Part 2 In the “I’m Quitting Coffee” Series
I’m not a doctor. I’m not even medical field adjacent. However, I can do research (thank you internet) and make decisions for myself based on my findings. I’m not trying to give anyone health advice; this blog is mostly about telling you what works for my body and lifestyle with the hope and intention that my adventures will give you something interesting to think about. If you implement one of my lifestyle changes or experiments in your own life and it works for you, that’s awesome.
That being said, the research on caffeine and its effects on anyone with a menstrual cycle who is not planning on having a baby are discouragingly minimal. Shockingly, research on caffeine and the “human body” in general, is everywhere. We’ve all heard that too much caffeine could mean increased heart rate and blood pressure, more anxiety, maybe some irritability and headaches, a touch of stomach issues, and then usually there’s a slight mention of “pregnancy and fertility” issues. None of those reasons inspired me to look into quitting coffee… at first glance. My husband and I aren’t having kids, and the other reasons just weren’t enough of a concern to get me to quit my beloved and delicious coffee. Then I started thinking about it. Women have hormonal cycles that can be significantly disrupted by many things (including stimulants) who may NOT be trying to get pregnant. Pregnancy and fertility are not a concern to me, but obviously there is an underlying issue there that is specific to women.
To summarize the readily-accessible mainstream data: unless I’m planning on being pregnant, I shouldn’t worry about what coffee is doing to my body even though something about regular caffeine consumption could alter my hormones enough to make it hard for me to get pregnant.
Why isn’t women’s health important to study outside the context of our ability to grow babies? Most of us know the answer to that question. The good news is that the research is slowly being done, but because there is so little data many of the findings are considered anecdotal or unsubstantiated. We need more information, but I’m fine with that. I’m willing to roll the dice on something like this. If it helps, that’s excellent. And quitting won’t hurt me.
Here are the three reasons I am quitting coffee:
1) Blood Sugar
If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that I quit eating refined sugars over two years ago. I noticed that every time I ate sugary foods I would get extremely tired and lethargic, and my anxiety levels would skyrocket. I almost never felt hyper or energetic; I went directly to having an exhausted body with a huge amount of anxiety and mood swings. I did some basic research and concluded that my body can break down and benefit a lot from natural sugars (I still eat a ton of fruit throughout the day and get plenty of clean energy from it) but anything too high on the glycemic scale causes my blood sugar to get too high. For anyone who may not know, this means that in response, the pancreas releases insulin (a hormone) into the bloodstream to help cells absorb the sugar.
What I didn’t know, until recently, is that these spikes in insulin production can interfere with ovulation, which interferes with progesterone production and can lead to estrogen dominance. I will let you do your own research from here, but estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency (essentially hormonal imbalance) are some of the major contributors when it comes to any and all “PMS” symptoms like cramping, headaches, bloating, moodiness and depression, chronic exhaustion, etc.
The other thing I didn’t know is that studies have been done that show that caffeine, just like sugar, can have similar effects on the body, especially if consumed in the morning before food. Even without the sugary creamer, coffee on it’s own causes blood sugar levels to rise, which in turn causes insulin and cortisol (stress hormone) spikes, and therefore, hormonal imbalance.
2) PMS and Estrogen Imbalance
Even though I’m breaking this down into my top three reasons, there will be overlap because all of these issues are so interconnected – that’s kind of the point.
As long as I can remember I have gotten headaches, or even migraines, right before my period starts. Recently, I’ve also started to experience increased cramping and lethargy, which I haven’t had for many years. The flood of estrogen into my system is what I’ve found to be the culprit and I’ve done several things to help. I increased my intake of flax because the omega-3s help reduce inflammation in the body, I take b vitamins to help with energy, and I upped my magnesium consumption with dark leafy greens and cacao in my smoothies almost every morning. Magnesium helps convert food into energy, helps regulate blood sugar levels, increases cell’s ability to absorb sugar from the bloodstream, and has anti-inflammatory properties, among many other benefits.
I have definitely noticed an improvement in all of my PMS symptoms after quitting refined sugars and increasing my omegas, b vitamins, and magnesium consumption, however, I have begun to wonder if caffeine consumption is somewhat sabotaging my results as it works actively against all the progress I’m making by contributing to hormonal imbalance.
3) Magnesium and Micronutrient Absorption
This last point sealed the deal for me. Caffeine, plain and simple, drains the body of hormone-balancing minerals and nutrients. On the one hand, the acidity in coffee can create an imbalance in your gut flora which can make it harder for you to absorb all the nutrients in a healthy diet. In turn, this makes it harder for your endocrine system to balance hormones. Additionally, caffeine doesn’t necessarily leach magnesium and b vitamins (amongst other nutrients) out of the body, but it may reduce the intestine’s ability to absorb the nutrients in the first place. Therefore, it can lead to deficiency’s over time.
So, in conclusion, I’ve made many changes over the last several years to heal my mind and body, and for some reason I feel like I’ve hit a plateau with my PMS symptoms. It’s not a surprise when I look at these findings and realize that caffeine (something I consume on a daily basis) is contributing to blood sugar spikes, hormonal imbalance, and less absorption of hormone balancing minerals and nutrients. Caffeine is actively working against my efforts to improve my symptoms in pretty much every area. So it goes!
I begin my transition out of coffee drinking today. Instead of two cups, I’m having one. And then I’m going on a mushroom latte adventure.