Plus I share my thoughts on the Bulletproof/Upgraded Coffee trend, How Women Need toBiohack their Energy Levels Differently than Men, and How to Heal from Caffeine Exposure
In my early 20’s during a routine GYN visit my doctor found a lump in my breast. She asked two other doctors to come in to examine it and the three of them were talking about it as if I wasn’t even there. My anxiety about potentially having something serious was mounting.
I remember being totally terrified, actually. Eventually, after what seemed like hours, they decided that it was a fluid filled cyst, so of course I asked what might have caused that. My GYN then asked me if I had been drinking lots of caffeine recently – the answer was a huge yes - I had been staying up late studying for finals – and then it came out that caffeine increases the tendency of breast tissue to produce cysts.
I stopped taking in all forms of caffeine that day, and have been caffeine free for 20 years. The research that has come out since I made that choice has only made me more grateful that I listened to that early warning signal from my body. I wanted to share with you 3 little-known reasons you, as a woman, shouldn’t be drinking coffee or caffeine in general, especially if you have PMS, are trying to conceive, or have a diagnosed menstrual issue.
Reason #1 - Caffeine Causes Cyst Formation in the Breasts and Ovaries
Caffeine can increase the development of benign breast disease. Did you know that? I certainly didn’t! I LOVED coffee, espresso bars, the ritual, lattes – I’m not gonna lie, the stuff is delicious! After this scare, I began looking into caffeine and its effects on hormones. Turns out for women with PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, Ovarian Cysts, and Fibrocystic breasts- caffeine is a guaranteed way to make more cysts. For everyone else with hormonal sensitivity, it might not cause cysts, but it will disrupt your system.
Sometimes it seems like coffee is our national drug of choice. We’re too often overworked, under-rested, plus poorly fed, and so coffee has become the crutch many of us use just to get through another busy day. A lot of people feel like coffee must be good for them in one way or another, and with all of the extraordinary marketing by big brands and continuously reported contradictory research, of course you would. The truth however is that we’re addicted and we don’t know the biochemical effects of this substance on our hormones.
Coffee is absolutely terrible when it comes to the female hormonal ecosystem and beyond this cyst formation situation there are 3 other reasons it’s not good for us ladies.
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.
Reason #2 - Your Genes Determine If You Can Metabolize Caffeine Safely
Caffeine is broken down by the liver using the enzyme CYP1A2. Your ability to produce this enzyme is regulated by the CYP1A2 gene. If you have a mutation in this gene, it will dictate how your liver will be able to break down and eliminate caffeine from your system. Based on your gene variation, you’ll either make a lot of this enzyme (and be a successful caffeine guzzler) or a little. Turns out only 10% of the population make a lot of this enzyme! If you are a slow metabolizer, a 2006 study showed that you are at an elevated risk of suffering a heart attack from consuming 2 or more cups of coffee a day. With heart disease being the number 1 killer of women, it seems that every woman should be testing their genes before consuming this substance!
Here’s the other interesting thing about this, CYP1A2, is also involved by the liver in the metabolism of estrogen. So if you haven’t had your genetic testing done, but you struggle with PMS, a diagnosed estrogen-dominant condition like PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis, etc, then you have reason to suspect that you may have a mutation with this gene and are making less of this enzyme needed not only to break down caffeine but also estrogen.
In 2008, research was done to build on the earlier studies linking caffeine to breast tissue changes and showed some association with increased risk of breast cancer. Perhaps the variation in risk factors has something to do with this gene variation. I think if there’s a history of breast cancer in your family, then this is important information to consider.
This is why getting off caffeine is such an important part of the FLO protocol - you’re here because you are struggling with the various ways estrogen dominance can present in the body and we want to remove all obstacles from the endocrine system so it can break that hormone down more efficiently.
Reason #3 – Caffeine Increases Infertility Rates!
It’s alarming how significant an impact this has on fertility for both men and women, and yet it’s rarely ever mentioned as a dietary change required when pursuing conception by any means, natural or medically supported. It’s so impactful, I’ve included the list of all the current research so you can be totally informed.
- 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 of 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
One more Reason – Caffeine depletes the body of micronutrients essential for hormone balance
We all know not to drink coffee when we’re pregnant or breastfeeding, but the fact of the matter is – at every stage it is bad news for your hormones.
Coffee flushes magnesium and other nutrients and minerals that are vital for happy hormones, such as B vitamins from your system. Here’s more from me on why magnesium is so very important for your ovaries. The acidity of coffee causes an imbalance in your gut flora and makes it harder for you to absorb the goodness of even the healthiest of diets. This makes it harder for your endocrine system to do it’s job of balancing your hormones. Taking supplements is key when recovering from caffeine exposure - these are the optimal supplements you need to replenish your levels.
The Bulletproof Coffee Dilemma and Biohacking Your Energy as a Woman
I love Dave Asprey and his work and I think Bulletproof Coffee is AMAZING…for men.
In fact, coffee is an essential biohacking tool for men who experience profound energy dips every single day as they run out of their testosterone and cortisol supply for the day. You however, as a woman, do not have that issue, and do not need to compensate for your energy in this way. In a male-centric health paradigm, boosting the energy with caffeine makes sense for their bodies and the lifestyle that is patterned after their hormones.
In the female-centric health paradigm, you want to boost your energy by supporting your blood sugar and your adrenals to give you sustainable energy all throughout the day as your estrogen and progesterone, testosterone, and insulin fluctuate throughout the month. Eliminating coffee and cycle syncing your diet is the best way to biohack your way to more energy. Especially when you factor in all the research that shows caffeine’s specific impact on women’s health, we must be gender specific in our quest to biohack our energy!
For example, men are not designed to hold nutrients for as long as women are. Women are brilliantly designed to conserve as much energy from whatever we’re taking in so we can grown other tiny humans in our uterus. Whether you are actively doing this or not, your body simply retains fluids for much longer and we metabolize the chemicals contained much more slowly. Whereas liquids process through the male body at a rapid rate – men drink and urinate out both alcohol and caffeine fast and avoid much of the negative physical impact as a result.
As a result, biohacking must be different for men and women as we have two totally distinct systems. If you do choose to consume it, and you have the genes to metabolize it, then absolutely add healthy fats to the coffee – especially the coconut oil – to help your blood sugar cope with the caffeine.
However, for us ladies, the caffeine is still there, depleting your key hormone balancing micronutrients, spiking your cortisol and insulin and disrupting your endocrine function. You may also have a slightly fatty liver as a result of your hormonal issues, and you may have a hard time digesting not only the dairy, but also breaking down all of that fat and caffeine.
Many women are estrogen dominant and you only need to look as far as my post on dairy to see why I discourage this when dealing with hormonal issues. And if you’re here at the Flo Living blog, I’m guessing that you’re dealing with some hormonal issues.
The coffee detox – my 5-step guide to making the transition
If you want to wean yourself off, you need to first ask yourself this question – why do I drink coffee? If it’s because you truly love the taste, I have a 5 step strategy for you to keep the habit under control and make it less harmful to your hormones. If you like coffee because it keeps you awake and gives you energy, well I have a 5 step strategy for you too to heal your fatigue and boost your energy.
Scenario 1: OK, I get that it’s bad for me, but I’m never going to cut it out completely. What can I do to minimize the damage?
So, for those of you who just love the taste and do not rely on it to feel awake in the morning or to concentrate or to get through the day (be honest!) here’s how to minimize those bad effects:
- Ditch the White Stuff – Lose the sugar and the cream and minimize the blood sugar impact. Try Lakanto and coconut milk instead.
- Size Matters – Take the European approach to coffee drinking. Drink a small cup of fresh espresso, rather than a giant venti, trenti bucket from Starbucks.
- Only with Food – Again, the Europeans have this right, drink your small cup of coffee after or during a full meal. If you enjoy the taste, you should be savoring it – not gulping it down on the run or as you dash to the office.
- Replenish your Nutrient levels - take the FLO Balance Supplements to ensure you rebuild your lost magnesium and B’s and help your gut and your liver deal with the caffeine exposure.
- Begin Cycle Syncing to decrease cravings - when you eat, exercise, and work in a way that supports your fluctuating hormones, you build energy daily, instead of working against your hormones and leave yourself drained. You’ll naturally crave less coffee! Download the MyFLO app for the ultimate cycle syncing guide.
Scenario 2: Ok, I now see that this is probably making my symptoms worse and I want to stop, but the withdrawal is bad, what can I do to wean off of it for good?
For those of you who find yourselves groggy and tired even after what seems like a full night’s sleep, you might well be suffering with adrenal fatigue. Rather than jacking up your energy levels artificially, you need to think about healing your adrenal glands. Here’s how to start that process:
- Calorie Load for Breakfast – Eat a really good, big breakfast every day. Have a two egg omelette with spinach plus gluten-free bread and avocado. Make it the central meal of your day. This is eating with the natural biorhythm of your body. Your body needs fuel early rather than in the evening when it’s preparing for rest.
- Boost Your Adrenal Support – Support your need for mental focus with ginkgo biloba and rhodiola. For natural and sustainable energy take ashwaganha, vitamin B12 and vitamin B5. To reduce stress and calm your cortisol, drink holy basil tea.
- My Ultimate Substitute – Swap coffee for kukicha or “twig” tea, which is made from the roasted stem from which green tea leaves are plucked. It has a nutty taste and is perfect any time of the day. It’s also alkalizing for the blood versus the acid-forming cup of coffee. I am a tea collector, and I know that most herbal tea over time just tastes like hot potpourri. But kukicha tea is in a non-floral, non-herbaceous class by itself – you will LOVE it (and want to keep it in your bag at all times!).
- Replenish your Nutrient levels - take the FLO Balance Supplements to ensure you rebuild your lost magnesium and B’s and help your adrenals, gut and your liver heal from the long term caffeine exposure.
- Begin Cycle Syncing to build energy - when you eat, exercise, and work in a way that supports your fluctuating hormones, you build energy daily, instead of working against your hormones and leave yourself drained. Download the MyFLO app for the ultimate cycle syncing guide.
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
to your FLO,
Good things come in threes:
I want to hear from you
First, is coffee your drug of choice? Have you worried about how much you drink?
Second, will you try to wean yourself off? Let me know how it goes!
Third, you know everyone you know is hormonal – spread a little good ovary karma and share this article on social by clicking the buttons below
Introducing the BALANCE by FLO Living Hormone Supplement Kit
You’ve been asking me for hormone-friendly supplement recommendations, and I finally have created a solution that I am so thrilled to be able to offer to you on your hormonal balancing journey:
Balance by FLO Living Supplements are a complete package that work together to keep your hormone levels healthy. They include a 2 month (2 cycle) supply of the following formulations so you’re never caught short in any phase of your cycle.
When you take these 5 supplements daily, you’ll be giving your body excellent micronutrients to support healthier hormone levels. Which means that you’ll start to see your worst period symptoms get better… and even disappear after a while.