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Caffeine, Chinese Medicine, and the Menstrual Cycle

How many of us rely on our morning cup of coffee to get us going or even encourage us to get out of bed and face the day? I used to rely on the smell of coffee to coax me out of bed especially during grad school. Those morning jolts got me up and going just like millions of other Americans who rely on their morning cup of joe. But did you know that caffeine consumption makes your PMS worse, decreases your fertility, and depletes your body of essential vitamins and minerals? That means coffee, tea, and energy drinks. So before you swap your coffee for green tea check out this article.

Caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinephrine; these stress hormones cause your blood pressure to rise and increase your heart rate. I’m sure we have all noticed how jittery we feel when we have had a little too much coffee. This feeling of elevated stress hormones takes a bigger toll on women because we detoxify these chemicals move slower it stays in our system longer leading to imbalance in our bodies. It takes our bodies a full 24 hours for our liver to metabolize the caffeine, which typically takes most people right up to their next cup of joe. This means our bodies are in a never-ending cycle of trying to metabolize the caffeine and this doesn’t even include alcohol medication or other substances we may take in.

Caffeine and Menstruation

This cascade of events takes a major toll on your hormones and can have large impacts on the menstrual cycle. Indulging in caffeine regularly is linked to menstrual cramps, headaches, mood swings, bloating, tender or swollen breasts, shortened or irregular cycles, and anxiety. Caffeine is a natural diuretic, this causes you to pee more and lose vital minerals and vitamins in your urine, primarily B vitamins and magnesium are lost. These two superstars are very important to hormonal balance and creating a healthy and happy cycle. When you are deficient in B6 and magnesium, your energy will tank, your cramps will be worse, you may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, body pain, dehydration, tender breasts, and complications to already frustrating conditions like PCOS and endometriosis.

Stomach Issues

Another common problem with coffee is that it can aggravate the stomach and intestines causing loose stools. When you start your period you may notice your bowel transit times speeds up and you have more diarrhea or loose stools. Coffee will only make this worse. In addition to all those problems caffeine will make worse it will also promote the creation of cysts in breasts and ovaries, takes longer to metabolize and leave the body, disrupts your hormones for up to 24 hours, impacts restful sleep, aggravates the gut and microbiome, and excessive consumption increases infertility in both men and women.

Alternatives to Coffee

If cutting out coffee sounds awful, there are ways to choose a better blend that may lessen these symptoms. However, only complete removal of caffeine will alleviate these problems all together. By choosing a darker roast or limiting your coffee to around four ounces may be helpful. Choosing alternatives to caffeinated beverages like twig tea, reishi tea blends, or herbal tea are terrific options to make the switch.

If you decide coffee and caffeine just isn’t for you after reading this, that’s awesome.

How to Remove Caffeine from your Diet

Here are a few tips on how to remove caffeine from your lifestyle in a way to reduce the withdrawal symptoms. The best time to remove it from your diet is during ovulation, this is around day 12 to 16 for most women. This is when your energy is at it’s highest.

Supplement with herbs to support your adrenals. This includes herbs that are adaptogens like rhodiola, ashwagandha, and holy basil. Plan healthy meals for the week ahead that will keep you nourished, putting breakfast at the top of the list.

Eating a big breakfast that includes healthy fats, grains, lean protein, and vegetables will help to sustain your energy and feed your hormones. Supplement with magnesium to support the body and prevent mood swings, headaches, and digestion. Add a B-complex to help with energy. Drink plenty of water and consider watermelon juice to help balance the fluids in your body as well as up electrolyte intake. Make sure to exercise daily, but refrain from activities that raise your heart rate above 140. Best choices include walking, light jogging, yoga, and low impact weight training.

Later this month I will be explaining how Chinese medicine views coffee and more reasons why it may not be for you. Be well.

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