Cup o 'Joe? The PCOS Coffee Conundrum - PCOS Diva
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Cup o ‘Joe? The PCOS Coffee Conundrum

by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva

I’ll admit it. I love coffee, am a bit of a coffee snob, and used to have a strong addiction to the caffeine and the ritual of coffee consumption. Sometimes, even now, I long for a rich cup of organic Sumatra or French Roast. Now, like everything in life, I think moderation is key when it comes to drinking coffee. Now, I think of coffee as a treat, much like a dessert. I reserve a cup of coffee for weekend mornings. I usually drink it black, but if I am in the mood for a sip of something a little more mellow, I’ll add just a hint of coconut milk and a dash of cinnamon. If I find that I am having more throughout the week, then I know I am at risk for becoming addicted  again. If you are drinking 3 or more cups a day, you have an addiction. 

Caffeine in coffee is a highly addictive substance. Withdrawal symptoms may include headache, irritability, inability to concentrate, drowsiness, insomnia, and pain in the stomach, upper body, and joints – may appear within 12 to 24 hours after discontinuation of caffeine intake, peak at roughly 48 hours, and usually last from 2 to 9 days. (1) Two weeks prior to Discover Your PCOS Diva Jumpstart Week, I ask that all PCOS Divas slowly come off of caffeine, including coffee. You need to reduce your consumption slowly, because caffeine withdrawal is not fun!

Here are some of my best coffee addiction-breaking tips:

  1. Slowly reduce the number of cups of coffee you drink each day starting on the weekend.
  2. Cut your dose in half everyday until you are down to ½ cup and then stop.
  3. Drinking water and healthy snacking throughout the day can help to crowd out coffee and caffeine.
  4. For help with headaches, take 1000mg of vitamin C during this time to help lessen the withdrawal symptoms.
  5. White willow bark tablets, which contain a natural type of pain-relieving salicylate. (Like aspirin, however, willow should be avoided for two weeks before and after surgery) can also help with headaches.
  6. Even if you quit cold turkey, most symptoms should disappear after just one week.
  7. If you have to have a little caffeine have a cuppa green tea instead.

The scientific data about the pros and cons of coffee is contradictory.  It really is a mixed bag. Let’s look at some of the highlights:

Coffee may prevent diabetes

A cup or two of coffee may help boost memory and may even prevent diabetes. (2) These benefits are most likely due to the coffee bean’s antioxidant effect.  Coffee contains minerals and antioxidants which may help prevent diabetes. Frank Hu, M.D., one of the authors of The Harvard Study, theorizes it may be because caffeine stimulates muscles to burn fat and sugar more efficiently. Roasted coffee beans are quite possibly the United States’ number one source of antioxidants, based on both popularity and amount of antioxidants.(3)

Caffeine reduces insulin sensitivity

To add to the confusion, studies also show negative effects of caffeine on insulin. A study published in the Journal Diabetes Care in 2002 found that caffeine reduced insulin sensitivity by 15%. As insulin resistance is already a key issue for women with PCOS, caffeine restriction or avoidance may be helpful in managing this condition. (4)

Coffee inhibits absorption of minerals and dehydration

Caffeinated beverages such as coffee act as a dieuretic causing water loss unless you drink more water to compensate.  Coffee especially depletes essential minerals such as iron, magnesium and zinc as well as B vitamins.

Caffeine can exhaust the adrenal glands

Overtime too much caffeine weakens the adrenal glands causing chronic lethargy, hormonal disruption, anxiousness and irritability.

Cortisol is largely responsible for our stress response, and it also controls our sleep- wake ycle. Our cortisol levels are naturally higher  in the morning to help us get up and get going. Then levels decrease through the afternoon and are meant to fall at in the evening to help us wind down and go to sleep.  If you need coffee to get up and some sugar in the afternoon to keep going and a glass of red wine to wind down or “wine down” at night then you may be dealing with a form of adrenal fatigue. I will address this in an upcoming newsletter.  But one way to heal your adrenals is to regulate your sleep-wake cycle.  Caffeine can’t compensate for lack of sleep.  If you eliminate the caffeine it will help your adrenals.

Caffeine may increase miscarriage risk

A recent study in the 2008 American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showed that drinking more then 2 cups of caffeinated coffee per day can increase a woman’s risk of miscarriage significantly. The more caffeine they drank the greater the risk of miscarriage. (5)  If you are trying to get pregnant I recommend that you avoid all coffee and tea except herbal and caffeinated beverages. Some experts say that 2 cups is perfectly safe, but consult your physician to be sure. Caffeine is a stimulant drug that easily passes through the placenta to the developing fetus and is also transferred through breast milk.

Coffee beans are a highly sprayed crop

Coffee is usually grown outside of the United States and we therefore have no control over how many pesticides are sprayed on coffee crops. Coffee is a heavily sprayed crop, so drinking coffee is likely to expose you to a dose of pesticides with each cup.  That is why I like to drink organic.  Also, If you are going to drink decaffeinated coffee, be sure that it uses a non-chemical based method of decaffeination. The “Swiss Water Process” is the best choice. And If you use a “drip” coffee maker, be sure to use non-bleached filters. The bright white ones, which most people use, are chlorine bleached and some of this chlorine will be extracted from the filter during the brewing process.

Coffee isn’t good if you are dealing with sleep, anxiety and panic issues

Coffee is a stimulant.  It will often worsen the symptoms of insomnia and anxiety and should definitely be avoided. People with panic or anxiety disorders  (and many of us with PCOS have anxiety issues) may find that they are especially sensitive to caffeine and may find that even a small amount of the stimulant exacerbates their symptoms.







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  1. Agnes-
    I would look at food intolerances too – especially gluten. Yes white willow bark and feverfew may help. You might also try acupuncture.

  2. Would the problem be solved if one just drank organic decaf? I’ve never drunk coffee for the caffeine, I just adore the taste! I usually have one large cup of decaf in the morning with some coconut oil and raw honey….