If you're a woman navigating the rollercoaster ride that is perimenopause, you might have noticed that your morning cuppa of coffee doesn’t sit as well as it used to. 

It’s important to note that it’s likely the caffeine, milk and/or sugar that you're sensitive to.

More about milk and sugar later in the post.

Coffee contains beneficial polyphenols that have been found to lower inflammation, improve insulin sensitivity, protect the liver and promote healthy estrogen metabolism. Along with some studies suggesting that it may even lower the risk of breast cancer.

Caffeine on the other hand is a stimulant that can cause increased anxiety, insomnia and dysfunction to our HPA axis (a major neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress and regulates many body processes, including digestion, immune responses, mood and emotions, sexual activity, and energy storage and expenditure).

Perhaps coffee makes you jittery, disrupts your sleep, or upsets your stomach—effects you might not have experienced before. Why does this happen during perimenopause? Let's delve into the relationship between coffee and perimenopause, exploring why your body might be reacting differently and what you can do about it.

Hormonal Changes and Coffee Sensitivity

Perimenopause represents the transition years toward menopause (a point in time when you haven't had a period in a year), when a woman’s reproductive hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone, begin to fluctuate wildly before eventually declining. These hormones don't just regulate menstruation and fertility; they affect nearly every system in the body, including the nervous system and the way your body handles stress and stimulants. 

***Sensitivity to caffeine will differ from person to person***

Stress Response in Perimenopause

Perimenopause can often be a stressful time. Fluctuating hormones can lead to mood swings, anxiety, and stress, which can be exacerbated by things going on in your life.

Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol, the stress hormone. With an already heightened adrenal response during perimenopause, adding caffeine can overstimulate your body, leading to increased feelings of anxiety and restlessness.

Coffee and Hot Flushes in Perimenopause

Coffee affects everyone differently and can improve or worsen hot flushes depending on the person.  It's really all about experimenting by eliminating coffee all together for a period of time to see if that helps with hot flushes or makes no difference at all.

You might also experiment with time of day, the number of coffees you drink and with the type and amount of milk and sugar added.

Coffee and Its Impact on Sleep in Perimenopause

Many women find that their sleep patterns change during perimenopause. Issues such as insomnia and night sweats are common. Caffeine, particularly when consumed later in the day, can exacerbate these sleep disturbances. With its prolonged effect due to slower metabolism, even morning coffee might affect your sleep quality during this life stage. 

***Everyone metabolises caffeine at their own rate, the normal half-life of caffeine is 4-6 hours.***

Digestive Health and Sensitivity to Coffee in Perimenopause

Fluctuating hormones can also affect gastrointestinal tract motility, leading to symptoms like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Since caffeine can increase stomach acidity and stimulate bowel movements, your regular coffee might now trigger uncomfortable digestive symptoms.

It’s important to also look at how much cow's milk and sugar you are having with your coffee, as both can increase inflammation in perimenopausal women and you may well find that it's these additions that are the problem.

Bone Health Concerns and Coffee in Perimenopause

Perimenopause is a critical time for bone health, as declining estrogen levels can lead to decreased bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Caffeine has been shown to interfere with calcium absorption, which can compound the issue if your dietary calcium intake is not adequate.

When Should You Avoid Coffee in Perimenopause?

  • If you metabolise caffeine slowly. Signs of this: anxiety, irritability, restlessness, trouble sleeping and the jitters.
    Slow metabolisers might experience the above symptoms and remain alert for up to nine hours post-caffeine. Conversely, quicker metabolisers typically enjoy a boost in energy and alertness for a shorter period (around a couple of hours).

  • If you have arrhythmia (an irregular heart beat), suffer from anxiety, have trouble sleeping, or experience urinary frequency since coffee increases the speed at which your kidneys produce urine. In addition, if you suffer from frequent headaches or migraines, you may want to skip the coffee. 
  • If you are on the pill or estrogen therapy, they will impair your caffeine metabolism.

What To Do if You're Sensitive To Coffee in Perimenopause?

If you’ve noticed that coffee isn’t agreeing with you as much as it used to pre-perimenopause, here are some tips to help manage your sensitivity:

  1. Reduce Caffeine Intake: Gradually cut back on the amount of caffeine you consume daily. Try limiting yourself to one cup of coffee a day, and consume it before noon to minimise any potential effects on your sleep.

  2. Switch to Low/No-Caffeine Alternatives: Consider switching to SheBANG! Superlattes loaded with ingredients to reduce your perimenopausal symptoms and are no/minimal caffeine.  Try a Peri Chai Latte or Peri Hot Choccy in place of your usual morning cup of coffee.

  3. Check Your Calcium Intake: Ensure you're getting enough calcium in your diet to support bone health. If you continue to drink coffee, consider consuming extra calcium-rich foods or a supplement.

  4. Mind the Timing: Drinking coffee early in the day can help prevent it from impacting your sleep. Try to avoid caffeine after lunchtime.

  5. Listen to Your Body: Keep a diary of how different foods and drinks affect you during perimenopause. This can help you pinpoint what exacerbates your symptoms and what makes you feel better.

  6. Stay Hydrated: Sometimes, dehydration can enhance the negative effects of caffeine. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Wrap Up

Perimenopause is a period of significant change in your body, and sensitivity to caffeine can be one of the many shifts you might experience. By understanding how hormonal changes affect your body’s response to caffeine, you can make informed choices to mitigate uncomfortable symptoms and maintain your quality of life during this transformative phase.

Coffee can be your friend or foe. Moderate coffee consumption can be beneficial for your health. Remember, every woman’s experience of perimenopause is unique. Take the time to find out the right balance for you.


May 02, 2024 — Angela Greely

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