There are people all over the world who just can't get enough coffee in their system. They love to drink it in the morning to jump-start their day, accompany it with a sweet pastry at brunch, and even take another cup in the afternoon as an energy boost to finish their tasks at work.
I mean, who doesn’t love coffeet? This is a drink that has so many health benefits, such as stabilizing blood sugar levels, protecting your heart, and it even prevents certain illnesses, like Parkinson's disease. However, some women are not a fan of coffee because they have experienced delayed menstruations or stronger cramps when drinking it.
Believe it or not, coffee may have some potential effects on a woman's menstrual cycle that can lead to irregular menstruations or stronger premenstrual symptoms. Thus, it is wise to inform yourself on how coffee affects your menstrual cycle, including delaying your menses.
So, how exactly does caffeine impact the menstrual cycle?
Interferes with Menstrual Hormones
Caffeine is the main compound in coffee responsible for the potential consequences in your menstrual cycle. Remember that caffeine is a stimulant that affects your nervous system by interfering with adenosine, another chemical.
Adenosine attaches to your brain cells and shifts their metabolism into a latent state. This causes drowsiness and makes you fall asleep. However, studies have shown that adenosine also modulates the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), two hormones crucial in your menstrual cycle. These hormones are released from a special area in your brain called the pituitary gland.
As a brief explanation, FSH is the hormone in charge of maturing the egg or follicle in your ovary and gradually increases estrogen levels to prepare your uterus for a "potential pregnancy".
This begins on day 1 of your menstrual cycle and when your estrogen levels reach their peak (around day 13), it stimulates the release of LH that triggers ovulation and releases the egg from the ovary so it can travel and attach itself to the linings of your uterus. If no pregnancy occurs, estrogen levels decline drastically and your uterus's linings shed and bleed, producing your period.
Studies suggest that adenosine stimulates the release of both FSH and LH from your pituitary gland to carry out your menstrual cycle, and sometimes, can even accelerate it, causing it to arrive earlier. Therefore, if you have a regular coffee consumption in your daily habits, caffeine could indirectly hinder the effects of FSH and LH by blocking adenosine.
Two possible situations can occur. It can delay your menstruation by inhibiting your menstrual cycle from the beginning, causing shortened cycles. On the other hand, if it refrains your estrogen level from peaking adequately to cause ovulation, your menstrual cycle could last more days than usual.
For this reason, further investigations are needed to know if caffeine has long-term implications on menstrual irregularities.
Caffeine is also known to have vasoconstrictor properties on blood vessels due to the release of adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones produce effects on your nervous system, such as increased heart rate and breathing frequency, reduces inflammation, and causes your blood vessels to tighten up.
Many scientists believe that caffeine can also constrict the blood vessels of your uterus, reducing blood flow. and thus delaying your menses and shortening your cycle.
According to an investigation made by the American Journal of Epidemiology, women who are heavy coffee consumers have more chances of having delayed and shorter menstrual cycles than those who do not consume coffee on a regular basis. This is based on the uterine blood contraction, which reduces bleeding.
However, another study made in 2014 evaluated the effects of coffee and other caffeinated drinks in a sample of 384 women. The results revealed that women are actually more likely to have longer menstrual periods or irregularities if they consume more than 2 cups of coffee per day. Scientists suggest an unknown mechanism related to blocking certain receptors in the blood vessels.
Worsens Premenstrual Symptoms
There are many assumptions regarding coffee consumption and the appearance of premenstrual symptoms. Some studies suggest that coffee has a diuretic effect and increase urine production. Thus, it leads to dehydration and causes headaches and overall discomfort. Additionally, certain coffee oils, such as cafestol, can irritate the linings of your stomach and intestines and produce more intense cramps.
Other women reveal that they experience breast tenderness and pain during their menses. It is also thought that coffee can cause certain tissues to retain fluid and the build-up compresses nearby nerves, resulting in pain and tenderness.
Lastly, the adrenaline rush coursing through your body causes anxiety and mood swings, which debilitates your body and increases your sensibility to pain stimulation.
Nonetheless, researchers believe that the potency of these effects ultimately depends on the metabolism of each individual. A clinical trial made in 2016 showed that there is no association between heavy coffee intake and the worsening of premenstrual symptoms. Some women had mild symptoms, while others did not experience any symptoms. Because of this, other factors, such as smoking, age. and hormonal imbalances might have higher potential effects in the premenstrual syndrome than coffee is assumed to have.
Daily Coffee Consumption
Although there is promising evidence that coffee could potentially affect your menstrual cycles and cause delayed or lengthened periods, there is still no proven theory or mechanism that fully establishes this fact.
As a result of this, experts still recommend maintaining your daily coffee intake below 400 mg of caffeine per day, or its equivalence to 3 6-ounce cups of coffee. Remember that coffee has other health benefits regarding your heart, brain, and immune system.
If you experience heavy symptoms or have irregular cycles, it might be best for your health to refrain from drinking coffee in the first week of your menses. If the reduction of coffee in that week really reduces your premenstrual symptoms or restores your cycle, then it is possible that coffee delays your menstruation.
If you experience an unchanged cycle, coffee might not be the true cause of those effects. In the end, it truly depends on the metabolism of each woman.