Coffee is everywhere, literally. From office breakrooms to Starbucks shops on every block; being exhausted and 'filling our cup', multiple times a day, has become the norm. In a country that celebrates over-caffeination, the majority of women in our country have no idea how terrible coffee really is for their bodies.
Now, I'm not talking about men. Unfortunately (for women), men can consume coffee, and that's where we've gathered all of the 'coffee is healthy' research we have. But I'm here to talk about women, and the negative side effects coffee (and caffeine) can have on our bodies, and on our hormones.
FYI: By no means am I using this post to push you to make a certain decision. These thoughts are purely my own (as well as some gathered data, from experts in the field.
Why Coffee Isn't Good For Women
Alisa Vitti, a Holistic Health Counselor and founder of FLO Living, is a functional nutritionist and women's hormone expert. Her approach focuses on fixing your hormones, naturally, through food, supplements and self-care. Like me, Alisa went to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and is amaaaaazing!
In one of her blog posts, Alisa talks about why coffee is bad for women:
- "Coffee promotes the creation of cysts in the breasts and ovaries
- Coffee, like alcohol, stays in a woman’s system for longer
- 1 cup of coffee disrupts your hormones for 24 hours
- Coffee depletes your body of essential nutrients and minerals
- Coffee is acidic and this negatively impacts your gut health
- 3 cups a day increases infertility rates in men and women!" (Vitti, Alisa. FLO Living. www.floliving.com).
What this means: Men process things through their bodies quickly; women do not. Our bodies metabolize things at a slower rate (so we can conserve energy for the times we may want to have those tiny humans in our uterus). This means that caffeine stays in our bodies longer.
Caffeine (especially when consumed on an empty stomach) causes us to release cortisol, the "stress hormone". This insulin-surge causes our blood sugar to crash and carbohydrate/sugar cravings to kick in, which usually results in us overeating the wrong things. This also results in our endocrine system needing to work, fully, to overcome the caffeine added to your body, and not in other areas of your body.
Our bodies don't reset until we sleep, and unfortunately, when we've consumed caffeine, our sleep is disrupted, causing us to wake up groggy, needing more caffeine to keep it going. It's an endless cycle.
Acne and Menstrual Cramps
When I first discontinued adding gluten and dairy to my diet, a lot of people asked me how I was able to get through. "It's just something you get used to. You begin to focus on how good you feel when those foods aren't making you feel like shit," I'd proclaim.
After cutting out caffeine (coffee) from my diet, a year ago, not only did I get similar questions, but these questions (and opinions) seemed to be amplified, "HOW CAN YOU NOT DRINK COFFEE ANYMORE? I COULDN'T LIVE WITHOUT COFFEE!"
My answer? Very similar to the answer I gave for quitting gluten and dairy; yeah, it sucks at first, but soon you begin to focus more on your body and how it feels when those ingredients aren't causing havoc on it anymore.
I'm not shy sharing about my journey after I went off of birth control. Unlike now, I wasn't educated (or prepared) on essentials I should be doing, in order to make sure my body handled the change properly. Caffeine, like birth control, does a lot of not-so-great things to your body, including depleting it of magnesium, B vitamins and good gut bacteria. Without this in mind, I was graced with the worst hormonal acne a twenty-something could imagine, and it took years to overcome the struggle. I went off of birth control over two years ago, and not until recently (about a year) did I cut out coffee.
I have TWO specific instances, after cutting out coffee, that I'd like to share about:
One happened, last May; I was getting ready to head to Humboldt (my hometown) for the weekend, and was stopping at the grocery store (a necessity when heading home). The coop I shop at has a coffee shop inside, and I was REALLY craving a hazelnut milk latte. It had been a few months since I'd had coffee, and figured, "what could it hurt?" I sipped, enjoyed and was on my way to Iowa. The next morning, as I was making breakfast, I I got the worst period-cramping I've gotten in a LONG while. Honestly, periods have never been the kindest to me, but these cramps were terrible. As I spent the next 45-minutes, writhing on the floor in pain, with my mom by my side, I cursed my body for being such a pain in the ass. What did I change, from last month to this month? Coffee.
A couple of months ago, I was preparing for my period (I use the FLO Living app and LOVE it)! With periods coming on the same day they should now, I felt confident (and prepared for my period cramps... which, I will talk about more next week). I had been enjoying a couple of glasses of decaf coffee a week; something I thought would be fine, since it was DECAF. However, the morning my period came was dreadful. Cramps, sweats, writhing in pain, again, and breathing like I was about to give birth. What change did I make from last month to this? Coffee.
Did you know decaf coffee still contains small traces of caffeine? I sure didn't... until that episode. As you can imagine, I didn't consume any more coffee and had tolerable cramps, last month.
I want to share that these are my personal opinions. By no means am I telling you to stop your coffee intake STAT; by no means am I telling you you're harming your body by continuing to consume caffeine. We're all a little bit different.
If you find yourself experiencing gut issues, period cramps, acne, etc. I share this as a solution to try. Nothing ever needs to be permanent, but if you're experiencing particular hormone issues, it's always worth giving something a try, right?!
How to Detox From Coffee... The Right Way
So maybe you're thinking to yourself, "yeah, this is something I really should try." Please don't break up with coffee the same way I broke up with birth control... cold turkey. That can have just as many negative side effects. I compiled this handy little list, for when (if ever) you're ready to detox from coffee:
- Try it during your Ovulation Phase (usually in between days 11-16 of your cycle - Day 1 being the first day of your period). That's when we have the most energy (also the time we should try the hardest workouts).
- Consider adaptogen supplements (like ashwagandha) to support your adrenals. I LOVE this tea brand (caffeine-free tea, of course)! Get 25% off your first order here!
- Magnesium-up! Seriously, magnesium is amazing. Remember when I mentioned how our body usually is depleted of it? This is usually the case for everyone. Some of my favorite magnesium supplements include: Natural Calm (get 25% off your first order here), Mag Calm Pro & Mag Glycinate (contact me if you want to order this), and EPSOM SALT BATHS! Especially if you're experiencing a headache, or body aches, I recommend epsom salt baths.
- Load up on your B vitamins and electrolytes (coconut water is my favorite)!
- Avoid heavy workouts
Cutting out coffee sounds difficult, but it doesn't have to be. There are a few nice substitutions I'd recommend:
- Teeccino is probably my favorite coffee substitute because it tastes so much like it! The tea is made from barley, chicory and carob (AND they have gluten free flavors, all made from dandelion). Dandelion is actually a great substitution for coffee because it helps detox the liver... added bonus!
- Chaga mushrooms are an immune powerhouse! They provide a variety of vitamins and nutrients, as well beauty and immune benefits. Lately, I've really liked to take some dehydrated chaga, steep it in my crockpot overnight, and drink. Dark, nutty and comparable to a dark tea, or coffee.
- Speaking of mushrooms, Foursigmatic is next up on my list. This mushroom brand is my all-time favorite! As far as caffeine-free, I recommend any of their elixirs, which promote immunity, brain-function, rest and more! Get 10% off your order, every time, with code "KATE10"!
Kate's Dairy-Free, Caffeine-Free Latte
Think a coffee-free latte sounds too good to be true?! Think again! Click here to find my favorite, homemade latte recipe!
If You Can't Give it Up
Now I DO realize coffee-addiction is real. It's an essential part of so many mornings, mid-mornings, afternoons and on. Maybe you don't have any hormonal concerns. Maybe your period comes naturally, without pain. Maybe you've had kids and have no problems with fertility. For some, coffee might be something you want to continue in your daily routine - that's FINE! If you can't give up the cup 'o joe, I have a couple of recommendations:
- Eat a SATISFYING breakfast before indulging in your cup of coffee. Remember earlier when I talked about cortisol and insulin?! Drinking coffee, after eating food, can insure that your blood sugar won't go all over the place, and that you won't make some not-so-great food decisions, later on.
- Find a better coffee; coffee is very acidic and can cause acid reflux, and gut issues (wiping away good bacteria). My favorite coffee brand is Foursigmatic! Now, I know. Mushroom coffee?! Before you get too grossed out to even try, hear me out! You can't taste the mushrooms, and this coffee is less acidic, better for your adrenals and doesn't cause jitters! I still always recommend drinking only after eating food, first! Use code "KATE10" for 10% off, every purchase!
- Cut back. Instead of your three cups, try two. Once at two, try one. Give you body the chance to see how it feels after consuming less.
- Try decaf! Decaf still contains trace amounts of caffeine, and has the same great flavor!
Listening to YOUR Body
The best advice I'll ever give to anyone is to trust yourself (and this means your body)! It won't lead you astray. If consuming something makes you feel shitty, take note of that! Create a food journal, and write these feelings down, as well as the foods that caused it. Then, after taking note, try cutting back. It never has to be 'all or nothing', either! Start small, cut back where you can, and notice any changes.
Until next time.