In the last 10 months, I’ve made one simple change to my morning routine, and it’s both massively improved the health of my skin AND relieved the terrible period cramps that I’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years.
I want you to know the secret, but I do have to warn you- you’re not gonna like it.
I ditched coffee.
I know! I know. Of ALL the lifestyle changes I’ve researched and implemented over my wellness journey, quitting coffee felt like the last band-aid I needed to rip off, and it took time to get to the point that I was ready to try. I was a 2-to-3-cup-every-morning kind of girl, with a full dark roast + ghee + collagen + oat milk in a blender ritual that was soothing and comforting. Some mornings, it was literally what got me out of bed. So I get it. The idea of giving up coffee completely can be very upsetting, so take your time entertaining the idea; BUT just know (based upon my personal experience AND the info that I’m about to share in this post), once you get over the caffeine hangover slump, you WILL notice a difference in multiple areas of your own personal health. It’s a sacrifice worth making.
The Skinny on the Latte
For the last few years, I’ve had a couple major health complaints that have plagued me each month: (seemingly) random breakouts, Perioral Dermatitis (a mixture of acne/excema that sprouted up around my nose and mouth), and truly debilitating period cramps. After some research, I discovered that these seemingly isolated problems were related to the same core issue- hormone imbalance and excess estrogen.
Most of us modern women generally tend towards hormonal imbalances. We live in a culture of misinformation and lack of education about our own hormonal cycles (which last 28 days, are broken down into 4 phases, with each phase characterized by the rise and fall of certain hormones imperative to our reproductive health), and oftentimes we undermine the health of our hormones without even realizing we’re doing it. Caffeine is the perfect example of this; each cup of coffee we drink may feel helpful in the moment, but disrupts the production and metabolic processes of major hormones, like insulin; cortisol; and estrogen, for hours after we drink it.
Caffeine also affects women differently than it affects men. In general, women’s bodies are made to conserve energy and nutrients, in the hope of creating a healthy and strong environment for carrying and birthing children. Because of this, we metabolize everything we consume at a much slower rate than men do. Factor in that we are consuming something harmful to our systems and our hormones, like caffeine, and it makes total sense that our bodies are working too hard for hours on end to process our morning cup of joe. This is why caffeine intake has been shown to increase the blood pressure in women who drink it, but not in men.
Each human body has a specific enzyme, labeled CYP1A2, that is meant to break down small, occasional quantities of caffeine introduced into the system. Because of overconsumption of caffeine and coffee culture, this enzyme has mutated into a much weaker form over the years, and statistically only about 10% of the human population has the enzyme strong enough to effectively process the caffeine that most of us consume each day. CYP1A2 is also responsible for processing and breaking down estrogen in female bodies to prepare for menstruation. This poor little enzyme is so overworked by our caffeine consumption that it can’t handle excess estrogen, sending us into a state called Estrogen Dominance. When we are estrogen dominant, there is a higher risk for reproductive imbalances like cysts, fibroids, PCOS, and PMS, and our skin is more easily inflamed. Excess estrogen gets congested in the liver, which then shows up on our faces in the form of breakouts on our temples, chins and jaws.
Caffeine also increases production of the stress hormone Cortisol. Excess cortisol messes with our adrenals, our blood sugar levels, and it dries us out. According to NYC based dermatologist Ellen Marmur, too much cortisol creates a topical imbalance called Transepidermal Water Loss, which weakens the the skin’s protective barrier and makes it more susceptible to infection. In this state, the skin also has a harder time healing itself, so your breakouts will be more stubborn and harder to get rid of.
As if we needed another reason…
Potential and expectant mothers should also be wary of regular coffee consumption. Recent studies have shown that drinking 3 cups of coffee or more each day increased the risk of early miscarriage by 74%. Because it interferes with balanced Cortisol levels in the body, caffeine can also mess up the timing of your cycle and ovulation, making the window for getting pregnant harder to predict.
When You’re Ready-
Start gentle. I weened myself off of my daily coffee routine by switching to a more nourishing form of caffeinated morning beverage. I drank matcha green tea for about 3 weeks, slowly decreasing the amount I consumed from 2.5-3 cups down to 1 cup a day over the course of those 3 weeks. Then I transitioned to an adaptogen latte (I drink MudWtr now, and absolutely LOVE it) that still provides the comfort of a preparation ritual and a relaxing warm beverage, but without the acidity and jitters of drinking coffee. When you start to itch for a latte or a cold brew, just remember how much good you’re doing for your hormonal health. Over a few months of commitment to a new routine, you’ll see clearer, more resilient skin and have survivable periods, and you won’t want to go back. Promise.
September 13, 2021