Coffee is one of those things – you either love it or you hate it. You know if you like the taste or not. You know how it makes you feel. But you may not know that it could be contributing to your menopause symptoms.
There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.
NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains a little.
Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on menopause symptoms, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.
Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others. You may notice that how it affects your body has changed since menopause.
About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.
This is part of the reason headlines contradict each other so much – because we’re all different!
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on menopause symptoms
Coffee also affects menopausal women in different ways. Some find that they feel more alert and have more energy. Others find that it makes many of their symptoms worse. Some of the symptoms that are affected by caffeine are:
- triggers hot flashes and night sweats
- increases feelings of anxiety
- affects sleep patterns, especially if consumed later in the day
- increases stress hormone cortisol which can lead to many health issues and possibly weight gain
- there does not seem to be link between drinking coffee and osteoporosis, but drinking coffee does cause calcium stores to be depleted. This is
- probably only an issue for older women who don’t get enough calcium
Coffee and health benefits
While there are reasons you might want to avoid coffee, there does seem to be some benefits to drinking coffee.
Here’s a quick summary of the benefits of coffee:
- Boosts metabolism
- Boosts energy and exercise performance
- Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Decreased risk of certain liver diseases
- Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality”)
- Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease
Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee, except for the energy and metabolism boosts.
NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.
Should you drink coffee or not?
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health. But if you are finding that you don’t metabolize coffee the way you used to or that it seems to be increasing your menopause symptoms, you may want to cut back or give it up for a while.