The Truth About Caffeine and Hot Flashes
Have you ever noticed on days that you drink more coffee, you end up having more hot flashes and night sweats? Think about it for a sec...
You might be wondering whether this relationship is all in your head or whether it is a documented instance of cause and effect.
Well, as it turns out, there are indications of a correlation between the two.
The Mayo Clinic Study
In 2014, the Mayo Clinic conducted a study which demonstrated a relationship between caffeine intake and hot flashes and night sweats in women who had reached menopause. At the time that the study was published in the journal Menopause, it was the largest study ever conducted on caffeine and menopausal symptoms.
2,507 women participated in the study, filling out a questionnaire on their habits and symptoms. This took place at the Women’s Health Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester over a course of six years, beginning in 2005 and running through 2011. 1,806 of the women who filled out the questionnaire were found to meet the inclusion criteria for the research. Their data was analyzed, and the results were tallied up.
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The researchers discovered the following:
- In postmenopausal women, higher caffeine intake was associated with an increase in night sweats and hot flashes.
- In perimenopausal women, higher caffeine intake actually had some positive effects, increasing memory and concentration while bolstering mood.
Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of the Women’s Health Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, concluded, “While these findings are preliminary, our study suggests that limiting caffeine intake may be useful for those postmenopausal women who have bothersome hot flashes and night sweats.”
So what does this mean for you? It means that if you are experiencing a lot of hot flashes and night sweats, and especially if you think you notice a correlation, you should cut back on your caffeine intake. I think this probably would be wise even if you are still perimenopausal, since hot flashes and night sweats can occur before you hit menopause.
But it also means that if hot flashes and night sweats are not a major problem for you and you are perimenopausal (or menopausal, but without those symptoms—which are common, but not ubiquitous), you might actually want to try upping your caffeine intake slightly or keeping it the same.
That way you can enjoy the benefits for your memory, concentration and mood, all of which can also be rattled by menopause. If you have hormonal migraines, caffeine can help to regulate those as well.
Key Takeaway: In postmenopausal women, higher caffeine intake is associated with more hot flashes and night sweats. In perimenopausal women, it is associated with improvements in mood, memory and concentration.
The Bigger Picture With Caffeine
On that note, you may be wondering about the broader health implications of drinking highly caffeinated beverages.
Caffeine acts as a stimulant in our bodies. It occurs naturally in coffee, tea, and cacao. It is also found in caffeinated soft drinks as well as energy drinks.
Here are some of the good things that caffeine does for you:
1. Improves memory and brain function
Caffeine blocks a signalling molecule in your brain called adenosine, which in turn causes two other signalling molecules called dopamine and norepinephrine to increase.
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This accounts for caffeine’s ability to improve mood, alertness, and memory. These effects are well demonstrated by research. Here is a research review which discusses improvements in recall and reaction time. Here is another research review shows that caffeine can reduce the risk for depression.
It is also possible that coffee and caffeine can reduce your risk of developing age-related cognitive decline and dementia, but more research is needed.
2. Caffeine can speed up your metabolism and help you lose weight.
This is something you probably know already, since caffeine is included in many weight loss pills for exactly this reason. If you consume 300 mg of caffeine each day, that could allow you to burn up to 79 more calories per day.
Staving off obesity becomes more and more important the older you get, since being overweight may increase your risk for heart disease and other health problems.
Additionally, caffeine can help you out in the gym. It can make workouts feel easier, and can also boost your body’s fat-burning potential while enhancing muscle contractions. This means you can work out longer and more effectively.
3. Caffeine may lower your risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
If you have heard that caffeine raises your risk of heart disease, that is a myth. It actually does the opposite, reducing it. Additionally, coffee and caffeine intake “might significantly reduce the incidence of type-2 diabetes mellitus,” according to this research.
If you consume 300 mg of caffeine each day, that could allow you to burn up to 79 more calories per day.
So Should You Reduce Caffeine Intake?
The above list is not even a full list of caffeine’s documented benefits. There are also indications that drinking coffee and tea may reduce your risk of cancer, prevent gout, decrease your risk of cirrhosis, reduce your risk of developing MS, and more.
So all of this should be taken into account if you are thinking about cutting caffeine out of your diet. You are at an age where these health benefits become more important than ever—perhaps more important than avoiding some annoying hot flashes and night sweats, though that depends on how much grief they are giving you.
Caffeine does have other drawbacks, but you probably are already familiar with those. It can be addictive, and it can cause sleep disturbances, tremors, anxiety, high blood pressure, and rebound headaches. On the plus side, that high blood pressure effect tends to diminish with regular consumption, though this does not seem to be true in every case.
So ultimately, what you do about caffeine in menopause is up to you, but I would suggest the following:
- If your hot flashes and night sweats are really problematic, reduce your caffeine intake, but consider still consuming it in small amounts in order to enjoy its protective effects for overall health.
- If your hot flashes and night sweats are relatively mild, think about keeping your caffeine intake at the same level.
In either case, taking an herbal supplement to restore hormone balance is a good option for treating the night sweats and hot flashes. If you are lucky, that will provide enough of a benefit that you can continue enjoying caffeine at the level you do now.
Key Takeaway: While caffeine does have some adverse effects, it also has many excellent health benefits. Think about trying to moderate your caffeine intake rather than cutting it out altogether, if you can.
Tips for Reducing Caffeine Intake
Say you do decide you want to reduce your intake of caffeine during menopause. How can you do so effectively while still enjoying foods and beverages you like? Here are some tips:
- If you want to keep drinking coffee, you can switch from darker roasts to lighter roasts. Usually darker roasts have more caffeine in them. Stay away from espressos and other beverages where the caffeine is highly concentrated for a quick burst of energy.
- Decaf coffee and decaf tea are available for those who want to limit their caffeine intake.
- Start substituting tea for coffee sometimes. Teas have less caffeine than coffee. The caffeine levels in different types of teas are roughly comparable (green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and so on—though black tea is the most highly caffeinated of the three, with green tea being the least), but you can buy herbal teas and tisanes which are caffeine-free. Tea allows you to keep your morning, daytime and evening rituals without consuming quite as much caffeine.
- Don’t forget that chocolate has caffeine in it. So if you have a mug of cocoa or a chocolate candy bar, you are still consuming caffeine. You are however consuming significantly less than you would through tea or coffee.
As to the psychological aspect of reducing caffeine intake, if you are actually dependent on it, reducing your intake is a wise decision anyway—regardless of night sweats or hot flashes.
Caffeine should not for example be taking the place of nutritious meals. It also should not be used as a substitute for a good night’s sleep.
In fact, some menopausal women get into a vicious cycle with this. They are losing sleep because of hot flashes, so they drink more caffeine the next day to get through their fatigue. This then keeps them up at night while also worsening their hot flashes. They then lose even more sleep, and so on. The more out of control this cycle gets, the worse the problems become.
So eat full, healthy meals, and make sure you have a consistent sleep schedule. This will ensure that you are getting the rest and nutrition you need to function at your best.
Key Takeaway: You will need to change some of your habits if you want to reduce your caffeine intake, but you can do it by adjusting diet and sleep while replacing some of the coffee you drink with decaf, lighter roasts, tea, or cocoa. Remember, most herbal teas are caffeine-free.
Conclusion: Lowering Caffeine Intake During Menopause May Be Helpful, But Do Not Neglect the Many Health Benefits of Caffeine
For those with severe hot flashes and night sweats, reducing caffeine intake may be helpful in alleviating symptoms. But coffee can help to prevent heart disease, cognitive decline, and obesity, while conferring a host of other benefits as well. For that reason, the best approach is probably one of moderation.
Reduce your caffeine intake instead of eliminating it if possible, and take an herbal supplement to balance your hormone levels. That way you can continue enjoying the health benefits of caffeine and coffee while also reducing your menopause symptoms.