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  • Ingri Pauline

Fertility, Menstruation, Cortisol and Caffeine

Let me start out this article by saying caffeine affect people differently. That's why the research is split directly down the middle. Some people are fast metabolizers of caffeine. That are the people that benefit from it. And many of us are slow metabolizers of caffeine.

But weather or not you are a fast or slow metabolizer doesn’t make a difference on how caffeine ultimately affects your hormones. Women in general are more sensitive to hormone stimulators. It make sense because we have many more hormonal functions, namely fertility and menstruation.

So let's talk about the effects of caffeine on women's bodies.

High Cortisol

Even small increases in cortisol - like drinking coffee - can raise blood sugar and increase insulin resistance. Excess cortisol shrinks your brain, causes cognitive impairment, decreases brain activity and is associated with Alzheimer's disease. People with high cortisol have problems with emotional perception, processing and regulation, similar to mood symptoms found in depression.

Turkish Coffee from The Commons Wikipedia

Fake energy boost ultimately set back your hormonal regulation progress. Caffeine is a psychoactive substance, meaning it crosses the blood-brain barrier in order to operate in the brain and central nervous system. Caffeine increases cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine and insulin. This can mean it is the sticking point in you getting better when it comes to many mild ailments.

If you suffer from anxiety, insomnia or bruxism (clenching or grinding of teeth at night), I encourage you to wean yourself off of caffeine. These are cortisol driven problems and substances that ship ammo across enemy lines should be tossed.

Low Progesterone

High cortisol is often accompanied by low progesterone. Why? BECAUSE CORTISOL IS A PROGESTERONE RECEPTOR BLOCKER. I cannot express the importance of this enough. High cortisol is high stress. That morning cup of coffee may be getting in the way of the ability of progesterone to bind to its receptor and do its job.

Cortisol blocks the NUMBER ONE hormone related to good mood, fertility, and healthy periods.

Low progesterone is also a huge trigger for painful PMS. Women with PMS are shown to consume 275% MORE sugar than women with mild periods. And that sugar exacerbates symptoms of PMS even more. Sugar aide in the removal of magnesium through the urine. Any Woman suffering from PMS should eliminate sugar and caffeine from their diets for 90 days to see how it affects their cycle.

If your progesterone is low this usually means that estrogen is high in women under the ages of 35 and low in women over ages of 45.

Estrogen Effects

From consumption of caffeine, estrogen lowers in white women vs Asian women where it raises estrogen. But DOSE is important. In Japanese women this study was conducted using green tea, vs coffee. That's about 1/6th of the caffeine (40mg vs 240-300mg). But I’ve also read a conflicting study. Lets just chalk that up to the slow and fast caffeine metabolizers as well as age.

Here's the deal: high estrogen is linked to cysts and fibrosis in breasts and ovaries. That is just part of the job of estrogen to maintain all of our lady parts. When the estrogen gets too high, that's when we start having problems with cysts, fibrosis and cancer.

And sometimes caffeine lowers estradiol (primary estrogen hormone in young women). This is also not ideal. Low estrogen comes with its own set of problems: vaginal dryness, moodiness, painful sex, decreased libido.

It is safe to surmise if you’re struggling with your period, fibroids, cysts of any kind in the breast or ovary, endometriosis, infertility, low sex drive, moodiness, low energy, and weight issues – coffee is making all of these problems much worse.

If caffeine is raising cortisol, lowering progesterone and messing with our estrogens, this is the perfect storm for infertility.

Here are some starts about infertility and caffeine from a great article in

  • 3 cups of coffee a day consumed by women or men increases the risk of miscarriage dramatically – by 74%

  • Caffeine is associated with sub-optimal or suppressed fertility and, therefore, difficulties conceiving

  • Drinking caffeinated beverages during early pregnancy (before you may know that you’re pregnant) increases the risk of early pregnancy loss

  • Caffeine is considered an impairment to fertility alongside alcohol and smoking

  • Men who drink 2 or more cups of coffee a day had a lower chance of conception via IVF

  • Coffee disrupts ovulation by increasing cortisol levels and stressing the adrenals

  • Coffee depletes vital vitamins and minerals needed for ovulation and healthy fertility (including absolutely necessary B vitamins and folate) and coffee’s acidity causes gut health problems

Bottom line: women are more sensitive to stress than men. But we also hold on to nutrients and energy reserves longer. Hence, caffeine has a longer effect and it is not really needed. There is really no reason to chemically induced stress.

Men operate on a much different hormonal scale. Where we have endurance energy, they have burst energy, thanks to x7-40 amount of testosterone in their bloodstream. This makes way more sense for men to have benefits from caffeine.


Theobromine is a good alternative to coffee. It is found in cacao. Many people spread the myth that cacao has caffeine, but it has very little if not any. The main stimulant in cacao is theobromine. Theobromine has a similar but x10 weaker effect than caffeine.

Theobromine has diuretic, stimulant and relaxing effects. Theobromine can lower the blood pressure because it can to dilate blood vessels, making it a great pre-workout drink.

Unlike caffeine theobromine does not affect the central nervous system and is not a psychoactive drug. Theobromine can also relax bronchial muscles in the lungs, which means it can be used as cough medicine. Studies indicate that theobromine acts on the vagus nerve, which runs from the lungs to the brain.

Another is green or black tea. Although these still have caffeine, they have far less caffeine in them. I would fist cut out caffeine for 90 days (day 2 is the hardest). Then I would slowly add back in caffeine. Start with great tea and then to black tea. Again, I don’t suggest more than one or two cups of any stimulant.

Let you natural hormones do the work and get better control of your hormones, cycle and fertility!

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