Brewing hormonal havoc
April 11, 2024

Brewing hormonal havoc

The surprising link between caffeine and hormones

The unsexy truth about coffee and your hormones

Ever wondered if your beloved coffee habit is throwing your hormones out of whack? You’re not alone. Turns out, there's more to your cup of java than meets the eye. Caffeine—that delightful stimulant we love for energy—has the potential to throw our hormones out of whack. Calling all coffee connoisseurs: time to get the practical deets on your daily brew.

How does caffeine impact hormones?

Ultimately, the link between caffeine and hormones is nuanced. It’s not as black-and-white as drinking caffeine or abstaining, completely. We are all bio-individuals, after all! Caffeine impacts each of us differently. However, observational studies indicate the following:

Caffeine & cortisol: Caffeine can temporarily increase cortisol, our stress hormone. While a moderate rise (in the morning) is part of the body's natural response, excessive caffeine intake may lead to prolonged elevated cortisol levels, potentially impacting hormonal balance.

Caffeine & insulin: Caffeine can also affect insulin sensitivity (aka blood sugar balance). This is particularly relevant for those with PCOS, as insulin resistance is a common condition.

Caffeine & estrogen: Battling estrogen dominance? If so, you may want to aim for minimal-to-moderate caffeine consumption. After all, too much caffeine can affect estrogen levels, potentially exacerbating hormonal imbalances—especially for Asian women. One study shows that higher caffeine consumption is associated with higher estrogen levels in women of Asian descent.

Should you avoid caffeine?

This depends. First and foremost, determine if you have a hormone imbalance. Work with your healthcare provider to accurately diagnose your specific condition(s). Ultimately, most experts suggest avoiding caffeine to alleviate hormonal imbalance symptoms.

Healthy, hormone-loving ingredients to add to your coffee

If you can’t quit your morning coffee, drink it after you’ve had a blood sugar-friendly breakfast, make sure it’s high-quality and tested for impurities, and consider adding the following ingredients to your cup of joe:

  • Collagen
    • Collagen powder is a great choice to mix into your hot coffee (without altering the flavor or texture). A source of protein, collagen can help reduce caffeine’s impact on insulin and blood sugar levels. 
  • Full-fat milk or plant-based alternative
    • Opt for full-fat milk or an unsweetened plant-based alternative, like coconut milk.
    • Full-fat options can provide healthy fats which are essential for hormone production and stable blood sugar.
  • Monk fruit sweetener
    • Swap your honey or cane sugar for monk fruit. This is a natural sweetener with zero calories and a low glycemic index (meaning, it won’t spike blood sugar).
  • Cinnamon
    • Cinnamon not only adds flavor but also has potential benefits for insulin sensitivity.
  • Adaptogens
    • Consider adding adaptogens, like ashwagandha or maca, for their potential stress-reducing and hormone-balancing properties.
    • Start with a small amount and adjust based on your preference.

The best time of the month to enjoy caffeine

Yes, there is a more optimal cycle phase to enjoy caffeine! The first half of the menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), is often considered a favorable time. During this phase, estrogen levels are on the rise, potentially enhancing the positive effects of caffeine without causing as much disruption to hormonal balance. The increased estrogen may also contribute to better tolerance and reduced sensitivity to caffeine.

Conversely, during the second half of the menstrual cycle—the luteal phase—estrogen decreases while progesterone rises. Because of this, some women experience heightened sensitivity to caffeine during this phase. This can lead to potential disruptions in sleep patterns or increased feelings of anxiety.

Ultimately, play around with adjusting your caffeine consumption throughout the month. You may be pleasantly surprised by the benefits of limiting your intake before your period starts!