Is your morning coffee wreaking havoc with your hormones?
As a registered nutritional therapist specialising in women's hormonal health, I've avoided coffee for years and often recommend to clients struggling with hormonal issues such as PMS, PCOS, fibroids, and endometriosis to do the same... or at least consider reducing their intake. But why?
Yes, research shows that there may be some benefits associated with drinking coffee. According to some studies, due to its high antioxidant content, coffee may help protect against cell damage, oxidative stress and premature ageing. Some research has even linked coffee to improved cognitive function and a lower risk of type II diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
However, the potential negative consequences of drinking too much caffeine can’t be ignored - especially when it comes to our hormones!
Negative consequences of drinking too much caffeine
You may be familiar with the issues associated with drinking coffee - it can be addictive and may cause digestive issues but did you know that a single cup of coffee can lead to a prolonged increase in your stress hormone, cortisol? This can also cause blood sugar and insulin spikes, which is not good for our hormones (or energy levels!).
Here are a few other reasons why you may want to rethink your morning beverage:
Caffeine has a half life of around six hours, which is why it can disrupt your sleep, even if you drink it way before bed. In simple terms, half of that caffeine from the latte you drink at 3pm will still be circulating in your body six hours later, at 9pm, so can affect your sleep quality. And when you’re lacking quality sleep, your hormone production can be affected.
Caffeine depletes essential vitamins and minerals in the body needed for optimal health such as magnesium and B vitamins such as folate, which can worsen PMS symptoms such as anxiety and breast tenderness. In fact, caffeine has been shown to increase the development of benign breast disease. Coffee has also been shown to inhibit the absorption of certain minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.
Caffeine can also mimic symptoms of anxiety and nervousness and also reduces production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin in the body which may affect mood. Consuming coffee on an empty stomach can intensify the effects of caffeine, potentially leading to increased anxiety, jitters, or even heart palpitations in some individuals.
Period pain and PMS
If you struggle with period pain, you might want to think twice about reaching for that cup of Joe! Coffee may increase inflammation in the body and has been shown to make period pain much worse, according to some research. Some studies have also linked caffeine intake to worse PMS symptoms.
4 steps to reducing your coffee intake for better hormonal balance
Reducing coffee intake can be a gradual process that allows for a smoother transition and minimises potential withdrawal symptoms. Here are four steps to help you decrease your coffee consumption gradually:
Go for quality over quantity
As well as gradually decreasing your coffee serving size, try switching to a high-quality organic ground coffee over instant which has a lot more health benefits.
Replace with alternatives
Such as green tea or other herbal teas such as peppermint and Rooibos. Chicory tea is also a great alternative if you like the rich taste of coffee but want a caffeine-free alternative.
Don't drink coffee after 12pm
...and limit your intake to the first part of the day, so sleep isn't affected.
If you struggle with PMS or period pain
...consider reducing or avoiding caffeine in the four to six days period to the start of your period.