We're diving deep into coffee, linking the science, challenging your habits and giving you everything you need to know.
I quit coffee 8 years ago, at a point in my life when my anxiety was constant, my periods were heavy & painful, and I NEEDED coffee to “survive” the day..
I’ll never forget my practitioner at the time saying to me that I needed to eliminate coffee to help with my overall health and I just remember straight out rejecting the idea & responding: “absolutely NOT”.
She went on to say to me…
“Nikki, what you resist the most, is the change you need to make the most.”
This had such a profound impact on me, that I decided to give it a crack, and quit coffee for 30 days to see if it would actually make a difference.
Not going to lie - the first two weeks were rough..#withdrawals
What you resist the most is what you need to change the most
- Nikki Gonda
But after the full 30 days to my surprise this is what I experienced:
- My sleep improved IMMENSELY. I went from someone who always struggled to fall asleep, to consistently getting the most restorative sleep I’d ever experience. You can listen to sleep expert here about how caffeine destroys sleep and productivity.
- Anxiety reduced by 85%
- My moods were were stable & I was less reactive
- IBS Improved (this was one of the biggest things for me)
- Libido sky rocketed
- My skin was more glowy, plumper & hydrated (caffeine inhibits collagen synthesis)
- Stress reduced & my nervous system regulated
- Sustained focus & better productivity - I never realized how scattered coffee made me
- I could FEEL my emotions more
- Drastically less period pain & PMS
I can genuinely say eliminating coffee changed my life, as I realised it was getting in the way of my body functioning at its highest level.
BUT I didn’t realise just how much of an impact it was having on me, nor how much I was relying on it for energy and my mood - until I quit.
Now I’m NOT about to tell you to give up coffee.
That’s a decision only you can make.
But I will share what you need to know about how the caffeine in coffee can impact your hormonal & menstrual health, sleep & mood, along with tips around how to drink coffee in a way that mitigates any negative effects.. So continue reading!
The question everyone's asking: “Should I drink coffee?”
The answer to this question is not straightforward as I really don’t believe in demonizing any one thing…nor do I believe in a “one size fits all” approach..
So the question shouldn’t be, “should I drink coffee?” - as there is no one blanket answer that applies to every single person.
Like any food or drink, everyone responds differently, so the optimal amount for consumption, or whether one should be drinking coffee at all is going to vary from person to person.
Each person metabolizes & tolerates caffeine differently depending on a variety of factors including genetics, body weight, gut health, liver function, diet, pre-existing conditions, oral contraceptive use (the pill slows the metabolism of caffeine) and pregnancy.
So, the real question shouldn’t be directed at me, your doctor, nutritionist or any influencer but instead yourself!
Because you are the expert of your own body.
It knows what is best for you and it is always communicating to you.
You need to ask yourself the question: How does coffee make me FEEL?
To help you out, here is a little check list for you.
When you consume coffee do you…
- Get jittery
- Have an upset stomach
- Feel anxious, wired or stressed
- Struggle winding down in the evening & falling/staying asleep
- Suffer from migraines or frequent headaches
- Crave sugar after having a cup
- Depend on coffee for energy & motivation (FYI low energy is a sign of deeper imbalance & coffee is disguising this!)
If you’re nodding your head to any of the above, this is your invitation to re-examine your relationship with caffeine and self-inquire whether it’s working for, or against you.
Often, we’ve been consuming something for such a long time that we aren’t aware of how it’s really impacting us, or our health.
This was me & coffee for years.
Or, on the other hand, we are aware of the effect and we just choose to ignore it and continue feeling like crap… I’ve been there too.
My hormonal balance only began to dramatically upgrade when I took radical responsibility for my health, I stopped relying on others to “fix” me and got real honest with myself about certain habits in my life that were not serving me (such as coffee) and I finally made some changes. What habits in your life may or may not be serving you?
How does caffeine impact your hormones?
There is no denying that coffee is a powerful substance, and although research shows there may be some benefits to drinking coffee, I’m going to be the devil's advocate here and bring you up to scratch on the “other side” of coffee and the risks for women with active hormone issues such PMS, PMDD, PCOS, Hashimotos, thyroid issues, fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, ovarian cysts, endometriosis & fertility struggles - where the negatives may out weight the benefits.
So let's look at the "other side" of caffeine...
Caffeine may increase stress & deplete adrenals
One of the biggest impacts caffeine has on the body is stress.
Caffeine is a stimulant and increases activity in the nervous system, stimulating the adrenals to release adrenaline and cortisol.
The increase in stress hormone cortisol activates the body's “fight or flight” response. This creates a cascade of effects on your hormones.
Firstly, if you’re someone who is already chronically stressed, your adrenals are already working overtime.
Add caffeine to the mix, your adrenals are over-stimulated, pumping out cortisol even more, and over time with persistent, chronic use, weakens them as they are not getting the rest they need.
When your adrenals are exhausted they just can’t keep up and this impairs the functions they play in our metabolism, appetite, sleep patterns, hormone balance, energy and stress response.
You will particularly notice exhaustion and it takes a lot of herbal and nutritional support to get your cortisol levels sustainably back to a healthy level.
Your adrenals are connected to your ovaries and have a direct effect on menstrual regularity, fertility and overall ovarian function.
When your body is in this state of “fight or flight”, it diverts all its energy & blood flow to your muscles (so you can run away from perceived danger) and reduces blood flow away from your “non-essential” organs, like the ovaries and your digestive system. It decides that it's not a safe environment to reproduce and therefore can halt ovulation, impairing fertility and regular periods.
Secondly, high levels of cortisol also affects your body's ability to regulate inflammation.
Why is this a bad thing? Because inflammation is at the core of all dis-ease in the body, including hormonal imbalances, conditions of endometriosis, PCOS and symptoms of PMS & period pain.
Thirdly, cortisol interferes with the production of your sex hormone progesterone with what’s called the “pregnenolone steal”.
This is a term describing the body's preference to protect cortisol production at the expense of other hormones such as progesterone!
In layman’s terms cortisol steals progesterone to make more cortisol. The pregnenolone steal is often the culprit behind the hormonal rollercoasters causing PMS, irregular cycles, struggles with fertility, symptoms of menopause and PCOS.
All in all if you’re someone who is already generally stressed, coffee isn’t the best of friends for you.
If you still want a sustained, but gentle boost in energy try opting for a Luna’s Matcha instead, it contains a blend of JING herbs which support your adrenals, instead of working against them.
Caffeine may deplete essential nutrients for optimal hormone health
This can cause you to become depleted in these essential nutrients, especially if you aren’t replenishing them with a nutrient dense diet or supplements. But don’t think that taking a multivitamin with your daily coffee will negate the issue, coffee can block absorption of iron by 60-90% and also inhibits absorption of zinc, magnesium, calcium and B vitamins.
This depletion of nutrient reserves makes you more vulnerable to hormonal imbalances and stress.
If you’re drinking coffee daily make extra sure to be topping up your magnesium stores with Moon Boost Magnesium Oil and eating a nutrient dense diet.
Caffeine can make period pain worse
Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it narrows blood vessels—including the ones that reach your uterus—so less blood and oxygen can flow through them which can cause the worsening of period pain.
Caffeine can increase cravings for sweets
A new study revealed that caffeine changes our taste perception, making sweet things seem less sweet.
The twist is that this subtle change may result in craving more sweets, especially in your pre-menstrual week when one may already be prone to cravings!
This finding explains why coffee goes so well with donuts and pastries, and serves as a caution especially in your pre-menstrual week when those PMS cravings kick in - be warned!
Experience intense premenstrual cravings? Its time to meet Luna’s Lover Hot Chocolate. You’re welcome.
Caffeine may fuel anxiety
Caffeine fuels anxiety. Period.
Drink it in your pre-menstrual week and its propane gas for those who already suffer from premenstrual anxiety, irritability or mood swings!
Caffeine seems to decrease levels of GABA, the neurotransmitter that helps regulate anxiety, and it amplifies the effects of our two main stress hormones, cortisol and epinephrine.
Bottom line: anyone with an anxiety condition should sip judiciously and infrequently.
Caffeine may impact thyroid function
One of the biggest ones is the effect caffeine can have on your thyroid.
Coffee has been shown to raise your cortisol levels, as we mentioned above. And cortisol has been shown to slow down the conversion of T4 thyroid hormone into T3 thyroid hormone.
T3 is 4-5 times more active than T4 in stimulating your body’s metabolism, so reducing your T3 levels can cause fatigue, low body temperature, depression, hair loss, and weight gain.
This is why regular coffee drinkers feel better after coffee, but their overall general energy levels are low.
And while elevated cortisol levels have their issues, elevated adrenaline levels can be dangerous as well. Coffee stimulates adrenaline which have been linked to symptoms of anxiety, like heart palpitations, racing thoughts, shaking, and shortness of breath.
Caffeine may make IBS worse
In general, it’s not usually recommended that those with IBS drink coffee as it may exacerbate symptoms including diarrhea and stomach pain due to the fact that the caffeine in coffee speeds up gut motility, and gut motility is already usually abnormally fast in those with IBS..
But not everyone with IBS will have issues with coffee, so the best way to figure out if you do is to eliminate it from your diet, and then reintroduce it in small doses to see how you feel.
If you rely on coffee for your daily bowel movements, it's a good idea to look into “why” you’re not having regular daily movements without the assistance of a substance?
Your gut health plays an essential role in the removal of excess hormones & toxins from the body, so if you’re struggling with regular bowel movements - addressing gut health is crucial.
Caffeine may disrupt your sleep
There is strong evidence that caffeine interferes with the quality of your sleep and can cause insomnia, which in turn is linked to a list of health negatives, a big one being the impact on your hormonal health.
This study showed that 400mg of “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive [sleep] effects.”
This, again, is dependent on the individual and his or her ability to metabolize caffeine. Some people experience deep and restful sleep whether or not they drink coffee, while others do not, even if they stop drinking anything caffeinated at noon.
For me, even if I drink coffee early in the morning it noticeably disrupts my sleep, which in turn suppresses healthy hormone production. If you wake up groggy the next morning, your first instinct might be to grab more coffee, setting off another day of endocrine disruption and dysfunction.
How sensitive are you and how does coffee impact your sleep? You will only find out when you give up caffeinated drinks for a month – then your body will tell you.
Caffeine may exacerbate fibrocystic breast pain
Some studies have shown that caffeine may worsen the pain and tenderness that is associated with fibrocystic breast condition.
From experience and the thousands of women who have gone through my programs, eliminating caffeine has greatly helped reduction in pre-menstrual breast tenderness.
What About Decaf?
It’s a disputed area, but many health practitioners don’t suggest it for two reasons.
For one, many manufacturers use a chemical process to remove caffeine from the coffee beans. The result is less caffeine, but more chemicals.
Secondly, it is the caffeine in the coffee that has the various health benefits. Without it, you are left with little benefit.
Using decaf to ween off coffee is always an option, as long as it doesn’t become your go-to replacement. There are so many other more nutritious alternatives for you.
The Bottom Line.
I say everything in moderation and do what makes you happy and feel VITAL.
When it comes to coffee / caffeine every single person is different. So, it’s important to listen to your unique body & discover what is true for you when it comes to coffee consumption #knowthyself
The best way to discover if coffee is exacerbating symptoms is to go on a 4 week coffee detox!
If this is just an absolute “no” for you - try beginning by switching your coffee with a Luna’s Latte in the week before and during your period - this is a great start.
It is often said that the change we resist the most is the change our body needs the most. Let your intuition be your guide
In summary, who should seriously reconsider coffee?
- If you’re trying to optimize your fertility, fall pregnant, or are pregnant.
- If you’re on a hormone healing journey - give your body & your adrenals a break whilst your body is working hard to rebalance.
- If you struggle with tender, swollen, breasts or fibrocystic breasts - caffeine stimulates the tissue in your breast and has been proven to make this worse.
- If you have thyroid problems like Graves disease, hypothyroidsm, hyperthyroidism and Hashimotos thyroiditis.
- If you are using it to compensate for poor sleeping habits or poor dietary habits
- If you’re someone who is already stressed & anxious give your body a break from coffee as it stresses your adrenals even more
- If you experience low energy consistently - coffee is “fake” energy, low energy is a sign of an underlying imbalance that shouldn’t go ignored.
- If you struggle with PMS & cramps - even if you just switch your coffee for a tea or Luna’s Latte in the week before, and during your period this may help ease the severity of symptoms for you
- If you struggle falling asleep & staying asleep - even if you just trial caffeine elimination and see if it makes a difference for a few months
At the end of the day there just isn’t enough quality science for me to straight out declare if coffee is “bad” or “good” for hormonal health overall.
Some women will experience huge improvements to their energy, moods & menstrual health - for others they find they are okay with coffee.
It’s about finding what works for YOU my friend.
Top Hormone Balancing Coffee Alternatives:
We’ve made delicious coffee-alternatives for you, to make trialing a coffee elimination easy peasy - even if it’s just for 30 days to see if it makes a difference for you & your hormonal and menstrual health.
Check out our Superfood Lattes designed for better hormones & happier periods here.
Or if you’re more of a tea gal? Check out our range of Cycle Supportive Teas here.
My personal favourites:
>> Lunas Gold: is a great go-to morning brew, not only containing adaptogenic herbs and spices supporting the body's stress response, but also works to boost mood and energy so you can kickstart your day strong.
>> Lunas Matcha: yes matcha contains caffeine however the amino acid L-theanine in Matcha changes the way caffeine is metabolised and slows its absorption, providing you with a sustained boost in energy, without the stress on adrenals or after coffee crash.
It is high in antioxidants that fight oxidative stress and reduce inflammation
The Elixir also contains Jing herbs to support the body’s resistance to stress, and Tremella mushroom is known for its skin benefits.
You can read more about the benefits of green tea here.
>> Half Moon Tea: is a nourishing caffeine free tea option, easy to drink whilst promoting balance and supporting reproductive health.
7 Ways To Make Your Coffee Habit Healthier & Help Reduce Negative Effects:
Never drink coffee on an empty stomach. Aim for 20-90 minutes after a meal. Make sure to include healthy fat & protein in your meal to help slow down the absorption of caffeine and impact on your blood sugar!
No coffee after midday to try help it from interfering with your sleep
Avoid adding artificial sweeteners and sugars, and cream to prevent the blood sugar rollercoaster
For every cup of coffee add an extra glass of water (in addition to your daily requirement) as coffee is dehydrating and must be processed by the body so let’s help it out by flushing the body with pure water to hydrate the cells and aid detoxification.
Limit to 1 good quality coffee per day. What do I mean by good quality coffee? Coffee made by running water through ground coffee beans with an espresso machine, plunger etc. Instant coffee is not OK as it is high in a chemical called acrylamide which has been shown to cause nerve damage and some research suggests that it is carcinogenic (cancer causing).
Avoid coffee in the week before and during your period to help reduce onset of period pain and PMS.