Ah, coffee – doesn’t just the smell of it make you happy? Me definitely!
That aromatic elixir that kick starts your mornings and fuels your days. Many of us rely on this magical wake up beverage to keep us alert, focused, and yes, even happy. But is coffee good for you? And if so, how much should you drink?
Let’s discuss in this article the pros and cons of coffee and why especially women in perimenopause and menopause might need to ration their coffee consumption for happier hormones.
Coffee contains more than 800 different phytonutrients, including polyphenols/ antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and fiber-like compounds called melanoidins that are really good for your microbiome. Wow, that makes you want to drink more coffee doesn’t it?!
And have you noticed that coffee makes you feel happy? For example, a review published in the journal Nutrients in 2020 examined the effects of coffee on mood and mental health. The review concluded that moderate coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of depressive symptoms, improved cognitive function, and enhanced overall well-being.
Moderate coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer. The presence of bioactive compounds in coffee, like chlorogenic acids and diterpenes, may help reduce fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver.
Coffee is rich in antioxidants, such as chlorogenic acids, which can help counteract oxidative stress and reduce inflammation in the liver. These properties may contribute to the protective effects of coffee against liver damage and disease.
But why do some people say that coffee is bad for your health and especially your hormones?
Let’s not forget caffeine! Caffeine gives you that wake up boost by blocking adenosine receptors in your brain. When you get tired, you actually build up adenosine, which is a byproduct of your cell’s metabolism that signals your brain that it’s time to sleep. Caffeine can actually take up to 6 hours before your body has cleared it from your system. That’s why that cup of coffee at 4PM (or even later) to keep you going, can disrupt your sleep and then the next day after a bad night of sleep, you need even more coffee to make it through the day…. So you may have guessed that the amount and also the time of the day you consume coffee do matter!
Also: not all coffee is equal!
I had to experience this first hand when I was getting breakouts every morning on my skin when having breakfast and after a while it dawned on me that my coffee was contaminated. I had this type of reaction before when I was a student and (silly me) was buying strawberries in March. Well I learnt the hard way to eat seasonal as these products are usually highly treated with chemicals to survive the long journey. I had heard before that it’s important to buy organic coffee as it can be contaminated, but I had never found one that tasted good so I stuck with my regular coffee. Anyways, this experience made me switch to organic and the breakouts stopped.
Coffee beans are one of the crops that are most treated with pesticides and on top of that, coffee is often contaminated with mold. So, quality matters!
Why coffee is healthy for some and not so healthy for others:
The inflammatory response to coffee can vary from person to person due to several factors, including individual sensitivity, genetic variations, and the presence of certain compounds in coffee. While caffeine is anti-inflammatory for most, other compounds in coffee stimulate various aspects of the immune system.
Genetic variations can influence how your body processes and responds to these different substances. For example, variations in genes responsible for metabolizing caffeine can affect the way you react to coffee. Some people have genetic variations that make them more prone to experiencing an inflammatory response when consuming coffee.
The composition of your gut microbiome can also influence how your body reacts to coffee. Research suggests that the interaction between coffee compounds and gut bacteria can affect the production of metabolites (by your gut bacteria) and influence inflammatory responses.
There’s also interaction between the HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis, the stress axis, and coffee consumption. Coffee stimulates the release of Cortisol, your stress hormone, so daily coffee consumption can magnify your stress response. Also, studies show that coffee lowers the threshold for anxiety. So, coffee may not be the best choice for anyone with anxiety disorders or high levels of chronic stress.
So let’s resume:
The pros of coffee:
Antioxidant Powerhouse: Coffee is packed with antioxidants that help fight inflammation and protect against cell damage. These compounds have been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as certain cancers and heart disease.
Enhanced Cognitive Function: Caffeine, the main active ingredient in coffee, stimulates the central nervous system and boosts brain function. It can improve focus, attention, and alertness, making those groggy mornings a little easier to handle.
Boosting your digestion and metabolism: coffee is the best digestive bitter and can also help those with a slow digestion
The cons of coffee:
Quality matters! Make sure you are consuming organic (and mold free coffee)
Quantity & time matter! Caffeine's stimulating effects can linger in your system for 6 hours. Consuming coffee late in the day or in excessive amounts can disrupt your sleep, leading to fatigue and impact your overall well-being.
If you depend on it, it’s time to cut down! Especially if you’re tired, decaf will be a better choice for you as coffee will just set you up for a vicious cycle of needing another boost to keep going every couple of hours
Increased Anxiety and Jitters: Caffeine can amplify feelings of anxiety and restlessness in susceptible individuals.
Diuretic: coffee is dehydrating, so make sure you drink extra water for every cup of coffee you consume
Acidity: Coffee's acidity can cause issues for those with sensitive stomachs, triggering heartburn, acid reflux, or digestive discomfort.
Dependency and Withdrawal: Regular consumption of coffee can lead to caffeine dependency, meaning you may experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches, irritability, and fatigue if you suddenly cut back or quit.
Why coffee may not be the best choice in perimenopause and menopause...
The decline of progesterone in perimenopause and menopause is leaving room for cortisol to rise, so you are much more sensitive to stress during this time - and you are probably feeling this too! So your base of stress resilience is already pretty delicate….
As I said above, coffee also stimulates the release of cortisol, basically adding even more stress.
Sleep disturbances and increased anxiety are also very common during this time and caffeine will just make that worse.
Coffee also produces more heat and is definitely on the avoid list of foods/drinks if you are suffering from hot flashes.
Remember, as with most things in life, balance is key!
So, go ahead and savor that cup of joe, but be sure to listen to your body and make choices that align with your unique needs.
Cheers to your health and happiness!