Coffee and PCOS-
The Truth About How Caffeine Affects Your Hormones
It’s Monday, and the first words out of your mouth are “ugh” because all you hear is the sound of your alarm going off. Suddenly, you realize the weekend is over, and you have to go into work. All you want to do is roll back over, wrap yourself in your warm blankets and go back to sleep. The last thing you want to be is an adult today, but then you hear it. The sound of your coffee pot turning on, and the smell of that sweet coffee aroma. Suddenly, your case of the Monday’s has disappeared. Your spirits have lifted, and all you can think about is getting out of bed and getting that first cup of coffee.
Does this sound familiar?
If it does, then you are just like every other person in the world who enjoys their coffee and can’t imagine starting their day without it. Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world, and people cannot seem to live without it. However, if you are a woman who suffers from PCOS, then you may just have to consider whether having coffee is right for you.
The truth is there is A LOT of conflicting information about coffee and PCOS.
Some believe that women who suffer from PCOS should just eliminate coffee from their diet entirely. Others believe that if done in moderation, it won’t affect them. So what is the truth? In order to fully understand, we need to look at how coffee can potentially affect our hormones and worsen PCOS symptoms so that you can make an informed decision on what’s best for your body.
Pros of consuming caffeine:
Studies have found that there are a number of benefits associated with a moderate intake of caffeine. These include:
- Antioxidant properties which can reduce inflammation in the body
- Boosting mood and decreasing rate of depression
- Stimulating the metabolism and increasing fat burning
- Stimulating brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
- Potentially protecting against heart disease
PCOS, is a condition rooted in hormonal imbalances and while caffeine could be potentially making these hormonal imbalances worse there is one way it could be helping. Caffeinated drinks have been associated with improving SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin) production, a protein that is produced in the liver. SHBG binds itself with excess androgens (testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) and estrogen and makes them inactive and harmless.
Women with from PCOS tend to have lower SHBG levels, which causes an increase in testosterone and estrogen in the blood. Having that morning cup of caffeinated coffee can actually help circulate the testosterone and estrogen in the blood, causing it to be ineffective and bound by SHBG, which in turn can improve your PCOS symptoms.
So with all these benefits how could caffeine be the problem when it comes to your PCOS?
A lot of the conflicting advice that comes with coffee and PCOS is centered around insulin sensitivity. To be honest, there is so much research regarding coffee and insulin resistance, and it can be very confusing. For example, several studies have shown that drinking coffee helps lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. However, this may not help women who have PCOS because their risk of developing diabetes is a lot higher.
When consuming coffee, it has an immediate effect on insulin sensitivity and can make your body more insulin resistant after drinking only one cup. However, this usually refers to people who consume coffee regularly. Interestingly though, both of these effects were shown when caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee drinks were consumed. This means it may not be the caffeine in the coffee, but some other compounds that produced these results.
When you’re a woman who has PCOS, you may naturally have concerns about what caffeine intake will do to you if you’re trying to conceive. When it comes to research, there is very little evidence on a direct link between caffeine and fertility. However, some researchers think that consuming between 300-400mg of caffeine a day has been linked to decreased fertility. Although, researchers are still not certain why this is the case. Women who suffer from PCOS already have a hard time getting pregnant, and adding caffeine to the mix could make your pregnancy journey harder.
Other evidence has shown that with a daily consumption of caffeine women have a higher risk for miscarriage. One study showed women who consumed more than 200mg a day of caffeine doubled their risk of having a miscarriage. Now, this can be scary for a woman who suffers from PCOS because PCOS already puts you in a higher risk category of having a miscarriage in your first trimester. So the reality is, if you are trying to get pregnant, or are already pregnant, it may be best to just eliminate caffeine from your diet, including coffee.
The adrenal glands play an important role in hormone production. Roughly 50% of women who have PCOS have high adrenal androgens. Evidence has shown that women who suffer from PCOS have a hyper-responsive HPA or Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. When there is a disturbance in the HPA Axis, it can lead to an excess of androgen production, anovulatory cycles, missing or irregular cycles, chronic stress, increased abdominal fat, impaired glucose sensitivity, and insulin resistance.
The adrenal glands also produce two types of hormones; epinephrine and cortisol. Caffeine has been shown trigger the adrenal glands to produce hormones and in fact, research has actually shown that when caffeine is consumed, it can cause an acute stress response. This means that caffeine can cause a rise in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate. So simply put, caffeine can actually worsen adrenal fatigue and in turn worsen your PCOS symptoms.
So to Coffee or not to coffee?
For starters, if you’re unsure where to start, it’s important to consider the root cause of your PCOS and how caffeine is affecting your hormones. Also, maybe think about the relationship you have with caffeinated beverages and coffee. Is this something you rely on for energy on a daily basis, like you simply couldn’t function without it? This is actually a sign that your hormones and in particular your adrenals are in need of some attention and while you may think the caffeine is helping your energy, in fact it can be causing those afternoon slumps. This doesn’t mean you have to go cold turkey and give up your favourite morning drink, instead take it one step at a time to see if reducing your caffeine intake actually helps you to feel better.
Here are some tips on how to handle coffee consumption while being mindful of your PCOS symptoms:
???? Start slow, and think about where you need to start. If you’re someone who drinks 3 cups a day, maybe consider cutting down to 2 cups and having an herbal tea in the afternoon and work back form there
???? Think simple swaps! We all love that warm beverage in morning, it’s kind of like a warm hug, try swapping to your favourite herbal tea or a something like dandelion root tea (this can be made just like a cup of coffee and has amazing benefits for your hormones)
????Aim for maximum of 1-2 cups (really consider the less if you have adrenal/stress based PCOS) Drink your second cup by noon. Anything later will affect getting a peaceful night’s sleep.
???? As tempting as it is, avoid depending on Starbucks or other coffee shops to fulfil your coffee needs. Cappuccinos, lattes, and macchiatos are often filled with extra refined sugar. The extra syrup, sugar, and cream can cause an increase in your blood sugar, and that’s what we want to stay away from. Brewing coffee at home, black or with a little bit of almond milk is a better option.
???? If you simply cannot fathom getting rid of coffee in your life, then consider switching over to a decaf organic coffee that’s been processed via The Swiss Water process. The Swiss Water Process is a water-based decaffeination method that pulls caffeine from coffee beans as naturally as possible, without affecting the coffee flavor.
Finally, just be aware of the withdrawal symptoms when cutting out caffeine. These are temporary and if you can push through the rewards will pay off and you’ll be feeling more energised- without the caffeine, in no time! Remember, coffee is an addictive substance, and it’s not easy to give up cold turkey if you’ve been drinking it every day for the last few years.
As you can see there is no right or wrong answer when it comes down to this topic. It’s simply a personal decision. Check in with yourself and see what feels best for you.
Drop a questions and comment below ???????? if you have any questions or if you’re ready to get rid of caffeine and improve your PCOS.
For more information about how to take control back control of your PCOS body, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram ????????
Nutrition, Mindset & Menstrual Cycle Coach
Kayla is the creator and founder of The PCOS Bible. Through her own personal journey and studies in Psychology, Teaching and an Advanced Certificate of Human Nutrition and Health coaching, Kayla discovered the powers of an holistic approach combining nutrition, lifestyle and mindset to manage and even reverse the symptoms of PCOS that once controlled not only her life but her clients too. Kayla is deeply passionate about empowering women to understand and reconnect with themselves so that they can learn how to support their bodies back to balance with a maintainable approach and overcome their PCOS.