The Unexpected Effect Coffee Can Have On Your Period

Caffeine is a powerful thing.
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Most of us know that fatty, sugary, and very salty food may affect our cramps during our period (I’ve definitely lived to regret a mid-menstruation maple syrup binge before).

Some researchers think this is because these foods trigger the production of prostaglandins, hormones that cause your uterus to contract while you’re on your period.

Too many of these hormones can cause extra cramping and subsequent pain. But what about coffee?

Some studies suggest caffeine can make period cramps worse

Yup, your morning cup of java is not off the hook ― at least, that’s according to a research review from the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) in 2022.

“Refined sugar, common cooking oils, trans fats, dairy products, processed and red meat, refined grains, and alcohol are considered highly inflammatory foods. It is thought that these ‘inflammatory foods’ cause an increased release of prostaglandins,” Dr. Monica Christmas, a NAMS member who was not involved in the study, told Medical News Today.

“Elevated prostaglandin release is associated with dysmenorrhea due to increased vasoconstriction of the blood vessels feeding the uterine musculature, resulting in uterine cramping due to decreased blood flow to the uterus.”

The review found that caffeine, which is found in coffee, was one of the inflammatory compounds that may affect women’s period cramps.

Women’s health dietitian Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN also told EatingWell that “Too much caffeine can intensify menstrual discomforts by making you jittery, causing problems sleeping, increased heart rate, and diarrhea.”

This might be especially painful if you’re already dealing with the dreaded period poops.

“Caffeinated beverages such as coffee can increase acidity in your stomach, too,” Ward adds ― not great if you tend to get heartburn and indigestion around that time of the month.

Surely it can’t all be bad?!

Well, good(ish) news ― there’s no need to ditch your coffee if you don’t experience any pain after drinking it on your period, as everyone’s reaction to caffeine and to their period is different.

There’s also research that suggests coffee can have an anti-inflammatory effect overall, though the results seem to vary from person to person.

And when it comes to PMS and the menstrual cycle overall, Ward says “I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t much evidence that caffeine affects the menstrual cycle.”

On top of that, a 2022 cross-sectional study published in BMC Women’s Health found that coffee drinkers tended to have shorter periods on average than those who did not regularly drink coffee.

Even if you find coffee affects your period, it may be more a question of moderation than complete elimination, Serah Sannoh, lead author of the NAMS presentation we talked about earlier, told Medical News Today ― “even if someone does not adopt a strict anti-inflammatory diet, decreasing your intake of inflammatory foods should help decrease the inflammation that causes menstrual pain.”

So, if coffee doesn’t usually affect your period (it does mine, but I know others who can enjoy a caffeine buzz symptom-free during theirs), then you may be fine drinking it.

But if you’ve noticed your cramps intensify after your morning cuppa, you might just want to put your beloved Bialetti back in the cupboard during that time of the month.