This week we will be discussing caffeine, and how it effects menopausal women. The research on caffeine and menopause is lacking but it often comes up with clients when discussing diet and how to manage your menopause symptoms.
Caffeine is a stimulant, used to make people feel more alert or less drowsy. Some health organisations suggest that most people can safely consume up to 300mg of caffeine per day.
Some sources of caffeine include tea, coffee, some fizzy drinks, and energy drinks. An average cup of tea contains around 47mg of caffeine, a mug of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine, and there is usually around 80mg of caffeine in a 250ml can of energy drink, though this can vary .
Caffeine and Menopause: what does the science tell us?
There are a few studies regarding caffeine and menopause and how it may affect your symptoms. Remember caffeine sensitivity varies on an individual basis.
Caffeine and sleep
It has been shown that caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain and interferes with circadian melatonin rhythms. Adenosine is a chemical that promotes sleep, so when adenosine receptors become blocked, we feel more alert rather than sleepy. Therefore, your quality and onset of sleep are also affected by caffeine intake.
If you do choose to consume caffeine, it is suggested that you should do this earlier in the day. This is as the amount of time it takes for your body to process half of the caffeine ingested is around 4-6 hours .
Reduced duration and quality of sleep are factors related to menopause; therefore, it may be wise to cut out or change the time you consume caffeine if sleep is something you struggle with .
Caffeine and incontinence
Another symptom related to caffeine and menopause is urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence is the unintentional passing of urine , which is commonly seen in older adults . Caffeine is thought to be a trigger for urinary incontinence therefore switching to decaffeinated drinks such as fruit or herbal teas, or decaf coffee may help to reduce this .
Caffeine and stress
Finally, your stress levels may also be affected by your caffeine intake. Mood swings and stress are symptoms of menopause; however, caffeine can cause anxiety, irritability, and headaches if you consume too much, especially if you don’t normally drink it.
Withdrawal symptoms can occur if you stop consuming caffeine after having it regularly and has been found to elevate cortisol levels, the main stress hormone in the body . This means that caffeine maybe counterproductive if you are trying to reduce your stress levels.
Caffeine and hot flushes
Some studies on caffeine intake and menopause symptoms have shown that an increased caffeine intake can lead to an increased frequency of hot flushes . However, there is limited data on the quantity and frequency of caffeine consumption and hot flushes. For many women, hot flushes can be particularly troublesome at night, therefore limiting caffeine-containing drinks before bed may be helpful.
Summary: caffeine and menopause
In summary, caffeine may not be the best option for menopausal women, as for some women it can worsen symptoms. However, it is important that if you do decide to cut down on caffeine that you replace these fluids with other drinks such as water, decaf coffee/teas and, herbal or fruit teas.
Top tips for reducing your caffeine intake
- Gradually replace caffeine containing drinks with decaffeinated alternatives and monitor your symptoms
- Try limiting the number of caffeinated drinks from 12-3pm to improve your sleep
- Try decaffeinated alternatives such as water, decaf tea and coffee, no added sugar squash, milk and fruit juice
If you would like support with making dietary changes to manage your menopause symptoms, please book a FREE 15 minute introductory call to discuss how I can help.
Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.