I was going to name this article, “Is coffee wrecking havoc on your hormones?” but no one wants to be met with confrontation about their morning cup(s) of coffee!
I was one of those people. It became such a problem that I was drinking nearly a pot a day all to myself. Now granted, I was deep into stage 3 adrenal fatigue (sorry, HPA axis dysfunction) in which my body was no longer making it’s own cortisol, but none the less it was an issue.
For most of you, caffeine wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going during the 3pm slump at the office. Heck, you probably add a little pre-workout powder before your training session as well. Many of us are addicted (whether you’d like to admit it or not) and we can’t get through the thought of a day without it.
But did you know that caffeine can wreck havoc on your adrenal hormones and even disrupt your reproductive health?
Let’s start with the adrenals
Modern life is overly busy, frantic and we are always “on”. This results in a body that is constantly on alert and stressed out. Top that off with our daily over-reliance on caffeine to keep us pushing through the day and we have a serious issue.
Caffeine stimulates neuron activity in the brain where they then send messages to the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands, which then produces adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline and cortisol are those awesome “fight or flight” hormones that keep us energized, alert, and ready to run or throw a punch. This was particularly useful for our ancestors, but they do us a disservice in modern life.
See, instead of being able to ‘run’ or ‘fight’ off that pent up energy (remember cortisol frees up glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids into our blood for quick use by our brains and muscles), we sit there behind our desk and much on a doughnut from the break room… You can see all that pent up energy and angst gets shoved back down rather than dealt with.
And what does caffeine do? It basically pushes us an extra step farther than we would comfortably like to go without it. It causes our adrenal glands to work THAT much harder in an already over-stimulated world. The effects? An adrenal gland that no longer wants to produce cortisol due to negative biofeedback mechanisms and we get ‘adrenal fatigue.”
If your adrenal glands are ‘fatigued’ or rather, ‘dysfunctional’, then adding on caffeine can cause your adrenals to become even overworked and eventually weakened to the point that they no longer function properly.
Adrenal dysfunction is usually the start of burn out, leaky gut, food sensitivities, fat gain, mood disorders, and general unhappiness. No bueno!
And what about our sex hormones, ladies?
If you are having period irregularities, PMS, PCOS, or even struggling with infertility, then you may want to take a hard look at your caffeine intake.
An observational study found that women who consumed more than the equivalent of one cup of coffee per day halved their chances of becoming pregnant…HALVED! (1) Although the mechanism of action of the caffeine on pregnancy is unknown, it’s thought to delay the transit of the fertilized egg from tube to uterus and may even cause miscarriage after implantation (5).
The key here is to be aware of how much caffeine you are consuming on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s a lot more than we realize. You’re probably thinking, “damnit, she’s making take responsibility over my own health again!” Yes dear, and I promise it’s worth it!
According to Sarah Clark, fertility expert and coach, “there are some health benefits to caffeine consumption such as increased alertness, improved mood, more energy, better concentration and preventing disease such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.” However, if you are struggling with hormonal imbalances and infertility, it’s time to select another drink of choice.
How to Wean off Caffeine (the fun way)
The key is not to quit cold turkey. Instead, give yourself some grace and go slowly. Caffeine withdrawal causes headaches, body aches, stomach problems, irritability, depression and fatigue (ok that last one was obvious, but I had to include for completeness).
Here is Your Plan to Quit Coffee
Make your coffee 50% decaf with 50% regular coffee.
Before your coffee, consume one glass of water with 2 T. lemon juice and a dash of sea salt.
Drink one glass of water before every coffee that you drink.
Tips: Caribou Coffee 100% Decaf is the BOMB! It tastes amazing and you can’t notice the change in flavor.
Make your coffee 75% decaf and 25% regular coffee.
Continue to drink one glass of water with 2 T. lemon juice and a dash of sea salt before every coffee you drink
Drink 100% decaf, or you may switch to caffeine-free herbal tea or water.
Now’s your time to try matcha green tea (you know that trendy green stuff everyone is talking about?). The key is to make some flavorful tea FIRST and add the matcha powder in second. I love Pukka ginger tea paired with matcha from Foursigmatic. My brain and energy have never been so stable!
Hint: matcha powder can be a little….Earthy tasting.
Go slowly and give yourself some grace as you gradually reduce your caffeine intake. Remember if you slip up don’t give up, just start again when you can!