Ladies, it’s time to have a serious talk about coffee. Are you one of those women who can’t get the day started without a cup (or two) of coffee? Do you need a jolt of caffeine around two or three o’clock every afternoon? I get it. Between work, kids, significant others and covid, you have a lot going on and exhaustion seems to follow. The thing is, (and this might be difficult to hear), for some of you, drinking coffee may be contributing to big problems when it comes to keeping your hormones balanced.
Is Coffee Bad?
You’ve probably seen or heard about the studies that show that coffee is full of antioxidants and polyphenols or that it can help prevent cancer, diabetes, depression and more. It’s true, coffee DOES have health benefits. However, that doesn’t mean every coffee drinker will benefit. And it doesn’t mean that drinking a lot of it will be a good health building strategy.
Think about how you feel after a cup of joe. Do you get jittery? Do you feel great for a couple of hours before your energy drops sharply? Everyone reacts to coffee differently and one reason for that is how coffee is metabolized in your body. If your body has a harder time breaking down coffee or caffeine, it can show up as the jitters, the afternoon crash, poor sleep or even digestive issues.
And even if you haven’t experienced any of the above, chances are coffee is affecting your body in other ways that you might not yet have picked up on.
8 Ways Coffee is Influencing Your Hormones
Coffee has been found to contribute to estrogen dominance which can cause a host of issues. What IS estrogen dominance? Estrogen dominance means one of two things: either there is too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, or there is an imbalance in the estrogen metabolites. You’ll notice several of the following issues (but not all) are related to estrogen dominance.
- Let’s start with something of which you might already be aware – the fact that caffeine can increase development of cysts. In fact, for women with PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and fibrocystic breasts- caffeine is a guaranteed way to make more cysts. Yikes!
- The sugar connection. A 1998 study showed that caffeine increases blood sugar levels. Not only is this dangerous for people with hypoglycemia but fluctuations in blood sugar causes spikes in cortisol (your stress hormone), which in turn can exhaust the adrenals and compromise your immune system. Plus, when your blood sugar drops after that initial spike, you’re more likely to crave sugary foods and carbs… and we know too much sugar can lead to weight gain.
- We’ve discussed before how chronic inflammation is one of the root causes of several modern diseases. This 2010 study found that caffeine is a significant contributor to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which can result in chronic body aches and pains, fatigue, skin problems, diabetes and more.
- Coffee (the caffeinated kind), is meant to keep you awake – that’s kind of the point. But if you consume too much or consume it too close to bedtime, you’ll be suffering sleepless nights, which in turn will cause you to drink even more caffeine the next day….it’s a vicious cycle! In fact, studies have shown that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bed can cause insomnia and restless sleep.
- Remember when we mentioned the adrenals and the sugar connection? Here’s the 411 on that. According to Joseph Mercola, “Coffee stimulates your adrenals — the hormones that activate your fight or flight response. If your adrenal hormones are stimulated too often, which is bound to happen if you are a daily coffee drinker, your adrenal glands may eventually burn out. When your adrenals no longer function effectively, your body will go in search of a replacement hormone — which happens to be progesterone. Progesterone has its own full-time job to do, part of which is to keep your body’s estrogen in balance. As your progesterone is used up compensating for your exhausted adrenals, you run the risk of becoming estrogen dominant.” And tired, burnt out adrenals are often the cause of weight gain (especially around the belly), fatigue and depression.
- You know how important a healthy gut is to your entire well-being, but did you know that coffee can cause acid reflux as well as damage the lining of the gut? Ouch. Coffee stimulates the release of the main gastric hormone which speeds up intestinal transit time, the release of bile, and digestive enzymes – all of which contribute to the aforementioned.
- Not only does coffee affect the health of your gut, it can also affect the health of your bones. Drinking coffee changes the pH balance in your body to a lower, more acidic level and a low pH can contribute to osteoporosis. In fact, this study found habitual coffee drinking among postmenopausal women was the leading cause of osteoporosis, so if that’s you, it’s time for a change!
- Trying to have a baby? Then you need to hear this. The facts: 1) caffeine is associated with suppressed fertility which makes conceiving more difficult; 2) coffee disrupts ovulation due to increasing cortisol and stressing the adrenals; 3) drinking caffeine early in pregnancy increases the risk of early pregnancy loss; and 4) in fact, 3 cups of coffee in a day increases the risk of miscarriage by 74%. Why aren’t doctors telling us this?
Never Fear, Alternatives are Here!
“Okay,” you may be saying by now. “I get it. Coffee may not be good for me. But, Kate, I NEED caffeine to get through the day. I will literally die without it!” While limiting your caffeine intake is a good idea, don’t worry, because there are plenty of alternative ways to get that energy boost you need without harming your body!
- Clean Caffeine – You might not realize it but a lot of the caffeine you consume is likely synthetic caffeine, not natural. You’ll find synthetic caffeine everywhere from energy drinks to soda. The difference here is synthetic caffeine is created in a lab (and can have hidden dangers) while natural caffeine is found on its own in different plants. If you must have caffeine, you want to go with the clean, natural kind. Two of my favorite options for this are Axio and PureLyft.
- Lattes – You don’t have to give up lattes! However, instead of making them with coffee you’ll need to make them with tea instead. Using tea, spices and herbs you’ll get a delicious boost of energy in no time. Try a tumeric chai latte, a matcha latte or this pumpkin cinnamon latte.
- Chicory coffee – Much like coffee beans, chicory root can be roasted, ground and brewed into a delicious hot beverage. It is also a good source of inulin which promotes a healthy gut and aids in digestion.
- Yerba mate – Yerba mate is a naturally caffeinated herbal tea that is loaded with antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.
- Carob – An alternative for chocolate, carob contains protein, vitamins A and B, and carbohydrates, along with some minerals. Carob contains high amounts of pinitol, which has an insulin-like effect that works together with the minerals to give an energized feeling.
You Can Do It!
I’m not saying it will be easy, but reducing or eliminating coffee or switching to a healthier alternative will do wonders for you in the long run. If you’re a heavy coffee drinker, I recommend not going cold turkey but phasing coffee out as you slowly replace it with one of the better options to avoid withdrawal symptoms. With better balanced hormones, you’ll find yourself more energetic, healthier and happier than ever before.