The taste and aroma of coffee lures millions of people into cafes and bistros all around the world, with Americans alone consuming more than a half billion cups a day. But the reality is this aromatic beverage poses genuine dangers for women. Countless research studies as well as my own extensive clinical experience has shown caffeine is associated with a number of negative health consequences.
Most recently, the October 2001 issue of Fertility and Sterility revealed that caffeine elevates estrogen levels in women — a situation that increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as for fibroid tumors, endometriosis, heavy menstrual bleeding, benign breast disease, PMS, and a host of other health conditions.
Researchers caution women
In a study done at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, researchers evaluated for the effect of coffee on the hormone levels of nearly 500 women, aged 36 to 45, who were in the first five days of their menstrual cycle. They found that the more coffee a woman consumed, the higher her level of estrogen was likely to be. In fact, women who consumed four to five cups of coffee per day—the equivalent of at least 500 milligrams of caffeine—during the early part of their menstrual cycle produced nearly 70 percent more estrogen than women who consumed less than one cup of coffee a day—or 100 milligrams of caffeine. In fact, caffeine intake from all sources, including black tea, cola drinks, cocoa, chocolate, and over-the-counter medications such as Drisdan, Midol, and Excedrin, was linked with higher estrogen levels. Based on these results, researchers cautioned women against drinking more than two cups of coffee per day, because high levels of estrogen can exacerbate PMS symptoms.
Eliminate caffeine from your diet
This study reinforces the findings of a number of earlier studies on caffeine and female hormone related conditions. And, based on the findings, I recommend eliminating all caffeinated foods and beverages from your diet. But I know that for some of you, this is not realistic. Like many of my patients, you may be dependent upon caffeine as a pick-me-up to combat the drowsiness and “brain fog” often experienced in the morning. For others, there is a ritual and social aspect to drinking coffee. Plus, coffee does have some merit as a central nervous system stimulant that increases brain activity and speeds up the metabolism, while also increasing heart and respiratory rates. But, in the end, the risks far outweigh the benefits.
Don’t go “cold turkey” though, eliminating caffeine abruptly can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, depression, and fatigue, so take it slowly and eliminate a little at a time. And, try these as a substitute for coffee: Water-processed decaffeinated coffee, green tea, and herbal teas, especially peppermint, chamomile, and ginger.