Drinking coffee on an empty stomach before breakfast can sabotage your blood sugar, according to new research published in the British Journal of Nutrition — and imbalanced blood sugar is bad news for your hormones.
I’ll explain why blood sugar is so important for hormones in a second, and why women who want to fix their period problems need to take blood sugar seriously, but first let’s take a look at this new research and what it tells us. (Let’s also gloat just a tiny bit: we’ve been saying that coffee is harmful for hormones for the past 20 years. The research is finally catching up to us! 🙂
So what do we know from this new study?
Participants were broken out into two groups: those who drank coffee first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything else and those who drank coffee after eating something. (Participants in both groups had gotten poor sleep the night before — the researchers woke them up every couple hours — so they all woke up craving a pick-me-up.) Participants who drank coffee before eating, as many people who are feeling groggy and listless in the mornings do, experienced substantial increases in blood sugar compared with those who ate something first.
The study was conducted at the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism at the University of Bath in England, and speaking about the study, the co-director of the Centre, Professor James Betts, told SciTechDaily:
“We know that nearly half of us will wake in the morning and, before doing anything else, drink coffee – intuitively the more tired we feel, the stronger the coffee. This study is important and has far-reaching health implications as up until now we have had limited knowledge about what this is doing to our bodies, in particular for our metabolic and blood sugar control.
Put simply, our blood sugar control is impaired when the first thing our bodies come into contact with is coffee especially after a night of disrupted sleep. We might improve this by eating first and then drinking coffee later if we feel we still need it. Knowing this can have important health benefits for us all.”
If you’re a “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” person, it's time to reconsider when you drink your coffee.
Even if you’re a breakfast first person, it’s worth reconsidering your coffee intake altogether. Caffeinated beverages, no matter when you drink them, can disrupt hormone balance and make period problems worse.
If you’re ready to balance your hormones and feel your best, I recommend ditching coffee entirely.
The Blood Sugar-Hormone Connection
This new research highlights how coffee can sabotage blood sugar, especially when it's consumed at the wrong time of day. But you might be thinking: So what? Why does blood sugar matter when it comes to my hormone health? Why do I need to pay attention to blood sugar if I want to cure my PMS and other period problems?
When blood sugar goes up in response to eating a high-sugar food or, in this case, in response to drinking coffee before breakfast, our body produces the hormone insulin to deal with all the sugar in our bloodstream. This is a natural, normal, life-sustaining physiological response. We need insulin to stay alive.
The problem is when blood sugar rises too high, as is the case when we eat a lot of sugar or, according to this new study, when we have coffee before breakfast. Blood sugar surges and so does insulin, and those spikes interfere with ovulation, which messes up progesterone production and contributes to one of the most common, and most troublesome, hormone imbalances: estrogen dominance.
Overexposure to sugar and insulin can also contribute to fat storage and weight gain, and that can make estrogen dominance even worse. Add all this together with the synthetic estrogens we’re exposed to in the environment, and you’re set up for progesterone deficiency, estrogen dominance, and symptom-causing hormone imbalances. Hormone imbalances are why women in their reproductive years experience problems like PMS, acne, bloating, infertility, heavy or irregular cycles, and other hormone issues.
Can I drink coffee after breakfast?
You can do anything you want, of course, but . . . coffee can be hard on hormones no matter what time of day you drink it.
I’ve written extensively about the dangers of caffeine when it comes to hormones, so if you want to dig deep on the coffee-hormone connection click here and here. Meanwhile, I’ve highlighted some key takeaways about the coffee-hormone connection:
- Caffeine spikes insulin and cortisol, both of which are key hormones in the body. When they are out of balance, it is very difficult to balance your reproductive hormones.
- Caffeine interferes with sleep, and when sleep is disrupted it makes it much harder to balance hormones and live in harmony with the circadian and infradian cycles that women in their reproductive years experience.
- Studies suggest that caffeine intake may fuel the growth of breast cysts and increase the risk of infertility and miscarriage.
- Caffeine drains the body of hormone-balancing minerals and nutrients.
I recommend that women with period problems avoid caffeine because it disrupts hormone balance in such fundamental ways. If you hope to recover your hormone health, caffeine is NOT your friend.
How to Quit Caffeine
Quitting coffee doesn’t have to be a drag. You can take steps to make the process easier and minimize withdrawal. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Eat a high-protein breakfast each morning.
Include a lot of healthy fats and complex carbs, too. This will set your body on the right path each morning, keep your blood sugar stable, and help you feel full for hours. With the right mix of macronutrients, you will feel sharp and focused, and you will have steady energy.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough hormone-balancing nutrients.
Coffee drains the body of essential micronutrients. If you have a history of caffeine use, your body will need supplemental nutrients to bring your hormones back into balance and help nourish and repair your system. I recommend the Balance Supplement Kit. I specially formulated this kit to help women restore their hormone health.
3. Embrace substitutes.
There is nothing noble about quitting cold turkey! Some rare (and lucky) folks can give up vices without any symptoms or side effects. Others need the comfort of a substitute, at least for a while. Some good coffee substitutes include 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 at any time of the day. It’s also alkalizing for the blood versus the acid-forming cup of coffee. Maca root powder can be used as a tea. It has an earthy, coffee-esque taste and it helps with energy.
4. Practice The Cycle Syncing Method™.
When you eat, exercise, and work in a way that supports your fluctuating hormones, you will build energy daily instead of working against your hormones and leaving yourself depleted and drained. If you are new to The Cycle Syncing Method™, start by downloading the MyFlo app and tracking your 28-day hormone cycle, also known as your infradian rhythm.
At FloLiving, we dream of a future in which women in their reproductive years partner with their gynecologists AND with our team to get best-in-class hormonal health care. With the right support, women in their reproductive years can ease their symptoms, live with less pain, and look and feel their best — which is what every woman deserves.
NOTE: We use the words “woman” and “women” and she/her pronouns throughout these posts for ease of writing, but the principles and advice apply to any person, regardless of gender identity, who was born with female physiology. At the same time, if you are a person born with male physiology and you identify as non-binary or you are transitioning to identify as female, using a cyclical support system can help you feel more in sync with your female energy.
I designed my Balance Supplements specifically to help women address these key deficiencies, balance their hormones, and reclaim their energy.
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BALANCE by FLO Living is the FIRST supplement kit for happier periods that supports balancing your hormones. Balance Supplements include five formulations that provide essential micronutrients to balance your hormones. Think of them as your personal “insurance policy” against environmental factors that are (knowingly or unknowingly) zapping your energy every month.
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