You crave it, you need it, you can’t function without it. Admit it: You’re addicted to coffee.
Look, we all love the caffeinated stuff—it’s practically our national drug of choice. And thanks to extraordinary marketing, it’s gained a reputation as a feel-good crutch for getting through the day. But the truth is, as a society, we’re completely dependent—and many of us aren’t aware how the biochemical effects of this powerful substance might affect our hormones.
As a hormone expert for women, I've avoided coffee for years and recommend the same to my clients.
Yes, research shows there may be some benefits to drinking coffee. But I believe that the risks for women with active hormone issues—like PMS, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, and infertility—not only outweigh any benefits but could also exacerbate these conditions.
And new research suggests one clear reason why it should be avoided: A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that drinking three or more caffeinated beverages a day raised the risk of early pregnancy loss by 74 percent. And that statistic applies whether the caffeine is consumed before or after conception. (This isn’t just critical info for women: Caffeine consumption in male partners was associated just as much with pregnancy loss.)
Here are a few other reasons you may want to consider quitting coffee:
1. Women metabolize caffeine more slowly than men do.
You know that biologically it’s a bad idea to try matching your guy drink for drink. That’s because women metabolize alcohol more slowly than men do and feel the negative (and nauseating) effects after fewer servings.
Caffeine is no different—women also tend to metabolize it more slowly. The female body is brilliantly designed to conserve as much energy from whatever we’re consuming so we can grow tiny humans in our uterus—amazing, right? Whether you are actively doing this or not, your body is built to retain fluids for much longer and to metabolize the chemicals contained much more slowly.
And if you’re skipping breakfast and caffeinating on an empty stomach or even using coffee as a meal replacement, the negative physical effects can be profound.
2. Caffeine disrupts your entire hormonal cascade for 24 hours.
Whether you know it or not, your daily coffee habit could be putting you on a blood sugar roller coaster. Here’s how:
- Many of us don’t actually enjoy the taste of coffee. If you’re adding cream and sugar to make your daily brew palatable, these additions send your blood sugar soaring.
- Caffeine itself causes your body to produce extra cortisol.
- Your system can only reset with a good night’s sleep, but you’re unlikely to get sufficient rest thanks to the caffeine coursing through your body. When you’re lacking quality sleep, you suppress healthy hormone production.
- When you wake up groggy the next morning, your first instinct is to grab more coffee, setting off another day of endocrine disruption and dysfunction.
3. Caffeine can deplete your body of some micronutrients.
Coffee could deplete some nutrients and minerals that are vital for happy hormones, such as B vitamins.
3 Steps to Reducing Your Coffee Intake
Quitting any addictive substance can be tough, and caffeine is no exception. But you can do it with the right guidance. Choose your own adventure here:
Scenario 1: You don’t rely on coffee for energy; you just love the taste:
- Start by losing the sugar and cream to minimize the blood-sugar impact.
- Take the European approach to coffee drinking: Switch to a small cup of fresh espresso rather than a giant venti, trenta bucket from Starbucks.
- Drink your small cup of coffee only when you’re sitting, after or during a full meal (again, the Europeans have this right). If you enjoy the taste, you should be savoring it—not gulping it down on the school run or as you dash to the office.
Scenario 2: You’re dependent on coffee and can see it’s making your hormonal symptoms worse, but you’re afraid of withdrawal:
- Eat a really good, big breakfast to give your body energy-boosting fuel at the beginning of the day.
- Support your need for mental focus with ginkgo biloba and Rhodiola. For natural and sustainable energy, I recommend ashwagandha, vitamin B12, and vitamin B5. To reduce stress and calm your cortisol, drink holy basil tea.
- Swap coffee for kukicha or “twig tea," which is made from the roasted stem from which green tea leaves are plucked. It has a nutty taste and is perfect any time of the day.