What Are The Best Coffee Alternatives for Hormonal Health?
The majority of us live a quick-paced lifestyle consisting of deadlines, continual production and stimulation. To manage this cycle, many of us consume coffee as an ally to persist this flow of productivity without burning out. The short term effects of coffee may feel positive and inspiring, but working with coffee long term is detrimental on our overall health - especially if you have PMS, are trying to conceive, or have a diagnosed menstrual irregularity. Coffee disregards the necessity to give the body a break.
Caffeine and the Menstrual Cycle
“I know that caffeine can really affect hormones.. I don’t drink coffee often but am wondering if you have any information for which phase of the cycle caffeine can be safer for the endocrine system to consume?”
I receive a lot of these types of questions, and statistics say “the average consumption in the United States is 3.1 cups of coffee per day.”
How Caffeine Affects Bodily Systems
Our nervous system, endocrine (hormonal) system, and immune system are connected in a complex relationship. When one is functioning poorly, the others tend to struggle along side. For example, when we are stressed, our stress hormones increase, which causes our immune system to suffer. If you have a menstrual irregularity like fibroids, cysts in the breasts or ovaries, endometriosis, low sex drive, PMS, weight issues, etc, coffee will exacerbate your problems.
Caffeine depletes the body of the essential nutrients for healthy hormones. Coffee drains magnesium, B vitamins and other nutrients and minerals that are vital for our overall health and well being. The acidity of coffee disrupts the gut flora which makes it harder for the body to absorb all of these nutrients. Imagine eating a healthful meal without absorbing any of the vital nutrients in the food.
The Endocrine (Hormonal) System
Our hormones get the brunt of caffeine's effects on the body. In other words, if you drink coffee daily, your body will eventually suffer the negative effects of caffeine along with the stress response it brings about. Coffee releases our stress hormone, cortisol into the body. Cortisol naturally releases during moments of intensity as a result of managing a stressful situation so that we can more-easily manage the stress. However this hormone is beneficial to the body only in extreme types of situations. When released over an extended period of time we begin to see negative effects.
The follicular phase and luteal phase are unique in that the two hemispheres of the brain are communicating with one another more or less during each phase. During the luteal phase, the right hemisphere becomes more active, therefore more communicative with the left hemisphere of our brain. This means we are more naturally sensitive to the stimulus in our environments, more aware of our internal dialogue and more attuned to physical pain. Due to this communication and physiology, coffee may affect us more during our luteal phase, bringing up PMS symptoms, etc, that are already there.
If you choose to drink one 6oz cup of coffee, be sure to drink it in the morning only, during your follicular phase. Cortisol production naturally rises in the early morning hours to aid in waking up, and your cup of coffee will increase that cortisol spike. By drinking coffee later in the day or even in the evenings, you may interfere with the way your body is naturally lowering in this hormone. This could interfere with your melatonin production (the hormone that is released to help you become sleepy).
After you drink your cup, do you feel good for a short period of time, then drained or irritable? Do you notice more pain or other physical discomforts? Do you not receive any negative effects?
Overall Effects of Coffee on the Body
- Drinking coffee daily can trick the body into thinking it is under more stress than it really is.
- Our immune system becomes compromised as our stress hormones rise.
- Sleep becomes less restful when cortisol is raised, causing insomnia or fatigue, as a result of not receiving the deep sleep the body needs to replenish itself for the next day.
- Weight gain can come about from a prolonged rise in cortisol.
- If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other inflammatory issues, avoid caffeine and coffee altogether. Increased stress on the heart may eventually lead to heart attacks or strokes, as blood pressure or heart palpitations are increased by caffeine consumption.
- The digestive system is affected by caffeine and it’s increased stress to the body. The acidity in coffee could irritate your symptoms.
- If coffee is being consumed to suppress your stress, depressed moods, fatigue, etc, coffee will only heighten your symptoms. Find a way to manage your stressors by slowing down, finding more time to sleep, etc. Whatever the answer may be for you, recognize if coffee is being used as a suppressant.
How to Support your System after Drinking Coffee
Minimize Coffee Intake
If you do not want to cut coffee out completely, you can do the following 4 things to minimize the negative effects it has on the body:
- Cut out all sugar and cream ~ rather, use coconut milk
- Drink one small 6oz cup. Consume during your follicular phase only, and see how it makes you feel
- Only drink coffee with food or after a meal
- Take epsom salt baths (you can find it here), or take Magnesium Glycinate to replenish your body of the depleted levels of this nutrient. You can find it here.
Cut Coffee out Completely
For those of you who notice negative physical effects of coffee: fatigue, restless sleep, etc, cut coffee out completely and begin to heal your body and adrenals.
- Eat a big breakfast with protein and healthy fats (eggs, fish, avocado, spinach, etc).
- Support your adrenals by using adaptogenic herbs: Rhodilia and Ashwagandha
- Use coffee alternatives
Top 5 Best Coffee Alternatives
Matcha - My #1 Pick!
Matcha is similar to green tea, but contains the entire ground up leaf. Matcha does have caffeine, but contains L-Theanine, which helps your body process caffeine differently and will create a calm but alert effect.
Cacao does not have caffeine, and will help you stay alert over an extended period of time without the crash of coffee. It contains theobromine, which is a natural stimulant that will allow for a euphoric and content effect.
Golden milk contains tumeric and other spices. The curcumin content in tumeric will help improve brain function, detoxify the liver, relieve inflammation, and act as an antioxidant, among many others. By adding this powder to almond or coconut milk, you will have a perfect alternative to your creamy coffee with a myriad of benefits.
Mushrooms aid in mental clarity, reduce inflammation, and boost your immune system. By adding this powder with the cacao mentioned above in coconut milk or almond milk, you have yourself a fantastic and creamy super food drink full of minerals that aid in a healthy menstrual cycle.
Dandy Blend is an herbal coffee alternative that carries the smoothness and texture of real coffee. It contains roasted barley, rye, chicory root, dandelion root and sugar beetroot. The mixture of these ingredients are packed full of fueling minerals that benefit hormone production.
Weaning off of Coffee
Once you understand your unique cycles and your body’s reactions, you can start making health choices that work for you. When you eat, exercise and live in a way that supports your hormones, you build consistent energy rather than working against your cycles and leaving yourself drained.
Remember that the combination of caffeine, stress, sugar and an unhappy lifestyle may be affecting your complex body systems more than you realize. Listen to the communication from your body, pay attention to how you feel when you drink coffee.
Listen to the signals your body is communicating.