Is There a Link Between Coffee and Menopause?
Most of us love a good cup of coffee to start our day. However, you might be wondering if cutting coffee could help ease your menopause symptoms.
The answer is: maybe. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet sufficient research to have a definite answer. If you have hot flashes, feel anxious, or have difficulty sleeping, it’s worth seeing how you feel by eliminating caffeine from your diet.
Caffeine can increase the intensity and frequency of hot flashes. What’s more, it has also been proven to disrupt sleep, which will have an impact on many other symptoms, including weight gain, stress, cognitive performance, mood, and insulin resistance (1).
Coffee and Hot Flashes
Unfortunately for coffee lovers, coffee is a common trigger for hot flashes during menopause.
Research has shown that people who consume coffee daily have hot flashes that are more severe than women who do not drink coffee.
Why does this happen? Coffee tightens blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and changes your body temperature, all of which have an effect on menopause symptoms (2).
Coffee and Anxiety
Anxiety is common during menopause, even when there’s no obvious cause for it. More than 400mg of coffee (about four cups) can make you feel stimulated and more anxious, so it can intensify existing feelings of anxiety (4).
Coffee and Sleep
Coffee and other caffeinated drinks have been shown to interfere with your sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that makes you alert by blocking the receptors in your body that let you know when it’s time to sleep.
Research has shown that drinking caffeinated beverages, in moderation, six hours before bedtime can reduce your total sleep time by one hour (5).
Some experts believe that caffeine can stay in your body for as long as 21 hours! If that’s the case, it’s no wonder why it’s hard to fall asleep after drinking a cup of java after dinner.
You may be wondering what sleep has to do with menopause symptoms. Sufficient good quality sleep actually helps to decrease menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats (3).
In addition to the effect on menopause symptoms, lack of sleep can also lead to increased stress, morning anxiety, weight gain, increased appetite, weakened immune system, and decreased overall energy levels (6).
Should You Cut Out Coffee Completely?
Not necessarily. While eliminating caffeine from your diet completely would reap benefits, you can also have positive effects by simply cutting down. Just taking a few simple steps to decrease your coffee intake can improve your health and wellbeing, especially during menopause:
- Stop at your first cup or two of coffee in the morning
- Avoid drinking coffee after midday
- Avoid other caffeinated drinks throughout the day, too, such as caffeinated tea and soda
Here are some coffee alternatives that may help you cut down on your caffeine intake. To help you compare, one average cup of coffee contains around 95 milligrams of caffeine (7) .
Decaf coffee has about 2 to 15 milligrams of caffeine in the same amount of coffee. Although it has much less caffeine, it still contains the same antioxidants as regular coffee, is lower in acidity than regular coffee, and may help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Green tea has about 28 milligrams of caffeine in the same amount of liquid. This type of tea can help with mental alertness and is known to improve digestive issues and relieve headaches.
Green tea also contains a component called EGCG, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties and protects against heart disease (8).
Golden milk is a delicious caffeine-free drink traditional in Indian culture.
The ingredients of golden milk can vary, but the basic recipe includes cow or plant-based milk, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, and some sweetener. The turmeric in the drink gives golden milk the name.
All of these ingredients have proven health benefits:
- Turmeric is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective, which means it protects nerve cells from damage (9)
- Cinnamon has antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties. It also lowers certain types of fat in the body, called lipids, and will help reduce the risk of heart disease (10)
- Ginger will reduce inflammation, improve metabolic syndrome, and help digestive function (11)
Made from green tea, matcha is growing in popularity as an addition to food and drinks or as a drink on its own. Matcha can be prepared as a tea, hot or cold latte, shots, etc. It’s worth keeping in mind that matcha is thought to contain more caffeine than normal green tea.
Matcha is traditionally consumed in Eastern Asia and has numerous health benefits. This tea is high in antioxidants, and is considered helpful in protecting the liver, boosting brain function, promoting heart health, and helping with weight loss (12).
Also known as Peruvian ginseng, maca is an excellent substitute for coffee. Maca is a plant grown in the Andes mountains. It is a cruciferous vegetable and is a common ingredient in Peruvian food.
Maca root is often sold in powder form to make it easy to add to your morning smoothies or other drinks. You can also make tea just from maca alone. Research has shown that maca powder has nutritional and energizing properties. (13)
Cultivated for centuries in the Mediterranean, carob contains no caffeine and is a healthy alternative to coffee and chocolate. Carob promotes digestive health, aids in healthy weight loss, and improves blood sugar. Carob is also a great alternative to chocolate or cocoa in recipes (14) .
Looking to substitute your iced coffee or soda? Kombucha has about 15 milligrams of caffeine per 14 ounces. Studies have shown that kombucha has antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic properties. It is also known to reduce cholesterol, improve immunity, and help detox the liver (15).
Tea made from rosehips contains no caffeine. Rosehip tea acts as an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory effects. It can also help the body retain phytochemicals, which are beneficial compounds found in plants.
Because of its anti-inflammatory action, rosehip tea can also benefit those who have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease (16).
Other Sources of Caffeine
Beyond coffee, it’s important to be aware of other sources of caffeine that can have the same or more caffeine than a cup of java. (17)
- Black tea (47 mg in 1 cup)
- Soda, dark cola (40 mg in a 12-ounce can)
- Mountain Dew (55 mg in a 12-ounce can)
- Energy drinks (170 mg in a 16-ounce can)
- Chocolate (24 mg in 1 ounce of dark chocolate)
Coffee Withdrawal Symptoms
You are likely to experience coffee withdrawal symptoms when you first eliminate or reduce your coffee intake. Being aware of this possibility can help you identify the symptoms and take action to ease them. Generally, the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal only last between two and nine days and include:
- Difficulty concentrating
In conclusion, coffee can impact the frequency and severity of hot flashes, ability to sleep, anxiety, and more.
Limiting or eliminating caffeine from your diet if you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms can have a significant positive impact on your health and well-being.
Try out some of the coffee alternatives in this article and see if they alleviate your symptoms. You have nothing to lose and maybe a lot to gain.
Let us know in the comments some of your favorite coffee substitutes.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL. She is passionate about helping women over 40 live their best lives through healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle. Su-Nui is a doctor in clinical nutrition, able to translate complicated evidence-based science into practical advice. Su-Nui is the former spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.