term). They destroy healthy liver cells, potentially making liver conditions worse.
So now you know. There are plenty of reasons your alcohol tolerance and/or hangovers may be worse after 40 (or 50). Mix in more water between drinks to help that hydration, plan on a quiet morning after.
Your GABA is partially MIA
Alcohol recovery is more than sleeping it off or a downing greasy breakfast (neither of which are are as easy on us, either).
Drinking dials neurotransmitter pathways up and down. Until they have time to course-correct, you can get headaches and worse. Some of these neurotransmitters may already decreasing due to shifts in progesterone and estrogen.
For example, a hangover messes with the signaling of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. GABA levels may already be lowered, meaning you feel more on edge or emotional after a boozy night.
Wile’s Ways to Take the Edge Off
Consider a mocktail with one of our tasty tinctures to treat yourself and truly take the edge off in a more productive way.
Great with seltzers, flavored or not. Add a twist, lemon or lime, or top off with a bit of juice to up the flavor.Here’s a bit about their taste and plant powers:
Un-Worry has herbal quality with Reishi, Passionflower and Holy Basil. Ideal for chilling out with a green vibe.
Un-Anger has a complex quality of Lavender, Milk Thistle with Kava power to take the edge off. If you like elderflower or bitters, try it.
Burnout Relief has a bit of a warm cinnamon-y essence that lifts you up a little. Ashwagandha and Reishi join forces with a few fresh herbals.
If you are looking for a glass or wine or Old Fashioned to truly manage stress vs. have a sparkling and refreshing treat, put on the tea kettle and try one of our functional drink mixes. You can drink warm or cold but warm works best for us!
Stave the Crave is a natural chai made with herb gymnema sylvestre to cut sugar cravings and reduce overall stress with herbs like Maca. Tasty in ginger tea, herbal tea, coffee or even hot chocolate.
Calm & Collected is a warm nightcap that soothes the system with a mix of Ashwagandha and some truly intriguing herbs common in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- “Gender Differences in Alcohol Metabolism – The Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership,” n.d. https://sites.duke.edu/apep/module-1-gender-matters/content/content-gender-differences-in-alcohol-metabolism/.
- You, Chang Jiang, Bertha J. Vandegrift, and Mark S. Brodie. “Ethanol Actions on the Ventral Tegmental Area: Novel Potential Targets on Reward Pathway Neurons.” Psychopharmacology 235, no. 6 (March 16, 2018): 1711–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-018-4875-y.
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This article is intended for informational purposes and is not intended to replace a one-on-one medical consultation with a professional. Wile, Inc researches and shares information and advice from our own research and advisors. We encourage every woman to research, ask questions and speak to a trusted health care professional to make her own best decisions.