Mar 29, 2024 Diet & Nutrition News Wellness Tips AMC Team 77 views

Menopause can be a little like a rollercoaster ride you don’t remember buying a ticket for – and one you’re ready for the end of long before it arrives. With all kinds of changes accompanying its arrival (including hot flushes, problems with sleep patterns, and constantly changing moods), all manner of lifestyle choices can come under scrutiny. What may have been a common habit before menopause won’t necessarily serve you anymore, and that can, unfortunately, include your regular cups of coffee throughout the day. 

While coffee can provide a relied-upon energy boost, its potential impact on worsening menopause symptoms is worth your attention. This may not be a decision you ever expected to make, but the choice of whether to opt for decaf or not during menopause could have a flow-on effect to the kind of day you experience from a symptom perspective. So, what’s the link between caffeine and menopausal symptoms, and what’s the right choice to make when it comes to how you approach coffee during this time of change?

How caffeine interacts with our bodies

Before we dig into how to navigate caffeine intake during menopause, it’s helpful to review how it actually interacts with our bodies. When we drink coffee, caffeine brings with it the following effects:

  • An increase in dopamine. This natural ‘reward’ chemical gets a boost from caffeine, which can lead to increased alertness, focus, and, for some, even an improvement in their mood.
  • Increases in adrenaline and cortisol. Known as the body’s stress hormones, caffeine can also increase adrenaline and cortisol levels, increasing our heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.
  • Accelerated glucose breakdown. This also fuels that sense of energy, providing a source that’s readily available to meet functional needs and demands.
  • An increase in urine production. Since caffeine acts as a diuretic, this can also contribute to dehydration if coffee isn’t carefully balanced with enough water. 

These impacts generally reach their peak within 30-60 minutes after a cup of coffee, with the effects fading away over the hours that follow. As differences from person to person in metabolism level and caffeine sensitivity can impact these effects, what works for one isn’t necessarily the same for the next, which is particularly important to keep in mind when evaluating your response to caffeine in each stage of menopause.

Not sure how you can sustainably support your health throughout menopause? Our team is here to help.

Why is it important to consider our caffeine intake during menopause?

It’s important for anyone who’s regularly drinking coffee (or caffeine in another form) to understand how it impacts their body, but for women in the midst of menopause, this is even more crucial. The hormonal fluctuations that are part and parcel of menopausal changes can heighten sensitivities even further, making caffeine’s impact more noticeable – and potentially into something that’s exacerbating menopausal symptoms rather than providing reliable support.

One common area where caffeine may prove to be too disruptive during menopause is in the area of sleep. Problems with regular sleep are already a common occurrence during menopause, with night sweats and other symptoms creating chaos during resting hours. As caffeine can disrupt sleep cycles, it can become particularly problematic for women who are already struggling to get a good night’s sleep consistently. 

Hot flushes can also be heightened by caffeine’s presence thanks to the way it opens blood vessels, therefore mimicking the physiological changes that increase this symptom. For some women, this can mean more intense and more frequent hot flushes, creating challenges when it comes to smoothly managing these fluctuations.

In addition, the relationship between mood swings, anxiety, and caffeine is worth paying attention to. Yes, caffeine might give us a temporary mood boost – but with the potential for a later crash, this can only increase the risk of anxiety and rapidly changing moods throughout the day. For women looking to minimise an existing risk of emotional volatility, turning away from caffeine may be the answer.

Quitting or reducing caffeine during menopause? Strategies to reach for

Knowledge is power, but even when we understand the potential risks of caffeine during menopause, it may not be easy to automatically opt-out and reach for a decaf cup in its place. The best strategy may not be about immediate deprivation, however: by focusing on finding a solution that’s right for you, you can strike a balance between supporting your menopausal health and easing the pain of coming off of caffeine. 

This may look like:

  • Start to cut your intake gradually. Rather than going from three cups of coffee a day to none, is it possible to come down to two, and then one? Take time at each step to allow your body to adjust to the ‘new normal’, as well as to minimise withdrawal symptoms that can follow, including headaches and fatigue. 
  • Opt for decaf. While decaf coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free, it’s certainly lower in caffeine content. Finding a decaf coffee that you enjoy can help you make the shift bit by bit, with the same habit of a warm drink as a part of your regular schedule.
  • Play with alternatives. There’s a wide world beyond coffee that may just take your fancy with some time to explore it. Herbal teas, hot water with lemon and ginger, chai – by looking at hot drinks that aren’t full of caffeine, you can expand your repertoire (and your enjoyment).
  • Consider your timing. If you’re unable to remove caffeine entirely, tweaking when you drink it throughout the day can help. The later in the day you drink it, the more likely it is to cause issues with your sleep. Drinking coffee earlier in the day allows more time for its effects to wear off before you hit the hay. 

Conclusion

If you’re entering into menopause or struggling to manage its symptoms, it may be time for decaffeinated coffee to make your acquaintance. Need support for managing your health, wellbeing, mood and energy throughout menopause? Reach out to the team at the Australian Menopause Centre – we’ll introduce you to alternative and sustainable options for your needs.

About The Author - AMC Team

Our team consists of doctors, nurses, program assistants, naturopaths and nutritionists that join their wealth of knowledge to offer our patients and website visitors interesting and insightful articles to assist you understand the symptoms you are experiencing and how to relieve them.

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