If you ever wonder about the impact of caffeine and hormone function, then you are wise to pose this question. There are many studies that question the negative effects of caffeine and it is important to be aware of the results. But it's not all doom and gloom. Studies also show a positive link between cacao and hormone function - which you will find out below.
Caffeine is a topic that is often scrutinised by the wellness industry. You may read one article that reveals its benefits thanks to antioxidants, prevention of illness and boost of metabolism. Then, stumbling across another will reveal its downfalls in the form of an increased heart rate, digestive issues and insomnia. One minute, you’re reaching for your coffee, the next you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms whilst swearing not to touch it ever again.
Caffeine's impacts on health can be a confusing topic to discuss.
That being said, one thing that research is pretty conclusive on is caffeine's impact on hormone health. Whilst the odd cup of well-timed coffee has a potentially positive effect on overall health, chronic use of caffeine can harm hormones. If you’re someone that reaches for your coffee as soon as you unravel yourself from your duvet, you might want to rethink your morning routine.
For more information on cacao vs coffee, you can click here.
Here are 5 of the ways that caffeine can impact hormone function:
1. Caffeine can cause chronic stress
Caffeine strongly affects the activity of the adrenal gland which secretes two hormones; epinephrine and cortisol. You may have heard of the latter, due to it often being dubbed as the “stress hormone”. On the one hand, secretion of these hormones is actually incredibly beneficial. When epinephrine is released, respiration rate, heart rate and blood pressure all increase and cortisol helps to free up stored glucose. This acute response is designed to help the body function in times of perceived stress, such as being chased by a tiger. However, the issue with drinking caffeine daily is triggering this response to meet the demands of everyday life (which hopefully isn’t being chased by a tiger, but more likely work requirements, social expectations and lifestyle factors). Essentially, caffeine releases hormones as though operating in a fight or flight response far more often than necessary.
The result? Anxiety, stress, weakened immune systems and potentially deliberating health problems.
2. Thyroid health is impacted by caffiene
Another way that caffeine's stimulation of the adrenal gland has an impact is through the effect it has on the thyroid gland. Again, increasing the release of cortisol creates issues, this time with its adverse effects in relation to Thyroid function. When cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream the pituitary gland reduces its secretion of hormones that trigger the Thyroid. This means that there is less presence of Thyroid hormones in the human body, which can cause a decrease in metabolic function.
The result? Acting as a barrier to hormones, caffeine can have a negative impact on many bodily functions that the Thyroid is designed to facilitate.
3. Caffeine depletes vital vitamins and minerals
You may already know that caffeine is a diuretic, this means that it causes more frequent urination. Not only does this lead to increased dehydration, but it also flushes out necessary vitamins and minerals too. Water soluble vitamins, such as B, which assists the health of hormones required for reproduction, can be depleted due to fluid loss. Research has also shown that higher levels of caffeine can lead to a deficiency in vitamin D, which inhibits bone function and is critical for the balance of hormones.
The result? By depleting the body's abilities to digest essential vitamins, it has a negative impact on the functioning of hormones too.
4. Coffee's acidity can alter the micro-biome
The high levels of acidity in coffee has a negative impact on gut flora. The health of the gut determines how efficiently the body is able to absorb nutrients. With a weakened micro-biome the body will struggle up to soak up food's goodness, regardless of how healthy food consumed is. Whilst genes impact the ability to metabolize caffeine efficiently, not everyone will be able to digest it easily and will therefore compromise gut health when consuming it.
The result? Without a healthy micro biome it is harder for the endocrine system to balance hormones.
5. Caffiene can decrease serotonin levels
Where Cortisol is associated as being the “Stress hormone”, serotonin is dubbed as the “feel good” one. It powerfully determines mood, appetite, memory, sleep and so on. Prolonged use of caffeine can lead to serotonin levels being depleted. Low levels are associated with depression and known to have a negative impact on sleep, control of pain and appetite cravings. Not only is caffeine a stimulant, it also prohibits the production of hormones that help counteract its impact.
The result? This could mean you face sleepless nights, more cravings and struggle to uphold a positive mindset.
How can you balance hormones?
Now, it’s worth considering that much of this research is centred on excess use of caffeine. It’s also important to note that the effects of caffeine are also dependent on genetics, meaning that some will respond to caffeine entirely differently to others. That being said, if you are noticing any of the symptoms mentioned above, or are concerned about the health of the hormones impacted, switching to a caffeine-free alternative can help reverse the negative effects.
Cacao is believed to balance your hormones naturally. Where caffeine is associated with the secretion of Cortisol, cacao has been found to significantly lower levels of it in the body. This release in stress means immune systems function better and are able to handle difficult situations with more ease. Beyond that, where caffeine reduces the production of some hormones (B and D), the level of iron and magnesium in cacao is associated with boosting them. This ensures that moods stay balanced and that post-caffeine high energy slump is avoided.
To begin balancing your hormones, you can purchase a bag of cacao today.
If you experience any adverse symptoms, always consult a doctor or professional.