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Ask Dr. Julie Chen,MD: Knowing When to Say No to Alcohol

The Secret to a Lifetime of Love and Health!

One of my patients recently asked me about alcohol intake and how much is safe for women.

She has a history of breast cancer and an autoimmune disease. She has chronic pain as well because of her autoimmune disease.

Based on her history, we had a lengthy discussion about how much alcohol is too much… especially in women.

For years now, studies have shown some cardiovascular benefit to one glass of wine per night for men. However, many women are still unaware that this level of alcohol intake may not be beneficial for them, unlike their male counterparts.

In prior studies, it has been suggested that more than two glasses of wine per night for women may put them at higher risk for breast cancer. Now, more recent studies suggest that even three glasses of wine per week may lead to higher risks of breast cancer.

So, what does that mean for women and alcohol? Does this mean women should stay away from alcohol altogether?

My answer to questions such as this is to make sure you live, eat, and drink in moderation.

In my clinical experience, most autoimmune patients and those with chronic pain do not respond well to daily alcohol intake; as far as how it impacts their overall inflammatory status. However, an occasional glass of wine here and there may not necessarily mean definitive negative impact to overall health.

However, in regards to breast cancer, my recommendation for all of the women who have a family history of breast cancer or have a personal history of breast cancer, I would recommend that they err on not imbibing alcohol except for special rare occasions.

For these women, alcohol intake should be kept to a minimum if possible. If you keep alcohol consumption to rare special events, the likelihood of that leading to significant negative impacts on overall health in the long run would be very unlikely.

So, as we dive into the holiday season, a rare glass of wine should not lead to panic about your health outcome…however, I would caution all of my female readers to imbibe in moderation and definitely try to keep alcohol intake to less than three glasses per week, if at all possible.