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Do You Need To Quit Coffee To Save Your Hormones?

It's the simple things in life....

Waking up at the weekend, pouring yourself a steaming cup of coffee and chilling in your PJ's watching Sunday Brunch on TV.

Maybe its the routine stop off at Starbucks every morning while you're still half asleep, or frantically rushing for the train after having your first caffeine hit of the day?

No one can dare approach you until you've downed your grande soy latte with hazelnut syrup?!

Any of these sound familiar?

It seems like every other week newspapers and media articles are discussing coffee. One week it's cancer in a cup, the next its the 'holy grail' that can cure 27 diseases if you consume 3.8 cups a day!

Ok, maybe that's a little over exaggeration, but you know what I mean......

Let me start off by saying that the coffee most people have these days is nothing like how it has been traditionally consumed.

Known as 'liquefied desserts' by one of my old lecturers, most coffee in the Western world is accompanied by syrup shots, sachets of refined sugar, whipped cream, sweeteners, additional caffeine shots and maybe a blueberry muffin (or two! )

Being one of the most popular drinks, consumed on a daily basis, coffee has the potential ability to either improve or harm your health.

One of my main concerns is that coffee beans are one of the most sprayed, pesticide laden crops out there, so you should always choose organic when possible. This is especially important if you are already suffering with poor health and conditions such as auto-immunity, hormonal imbalances, gut issues, poor detoxification and inflammation.

This raises the question, should these people even be consuming coffee at all?

After drinking coffee, our bodies release stress hormones, mainly cortisol and epinephrine.

This is the reason that some of us can feel energised and invigorated while the rest of us feel jittery and experience heart palpitations.

It's totally individual how you metabolise and tolerate caffeine and its based on many factors including stress tolerance, age, gender, genetics, weight and overall health levels.

For people prone to anxiety, sleep-related problems/insomnia, or heart problems and palpitations, the coffee may need to go!

Caffeine has a half life of 5-6 hours (in the average person) meaning it can take 12 hours to completely leave your system! This can be even longer in those (including myself ) who have a slow caffeine metabolism SNP- (CYP1A2 for all the geeks reading)

Coffee and caffeine can also contribute to worsening of symptoms in adrenal conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, panic attacks and more!

This could be happening without you even knowing.

Our hormones, (especially as females ), are very sensitive to stress.

Consuming caffeine on an empty stomach first thing in the morning can be detrimental to women who are suffering with imbalanced hormones and conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, PMS, amenorrhea, heavy bleeding, excess androgens, cramps etc.

This is partly caused by the stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands competing and/or interfering with our own sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, throwing them out of balance.

In PCOS specifically, this stress response, along with insulin dysregulation, are two of the biggest factors contributing to those pesky symptoms such as acne, weight gain, hirsutism and hair thinning, due to elevation of androgen and testosterone levels from the ovaries and/or adrenal glands.

It is very common for people to think they tolerate caffeine well and believe they actually function better when they drink coffee. The truth is that it can often just act as a 'band aid' , masking their underlying problems and low energy levels.

Another factor that affects hormones is not just the coffee, but the 'extras' that often come alongside. The sugars, sweeteners and syrups, or dairy (if you're sensitive ) will also be affecting hormonal conditions such and PCOS and PMS, as we know that these types of foods can be inflammatory and problematic for those suffering.

Men, on the other hand, tend to handle caffeine better and are more tolerant of the 'Bulletproof Coffee/Fasted workout' combo.

This is because their hormones are less 'sensitive' and maybe due to a better metabolism of caffeine (similar to alcohol ).

However, if they deal with any of the conditions I mentioned above, especially adrenal/gut/immune related issues, I would recommend going caffeine free for a period of time.

Give it a try!

Eliminate caffeine from all sources, (energy drinks, coffee, pre-workout powders, green tea ) from your diet for 30 days! Monitor your symptoms, then reintroduce (if you want to! ) and see how you feel.

You may not even feel like bringing it back into your routine ....it's great!

If you are currently having several cups per day or describe yourself as a coffee addict, I recommend that you cut back slowly as you can experience a withdrawal reaction if you go cold turkey.

Caffeine Alternatives!

Of course I'm not going to just leave you without any tasty caffeine free alternatives...

- Dandelion root 'coffee' is very nutritious and tastes similar to the real thing! Enjoy on its own or with unsweetened dairy free milk.

- Golden milk made with coconut/almond milk is a warm, comforting drink, using spices such as cinnamon, turmeric and ginger.

- Liquorice tea can help boost your energy when your feeling fatigued, as it helps to keep cortisol around in the body longer! Pukka Herbs do a lovely tea blend with peppermint .

(Note- Use with caution if you have elevated cortisol levels or high blood pressure.)

After the 30 days you could try green tea as a less stimulating caffeine source. It's one of the richest sources of antioxidants you can get!

Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) is a powerful polyphenol that has many health benefits such as improving longevity, helps prevent certain types of cancer and boosts insulin sensitivity. You can get a nice calm buzz without feeling wired due to the calming, 'anti-anxiety' amino acid L-Theanine, which is found exclusively in tea.

Final Thoughts...

If you are healthy overall, and aren't dealing with things such as hormonal imbalances, anxiety attacks or insomnia etc, stick to a maximum 2 cups of high quality organic coffee per day, before 2pm.

Try to consume it after meals to prevent a stress hormone spike, as food will slow down the absorption into the blood stream and it may aid digestion. (This is actually how its traditionally used ,as a bitter to stimulate the liver! )

Enjoy the process and ritual of making and consuming your drink, not downing cup after cup, using it as a crutch to get through the day.


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