Not only is caffeine one of the most common triggers for hot flushes, but it can also make them worse and worsen other menopause symptoms as well. This week I take a look at 3 ways the caffeine in things such as your tea and coffee can be making your hot flushes and other symptoms worse and what you can do to lessen the impact of caffeine on your menopause.
Some of them can be quite surprising, so I thought I would go into a little bit more detail today about how caffeine can cause, or trigger, or interfere with your menopause symptoms, including hot flushes.
And all the physical changes that are going on in our body can put added pressure on to our nervous system, and very often, that gets stuck in flight or fight mode. If you then add anything else in, that's going to rev it up even further, that can very quickly turn to anxiety.
It can trigger palpitations. It can trigger night sweats and flushes. And for those of you who need a cup of coffee or cup of tea the minute you get out of bed, that's going to rev up your nervous system. But it's also going to rev up your system, for possibly at least a good seven or eight hours.
So those morning symptoms that you get, maybe your morning flushes, your morning palpitations, could be a direct result of that first cup of tea or coffee. So, it's really important here to go for water the minute you get up and have your tea or your coffee after you have had something to eat, and that can make quite a lot of difference.
2. It interferes with your absorption of important vitamins and minerals
You need B vitamins for brain function, energy, and also for your nervous system. And iron is really important to stop you from getting fatigued.
So, if you drink a lot of tea or coffee, you could be putting your body's availability of all these vitamins and minerals at risk, just when you need more of them.
3. It’s often consumed as a hot beverage in tea and coffee
We tend to drink caffeine as a hot drink, such as tea, coffee, and even hot chocolate. For some women, having a hot drink can lead to a hot flush or a sweat, too, because anything that creates warmth in your body can increase the possibility of getting hot flushes. So, just be careful with these.
Other ways caffeine can impact your menopause
The other thing that can happen is that caffeine can interfere with your sleep. I had one lady tell me that all she did was cut out her after-dinner cup of coffee, and that made a huge difference. It practically stopped her night sweats.
If you have a cup of tea or a cup of coffee, it takes your liver about seven or eight hours to process that cup of tea or coffee, which means that caffeine at any point during that time could still have an impact on your nervous system.
As I mentioned before, if you have that first drink as a caffeine drink, eight hours down the line, it could still be triggering your menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes. If you have a cup of coffee mid-afternoon onwards, then that cup of tea or coffee could be interfering with your sleep, too.
So, it's about juggling and making sure you take the drinks at the right time to help you. The other thing that can happen is that caffeine can trigger palpitations on their own. It can affect muscle function. It can cause headaches. It can cause dizziness.
So, what can you do just to control your caffeine?
My Self-Care Tip: How to decrease your caffeine intake safely
Watch my short video below to find out why cutting down your caffeine intake needs to be done slowly and gradually rather than suddenly. Plus, I recommend a simple way to reduce your intake over a few weeks.
Try to keep your consumption of caffeine to morning time if possible
For me, I love a cup of coffee, and I'm not going to say to anybody, "Don't ever have coffee again," because we need all the pleasure we can get in the menopause.
But what I've learned over the years is that if I have a cup of coffee maybe two to three hours after I've had my breakfast, my body and my nervous system can tolerate it quite well. I couldn't cope with a cup of tea or coffee first thing, and, certainly, if I drink too much caffeine in the afternoon, then that very often gives me palpitations. I find that by 10am in the morning, I'm ready for one really nice cup of coffee.
Keep a diary to help you identify if caffeine is triggering your hot flushes
Have a diary so that you can figure out if it is your tea or coffee that is having an impact on your symptoms. And this can be a really handy thing to do, remembering that especially coffee, can be impacting on your symptoms up to eight hours after you've taken that cup of coffee.
Try some tasty substitutes
We do a lovely caffeine-free coffee substitute drink called Bambu. If you're more of a tea jenny, then you could look at things like Rooibos, which is a herb tea, but it tastes more like real tea rather than the herb teas that you normally get. And that's one of my favourites. You can get in different flavours. I love the Earl Grey one. You can find them with chai, and you can find them flavoured with things, such as vanilla.
Keep drinking water
If you do drink quite a bit of tea or coffee, then remember to intersperse that with good drinks of water just to stop the dehydration. If you drink too much tea or coffee, these are also seen as diuretics, which means you'll be running to the toilet a lot more. And again, that night-time drink of tea or coffee could be what's triggering your bladder in the middle of the night.
So if you avoid caffeine drinks after 6pm at night, you might find that you get a much better night's sleep after that.
Remember, caffeine isn’t just in tea and coffee!
Just remember, too, that caffeine is not just in drinks such as tea or coffee, it can be in energy drinks. And some of these energy drinks are extremely high in caffeine because that's basically what they do. They rev up your nervous system so you feel that you're bursting with energy but you'll get a really big slump afterward.
Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can be reasonably high in caffeine, so watch how much chocolate you're taking daily.
Caffeine can also be in some pain medication, so if you need to take painkillers of any kind, then just check the label because you may find taking one of those to stop your headache will give you a caffeine rush, which might then give you another headache. So just read the label on these things.
I hope you found this helpful. If any of you out there have any tips on how you have managed to curb your caffeine cravings, then please let us know in the comment section below.