Researchers at Idaho State University say that animal studies indicate that drinking triggers a more profound stress response in the female brain, which could help explain why alcohol has more deleterious effects on women.
The Associated Press reported June 26 that researcher Dan Selvage said that high levels of stress hormones can disrupt the body's natural feedback and lead to health problems being missed.
“If you have an infection, you won't notice the symptoms of it until it gets much worse because the stress hormones are blocking the way your body would respond to it and take care of it,” Selvage said.
Researchers have found that alcohol increases production of estrogen in women, which is related to increased stress responses. The problem may be particularly acute in post menopausal women.
“Females tend to suffer the ravages of alcoholism much more quickly than males,” said Selvage. “Part of that's due to metabolism, but another part of that is thought to be that alcohol activates body stress responses a lot more in females.”
The ongoing research could lead to new ways of treating alcohol-related problems in women, said Selvage. “We really look throughout the brain to see what brain pathways are involved in receiving this noxious alcohol,” he said. “The whole idea is to come up with ways to try and block that stress response as well as you can.”