Is coffee bad for endometriosis? Quitting caffeine — a guide

Woman with coffee Is coffee bad for endometriosis? (Image: Sandhya Raghavan)

Is coffee bad for endometriosis? If it is, then it’s a bad day to be me. ūüôĀ

One of my crutches to deal with my everyday problems is caffeine. I begin work at 7 am, poring through articles and editing them. While coffee helps me stay awake through the ordeal, the only motivation to stay awake is also coffee.

For me, it’s not even about the bells and whistles. I don’t care for the milk, the cream or the sugar. All I need is a cup of black coffee to get by.

Sadly though, lately, caffeine and I have become star crossed lovers. And the villain in my story is endometriosis.

Caffeine and endometriosis

I have focussed specifically on coffee since it’s got twice the amount of caffeine as tea. 237ml of black coffee contains 96mg of caffeine. The same serving of black tea has 47mg. 1

I have tried quitting caffeine many times in the past on account of my endometriosis. Any wellness expert worth his or her salt will say that caffeine is bad for inflammatory conditions.

Research on the caffeine-endometriosis connection has left me confused. For example, this 2014 study2¬†“Coffee and caffeine intake and risk of endometriosis: a meta-analysis” in the European Journal of Nutrition failed to find a connection between caffeine intake and endometriosis.

Whereas, a 2012 National Institutes of Health study showed that caffeine consumption is linked to oestrogen changes.3 Oestrogen dominance, as we know, is said to proliferate endometrial lesions in the body.4

If you are an Asian woman and you have an average of 200mg or more of caffeine a day (roughly two cups), you may have elevated oestrogen levels compared to women who consume less.

Also Read: The best sanitary pad for heavy flow. Period.

Is coffee bad for endometriosis?

Dr Rajeshwari Pawar, Consultant, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Motherhood Hospitals, Kharadi, Pune has some grim news for caffeine addicts with endometriosis.

Dr Rajeshwari Pawar
Dr Rajeshwari Pawar (Image: Motherhood Hospitals)

“While there is no strong evidence or study to validate the claim, you will be shocked to know that caffeine leads to inflammation and affects oestrogen levels,” she adds.

Inflammation to a certain degree is natural and even good for the body, observes Dr Pawar. “But too much of it can invite chronic pain and other problems.”

This is clearly not good news for someone like me who has coffee coursing through her veins on any given day.

“Your endometriosis can worsen and steal your peace of mind. It’s essential to monitor your caffeine intake,” warns Dr Pawar.

“The areas with endometriosis are already inflamed. Inflammatory foods like coffee will be digested and eventually make their way to these inflamed cells, worsening the pain associated with it.”

Now comes the big question: How to quit caffeine if you are addicted? You have to brace yourself for caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

They may differ from person to person, but common ones include headache, fatigue, decreased activeness or alertness, drowsiness, depressed mood, inability to concentrate, irritation, etc.

These symptoms start showing up 12-24 hours after you miss your caffeine dose and peak at 20-51 hours. They may last for two to nine days! 5

How to quit caffeine

Long story short, there’s no easy way to quit caffeine. That being said, if you are determined, here are some of my tips.

  • Don’t go cold turkey: If you suddenly stop having coffee one fine day, you will be left with painful headaches and other withdrawal symptoms. I made this mistake. Start with cutting down on the quantity. Halve your consumption. Go from two cups to one cup.
  • Replace coffee with black tea: While I loved both tea and coffee, the latter is much easier on the tongue without milk. Tea has a lower caffeine content, which makes it a good substitute for coffee if you are trying to reduce your intake.
  • Replace coffee with chocolate: 100gm of chocolate contains 43mg of chocolate. If you want to gradually quit caffeine, replace coffee with chocolate.
  • Keep painkillers handy5: There will be headaches, so keep over-the-counter analgesic medications nearby. I was at the mercy of paracetamol for a few days.
  • Eat more fibre: Since caffeine helps you poop, quitting may cause constipation as a withdrawal symptom. Keep this in check by increasing dietary fibre and probiotics.
  • Drink up: And by that, I mean water, H2O, agua, vatten, wasser. Hydration can help reduce some symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.
  • Get your sleep: Just like hydration, proper rest and sleep can help ease some of the discomforts.

Also Read: Endometriosis and the teas that heal it

“Just try to cut down on it and stay healthy and hearty. It is better to consult an expert who will advise you regarding caffeine consumption. Do as your expert says and try to follow the guidelines given by you,” says Dr Pawar.

Sources:

1. Mayo Clinic

2. Coffee and caffeine intake and risk of endometriosis: a meta-analysis

3. NIH Study shows caffeine consumption linked to estrogen changes

4. Estrogen Receptors and Endometriosis  

5. Caffeine Withdrawal