As a college student, I rely on caffeine to function. However, I have learned the importance of cutting down on coffee to get rid of the unwanted side effects that could disrupt my menstrual cycle. When that time of the month comes and the uterus starts wagging its ruthless war, I like to lie on the bed and do nothing.
My periods come with symptoms like bloating, fatigue, headache, and abdominal pains. To combat the pain, I like to drink hot water.
Yet the biggest question is; should I drink coffee in periods?
The biological effect of caffeine on your periods
Research shows that drinking coffee while on periods makes them worse. It constricts the blood vessels and reduces the blood flow to the uterus. In an attempt to overcome period pain, I have to cut down on coffee and other beverages that contain caffeine.
Since coffee is diuretic in nature, drinking too much can lead to dehydration. This can trigger headaches. If I don’t drink too much water, I am at risk of dehydration. While consuming caffeine in small doses is less harmful, too much increases my chances of losing those vital fluids.
What’s more, coffee heightens cortisol which can worsen the menstrual symptoms. When I take coffee on my periods, I feel fatigued which affects my response time to cognitive tasks. Here are the side effects of consuming too much coffee during periods.
Too much coffee can affect mood
The most common symptom I have to endure during my periods is mood swings and weepiness. Sometimes, it can get worse when I have a hormonal imbalance. According to modern science, the low mood symptoms come when progesterone takes over estrogen. In addition to that, caffeine stimulates the release of adrenaline. This means that when I take too much coffee, I may end up feeling jittery, anxious, and nervous.
Caffeine can disrupt sleep
When I am on my periods, I feel zapped of energy. To be honest, this can be difficult to cope with. Before I came to understand the effect of coffee, I consumed more than 10 cups and I had a rough week. Too much coffee not only brings the knock-out-effect but can also hinder the quality of sleep. This is true even if I take other caffeinated beverages before bed. When I’m looking for an energizing pick-me-up during my periods, I take non-caffeinated beverages.
Caffeine can interfere with digestion
A few days into my periods, I experience a sluggish bowel. According to experts, a great deal of blood is redirected to the reproductive organ and bowels. Also, the drop in estrogen levels causes contractions on the gut making it difficult for waste to pass through. At the time of my periods, the lining of the uterus produces prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) that cause painful abdominal cramps.
Adding more caffeine to this problem makes things even more difficult. To ensure that I don’t worsen the digestive problem, I have to cut back on caffeine. I also use other natural remedies to remove toxins that may irritate the lining of the gut.
Caffeine reduces the absorption of nutrients
Low magnesium levels can worsen period cramps and may affect the mood swings. With this in mind, I ensure I get the right amount of nutrients to avoid unwanted symptoms. Nowadays, I have switched coffee with energy drinks that can help me replenish the vital nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamin D.
There is a growing body of evidence that shows too much caffeine can inhibit the absorption of iron. Because coffee contains lots of tannins, it blocks the absorption of iron in the body. When my iron level goes down, I feel dizzy and lethargic. This is something I don’t want to experience during my periods.
I avoid taking caffeine during my periods because it restricts the blood vessels increasing tension and anxiety. When there’s an increased level of cortisol hormones, the immune system is suppressed due to a low supply of oxygen to the brain. It is worth mentioning that it takes longer to expel caffeine for women taking oral contraceptives.
Caffeine can cause irregular periods
In a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, too much caffeine can lead to irregular periods. The basis for this is that coffee restricts the blood vessel which in turn reduces uterine blood flow.
Cramping and breast tenderness
To be honest, cramping has been a common symptom during my menstrual cycle. Sometimes, it gets worse and all I can do is to take over-the-counter medications. It’s scientifically proven that coffee contains oils that inflame the intestines which in turn cause cramping. In addition to that, too much caffeine can exacerbate breast tenderness.
How much is too much
As a true coffee lover, I can take up to 4 cups of coffee a day. This is equivalent to 400mg, the recommended caffeine intake for adults. That being said, dozens of studies suggest that caffeine affects people based on factors like gender and genetics. When I'm on my periods, I replace coffee with non-caffeinated beverages like green tea.
Let’s face it, it is hard to standardize the caffeine content in coffee.
The amount of caffeine will depend on origin, brewing method, roast, and water temperature. A typical cup of coffee can give up to 120 milligrams of caffeine while a shot of espresso can give up to 50 milligrams of caffeine.
How I lay off caffeine during my periods
If the menstrual period is a problem, you know well as I do that caffeine has to go. Since caffeine is a stimulant, its effects can last up to 7 hours. The effect can last longer when I take contraceptives. It is time to free the wallet from the grip of caffeine addiction.
Due to the fact that cutting down on caffeine can cause overwhelming fatigue, I try to eliminate it slowly. On normal days, I take up to four cups but when I’m on my periods I limit myself to two cups a day. Another tip that works wonders is switching it up. As a true coffee drinker who has to take a hot beverage in the morning, I switch to tea. And because there are many caffeinated sodas, I switch to the ones that aren’t caffeinated or water.
Just like recovering from a hangover, I have to wait for a caffeine overdose to get over it completely. Unless I’m one of the unlucky few who are caffeine sensitive, it can take 4-6 hours to get rid of the effects. Other ways of energizing without taking caffeine include drinking water, getting more than 7 hours of sleep, and engaging in physical exercise.