Lattes, espressos, even that innocent cup of instant coffee you grab in the morning before work, caffeine is prevalent in more foods and drinks than we may think. For that very reason, it’s easy to build up a dependency on caffeine and perhaps consume more than you ought to on any given day.
Because caffeine affects women differently than it does men, it’s important to examine what it could do to your health. Women are generally more sensitive to caffeine, take longer to recover from its stimulating effects and also take longer to detoxify caffeine. As a result, there are a number of varying health effects caffeine has on women.
Menstruation and PMS
During your monthly cycle, hormone levels usually change naturally. A great many of us experience symptoms of PMS and 10% of those suffer severe symptoms including nausea, bloating, cramps and breast swelling. As caffeine causes an increase in female hormones, it is also related to a higher number of PMS symptoms being exhibited.
This occurrence is dose-dependent, meaning that the more coffee you drink, the more symptoms you’ll experience and the more aggravated they’ll become. That comforting latte you drink on the first day of your period could do more harm than good!
Caffeine greatly affects the absorption and excretion of several minerals essential to women’s health. Vital minerals such as calcium and magnesium are not properly reabsorbed in the kidneys and as a result, are excreted in urine. It also affects iron absorption. What does this mean for you and me? As menstruating women, it can lead to the development of anaemia. Also, the lack of essential minerals can lead to lower bone density and osteoporosis in later years and magnesium deficiency, which negatively affects PMS.
Although the extent of the effects of caffeine has on a developing baby are not fully known, it’s certain that caffeine passes through the placenta. This can lead to a lower birth weight of the baby, caffeine withdrawal which can manifest in sleep problems and vomiting, and absorption into breast milk. It also has a negative effect on pancreatic cells, fetal development and general fertility.
If you stop at Starbucks on your way to work or relax with a soothing mug of instant when you have a break, and this is a habit, you could be unintentionally raising your stress levels. Prolonged coffee consumption raises stress hormones (adrenaline). This can cause an increase in heart and blood pressure.
Drinking coffee is related to increased levels of cholesterol. In addition to this, caffeine has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and higher blood pressure, which in turn leads to an elevated risk of heart disease – the number one killer of women in the U.S.
Unfortunately, these are not the only effects that caffeine can have on women’s health. Hot flashes, breast pain and negative interaction with oral contraceptives are some of the other issues related to caffeine consumption. However, there do exist a number of positive effects that caffeine provides and as with anything, it’s all about finding the right balance.