When I stop to think about it, really examine how our society is living, I am astounded by how dependent so many of us are on caffeine.
I know lots of people who don’t feel right in the morning without their cup of joe or can’t wake up without that boost. Did you know there are a ton of benefits to your body if you take a break from caffeine, including improved hormonal health?
Now don’t get me wrong, the ritual of having a warm drink is lovely, and it sure does smell good, but you might be time to think about how much caffeine you are drinking and how this might be affecting your health.
Check out these reasons below that you might want to take a break, or at least cut back on it.
If you’ve been following me for a while you will know that menstrual cramps, while common, are not normal and are a sign from your body that something isn’t quite right. Caffeine can play into this, because it can constrict blood vessels and increase prostaglandins (in guinea pigs), which are hormone-like substances that increase cramping. One study found cramps to be twice as high in women with high caffeine intake than others.
I think most of us know that too much caffeine interferes with sleep. But do you know why, specifically, this happens? Caffeine interferes with the hormone melatonin, and melatonin is what is needed to produce good quality sleep.
In addition, you need a certain level of melatonin each night while you sleep in order to have good hormonal balance. This is why sleeping in complete darkness (with blackout curtains) is recommended to help with menstrual cycle difficulties, since melatonin is produced based on the light you are exposed to (less light equals more melatonin, which is what you want).
Caffeine can increase the release of the stress hormone (cortisol), and can put your body in an state of stress, even if you’re not totally aware of it. However, research has found that people can build a bit of tolerance to this so there may be less effect over time. How this affects your stress levels and in turn your adrenal glands will depend on you. Everybody is affected differently, and our genetics play a role, so be cautious of this since our adrenal glands play an important role in menstrual cycle regulation, and too much of this hormone interferes with hormone balance and can cause long and irregular cycles and difficulty ovulating.
Reducing caffeine helps reduce migraines due to the effect it has on the nervous system. And I’d guess that this probably has some effect on regular headaches as well.
Caffeine is well-known to increase anxiety. It can cause increased heart rate, sweaty palms, and other symptoms that are similar to anxiety. So if you suffer with anxiety caffeine could be making this worse for you.
Most people have heard that if you’re pregnant it’s a good idea to cut down or stop caffeine. But did you know that it’s also a good idea to stop is ahead of time when you are planning a pregnancy? Research has shown that over a certain level of caffeine (coffee specifically) pre-pregnancy leads to higher risk of miscarriage.
Infant birth weight
Another study showed that the more caffeine pregnant mothers drank the lower the birth weight of their child. Why is this a bad thing? Low birth weight is associated with all kinds of risks, including health and developmental problems like learning difficulties, hearing and visual impairments, respiratory problems, and chronic diseases later in life.
Now I’m not saying that having a cup of coffee once in a while will lead to all these problems necessarily, but you may want to do some research and see how much caffeine is considered safe and what level of risk you are willing to take.
Benefits of caffeine
Of course, it’s not all bad (nothing ever is). It can make you feel more alert, help you wake up, help you focus, and contains antioxidants. Although I would suggest relying on this every day is a problem, once in a while it could be useful.
And there is research on other great potential health benefits, including helping with Parkinson’s Disease, helping babies with bronchial problems (trust me, I’m as confused about this as you are), helping with breast cancer treatment, and others. Plus, if your caffeine choice is dark chocolate, that actually contains magnesium and other things which have some health benefits (but beware of all the sugar!).
Managing your consumption
Not all caffeine is created equal. Coffee has the most, then there is black and green tea, and of course chocolate and pop.
And again, as with everything, every body is different, so how it affects you will be different than how it affects others.
Check out the recommended dosage, and experiment with yourself. Try going for three whole cycles (it often takes about three cycles to notice dietary changes) with no caffeine and see how you feel. Or if that’s too daunting for you, try stopping your consumption for just the luteal phase of your cycle (that’s after ovulation until your next period). This would be an especially good idea for you if you struggle with your hormonal balance.
I’m not saying we should never consume it, but I want to propose that we think about coffee and other caffeinated foods as a special treat, something for that occasion when you really want or need it, instead of relying on it most days. Not only would you be healthier with happier hormones, but think of all the garbage and money that would be saved!!!