There’s a lot of information out there about how caffeine can disrupt your hormones and cause you not to feel your best. We interviewed two experts in the field to find out more about why this happens.
Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who's been through her own health journey dealing with hormones over the last decade. Now, she works with women 1:1 to help them balance their hormones naturally and get rid of their period problems. Amanda also hosts a podcast called Are You Menstrual.
Nina Boyce is a hormone coach, a fertility awareness educator, and a Reiki practitioner. After struggling with hormone imbalances herself - she really dove into understanding women's health, particularly focusing on hormones. Today Nina supports women to understand their hormones and how to live intuitively with their menstrual cycle. Nina also hosts a podcast called Healing Hormones.
We sat down with Nina and Amanda to ask the big questions - here is what we found!
Which hormones are affected by caffeine?
Nina: Everybody reacts to caffeine differently. It all kind of depends on how stressed out you are and what your day to day looks like. Stress increases your body’s need for cortisol and minerals from the body, whenever you add caffeine, you’re kind of setting your system on fire. This is whenever you see the most imbalances in things like estrogen and progesterone. Caffeine can definitely lead to estrogen dominance in women.
Amanda: Our stress hormones (fight or flight hormones) are adrenaline and epinephrine. Of course, whenever we have caffeine that's going to increase those cortisol levels and get us feeling really amped and ready to go. And then those itself, then can start playing a role and affecting our other sex hormones like estrogen.
What are the signs that caffeine is having a negative effect on your hormones?
Nina:The first thing that came to my mind is if you're dealing with a lot of pain around the time of your period. Drinking caffeine during the luteal phase (the time right before your period) can make cramping worse.
Amanda: I feel like those are some big signs - I also want to touch on mood changes. I see in a lot of people if they have coffee in the morning they might notice later in the day they're in more of an angry mood or they snap easily. A lot of this is because of blood sugar. So, having tons of cravings later in the day (it's usually not immediate) is often because your blood sugar is dropping. People will often say, I'm craving another coffee or something sweet.
Also, if you’re having trouble sleeping, we can’t just think about what you did before bed, you need to consider your whole day. Caffeine for some people really interrupts their sleep, especially if you’re having caffeine on an empty stomach, or later in the day. Another sign of stress is having to run to the bathroom to pee all the time or throughout the night. Caffeine is known to increase your stress hormones so that is something to look out for too.
Is there a different hormonal response to caffeine in men versus women?
Amanda: For men it can increase their testosterone. So, that can be a benefit but it's limiting (about 400 milligrams a day) then over that it will decrease your testosterone. Caffeine can decrease men’s estrogen levels, because men have estrogen, too. Yes, men and women are different but if a man is stressed and depleted he's still probably not going to react well. I think they're just not as sensitive, because with women, our hormones are going to fluctuate a lot, like if you're in your luteal phase you might not tolerate caffeine as well.
Nina: Right, and they just don’t have that many shifts in their hormones so they don’t notice the effects as much, which is interesting.
Amanda: I mean think about how we make progesterone to balance out estrogen and when that's out of balance like a woman's going to not feel as great, whereas with men, caffeine is boosting their testosterone which would help balance out their estrogen so I feel like it's got more benefits for men, if anything, and not as many like negative side effects.
Click the link below to see the full chat with Nina and Amanda!