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Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020: Did You Know That Coffee Can Make Your Menstrual Cramps Worse?

Menstrual Hygiene Day is observed on 28 May every year. The day aims to highlight the importance of good menstrual hygiene management. It was initiated by the German-based NGO WASH United in 2014 and the date 28 was chosen to acknowledge that 28 days is the average length of the menstrual cycle.

World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 theme is 'Periods in Pandemic'. The theme highlights the challenges faced by women during menstruation amidst the ongoing pandemic and to shine a light on how the challenges have worsened during the pandemic.

On this menstrual hygiene day, let's take a look at the possible link between coffee and period cramps.

The struggle to get through every month, hoping that the cramps won't pull you down is something most woman go through. The throbbing and cramping pain in the lower abdomen can get pretty annoying and bothersome. Caused due to muscle contractions, the cramps can be relieved through various ways such as eating dark chocolate and by using a hot water bag and so on.

One of the other major misery accompanied by cramps are headaches, which arises due to the drastic changes in your hormones. And what better than some coffee to help relax the fluttering pain in your head. But that's where you are at fault - that is, while drinking coffee can help manage the headache, the caffeine fortifies towards the aggravation of the cramps.

Also read: Are Your Period Choices Affecting Your Health? What An Expert Has To Say

Menstruation Tip: Limit Your Coffee Consumption, Avoid If You Can!

While coffee does ease your pain (both physical and emotional), healthcare experts and doctors may beseech you to avoid its consumption, while you are menstruating. That is because, the caffeine content in coffee worsens, or even causes cramps to develop, due to its diuretic nature; increasing urine production and promoting dehydration [1] .

The caffeine present in a cup of joe upon entering your system blocks the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter which regulates anxiety [2] . In the event of a blocked GABA and with high levels of anxiety (induced by caffeine consumption), you are naturally prone to worsen your cramps. With anxiety being one of the central causes of muscle cramps, studies link it to the consumption of coffee while you are on your periods [3] .

Also read: Sustainable Menstruation Through Menstrual Cup: Keeping You & The Earth Clean

Coffee Wreaks Hormone Havoc, Studies Assert

Drinking coffee, especially during your menstrual cycle can overstimulate the hormones, causing it to crash and dysfunction. Although it helps you in fighting fatigue, coffee activates your stress hormones and increase the cortisol levels. Coffee also has the potential to suppress thyroid function, as it increases the cortisol levels, which can cause a downregulation of thyroid hormones [4] .

The caffeine content in a steaming hot cup of coffee restricts your blood vessels, increases anxiety and also heightens cortisol, which further exacerbates the menstrual symptoms [5] .

One Or Two Cups A Day Is All That Is Necessary

1 or 2 cups of coffee a day is not a cause for concern, asserts studies. However, when the number of cups goes high, it can have negative aspects of one's body - especially if you are on your periods.

Drinking coffee every 2 - 3 hours or more than 4 cups of coffee in a day is a cause for concern because caffeine acts as a laxative by increasing contraction in the small and large intestinal muscles, causing predigested food to move into the intestine, triggering stomach cramps; and in the case of menstruation, worsen the cramps [6] [7] .

Also read: Premenstrual Breast Swelling And Tenderness: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

If you cannot be without caffeine while on your periods (well, cravings are cravings!), here are some caffeine alternatives you could try during menstruation.

Caffeine Alternatives To Try During Menstruation

For a week, try to switch from your daily dose of caffeine to the following [8] [9] :

Some of the other ways you can manage the cramps are by drinking plenty of water, green smoothies, ginger tea, chamomile tea and peppermint tea [10] .

On A Final Note...

Therefore, the link between menstruation and coffee is the caffeine content. The caffeine content can irritate the stomach by increasing gastrointestinal acidity, making your cramps worse, adding to the discomfort. You don't have to give up your morning pick-me-up cup of coffee, however, there is a distinct need to limit the consumption; which in turn can help ease the pain and associated symptoms.

View Article References
  1. [1] Fenster, L., Quale, C., Waller, K., Windham, G. C., Elkin, E. P., Benowitz, N., & Swan, S. H. (1999). Caffeine consumption and menstrual function. American journal of epidemiology, 149(6), 550-557.
  2. [2] Hakim, R. B., Gray, R. H., & Zacur, H. (1998). Alcohol and caffeine consumption and decreased fertility. Fertility and sterility, 70(4), 632-637.
  3. [3] Pollack, A. Z., Louis, G. M. B., Sundaram, R., & Lum, K. J. (2010). Caffeine consumption and miscarriage: a prospective cohort study. Fertility and sterility, 93(1), 304-306.
  4. [4] Lane, J. D., Steege, J. F., Rupp, S. L., & Kuhn, C. M. (1992). Menstrual cycle effects on caffeine elimination in the human female. European journal of clinical pharmacology, 43(5), 543-546.
  5. [5] Wenos, D. L., Lemanski, A. M., Luden, N. D., Womack, C. J., & Saunders, M. J. (2018). Menstrual Phase Influence and Oral Contraceptive Use on the Ergogenic Effects of Caffeine during Cycling: 2413 Board# 249 June 1 1100 AM-1230 PM. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 50(5S), 598.
  6. [6] Carter, E. (2018). The Menstrual Cycle, Caffeine, and Verbal Working Memory (Doctoral dissertation, Mount Saint Vincent University).
  7. [7] Lara, B., Hellín, J. G., Ruíz‐Moreno, C., Romero‐Moraleda, B., & Del Coso, J. (2019). Acute caffeine intake increases performance in the 15‐s Wingate test during the menstrual cycle. British journal of clinical pharmacology.
  8. [8] Nagelkirk, P. R., Fitzgerald, L. F., Sackett, J., El-Sohemy, A., & Womack, C. J. (2018). The Influence Of Caffeine And A CYP1A2 Polymorphism On The Ventilatory Threshold-A Pilot Study: 2414 Board# 250 June 1 1100 AM-1230 PM. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 50(5S), 598-599.
  9. [9] Romero-Moraleda, B., Del Coso, J., Gutiérrez-Hellín, J., & Lara, B. (2019). The Effect of Caffeine on the Velocity of Half-Squat Exercise during the Menstrual Cycle: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 11(11), 2662.
  10. [10] RA, S., AE, G., A R, S., & MA, E. (2018). Effect of Caffeinated Beverages Intake on Premenstrual Syndrome among Nursing Students. Egyptian Journal of Health Care, 9(2), 61-74.
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