11 Ways Coffee Impacts Your Hormones and How to Substitute It


Black magic. Black medicine. Morning elixir.

If you had to give up either coffee or the internet for 2 weeks, which one would you choose? How about either coffee or sex for 2 weeks?

Yeah, that was me, too.

Warning: if you love coffee and can’t live without it, this article won’t sit well with you. And that’s OK. My job is to help you see the truth. In fact, if you find yourself dismissing and rejecting it, that could be called denial.

Because the change that we resist the most is the change we need the most.

I also want to share with you my own journey with coffee so you know that I’ve had my own share of denial, experimentation, and surrender.

I’ve had a long and turbulent relationship with coffee and caffeine. When you start drinking coffee at the tender age of 15 because your mom drinks it 4 times a day and the house smells of Italian roast all day long, you slide right into it and it becomes a part of you.

I’m serious about these beans. I did a barista course when I lived in Seattle and acquired a decent knowledge of roasting techniques, bean sourcing, and brewing techniques. Seeing and smelling the black and thick-as-oil liquid pouring out of my Italian $1800-espresso maker is what used to make my mornings.

Going to a new place meant finding a [good] coffee place that understood what good espresso was (I dislike American watered-down coffee) so I can get my fix first thing in the morning. Beans and I were inseparable. BFF. .

Coffee, Hashimoto’s and I

As a person with Hashimoto’s, I’ve come a long way. Diagnosed in 2008 with TPOab above 1000 and feeling terrible and helpless, I managed to get them down to 66 by making significant diet changes (mainly repairing my gut), eliminating stress and honoring my body’s need for sleep.

However, my progress hit a plateau. And then, I was found to have estrogen dominance and wonky cortisol levels. Me? After all those changes? I know you can relate – how you just want to pull your hair out.

So I asked myself “what is the most difficult change I could make that I have been resisting all this time?”

And the answer was coffee.

“I’m only quitting coffee for two weeks, I can always go back to it” was a really good thing to say to myself as it didn’t make me feel like the umbilical cord between coffee and I was cut off forever.

It would require a new article to fully elaborate on my full health journey but for now, I will just share that coffee was a huge antagonist of my own healing path and the healing path of my clients.

I want to share with you what I have learned so you can be more educated and make the transition as well (if coffee is your antagonist.)

Taking steps to remove gluten, dairy or sugar from your diet can feel like a breeze compared to giving up coffee. However, as with anything that makes us feel that good, there is another side to your java fixation, and you need to know about it.

Learn how to rebalance your hormones with food in my book, Cooking for Hormone Balance.

Benefits of coffee

Many reliable studies are often cited and confirm that coffee is full of antioxidants and polyphenols. However, these same antioxidants and polyphenols can also be found abundantly in many fruits and vegetables.

In addition, there are also a variety of studies showing coffee’s role in the prevention of cancer, diabetes, depression, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones, etc.

Beyond science, there is also the undeniable feeling of comfort in a morning routine – a stop at a favorite coffee shop, the smell, the buzz, and the energetic boost and mental clarity that come with a good cup of joe.

Everyone reacts differently

Is coffee bad for everybody? Not really. Each of us can have a different reaction to coffee. Some people get jittery and nervous, while others feel uplifted for hours. Many coffee drinkers report feeling good for the first two hours (mainly due to a dopamine spike), but eventually their energy and mental alertness will start dropping rapidly.

That was most certainly me – feeling delightful for a couple of hours and then slipping into depletion. The worst symptoms I discovered was that coffee made me very angry and moody hours after drinking it. My PMS got worse and most definitely the estrogen-to-progesterone balance was off – if you continue reading, you will know why that is so.

Coffee is metabolized in Phase I of the liver detoxification pathway, and some people have a harder time breaking it down – we call them “slow metabolizers.” This can either manifest immediately and present as shaky and jittery feelings, or in a delayed fashion with poor sleep and digestive issues.

What is so worrisome about coffee?

If you are suffering from thyroid issues, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, hot flashes or hormone-related conditions, it’s important to be fully aware of the “other side of coffee” and make an educated decision whether it is good for you.

Here are some of the lesser-known facts about coffee:

Increases blood sugar levels

According to this study, caffeine increases blood sugar levels. This is especially dangerous for people with hypoglycemia (or low sugar levels) who feel jittery, shaky, moody and unfocused when hungry. Blood sugar fluctuations cause cortisol spikes, which not only exhaust the adrenals but also deregulate the immune system. This is highly undesirable for those of us with adrenal fatigue, Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. Such cortisol spikes are also highly inflammatory (read more below).

Creates sugar and carbohydrate cravings

As the result of a sugar level spike, when our blood sugar levels come down, we need an emergency fix to bring them back up. This is why people who drink coffee at breakfast or indulge in sugary and processed breakfasts crave carbs and sugar by 11am or later in the day.

Contributes to acid reflux and damages gut lining

Coffee stimulates the release of gastrin, the main gastric hormone, which speeds up intestinal transit time. Coffee can also stimulate the release of bile (which is why some people run to the bathroom soon after drinking coffee) and digestive enzymes.

In a person with a healthy digestion, this is not a big deal. However, for people with autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Graves’, compromised digestion (such as IBS, or “leaky gut”), this can cause further digestive damage to the intestinal lining (source).

Exhausts the adrenals

Coffee stimulates the adrenals to release more cortisol, our stress hormone; this is partly why we experience a wonderful but temporary and unsustainable burst of energy.

What many of us don’t realize is that our tired adrenals are often the cause of unexplained weight gain, sleeping problems, feeling emotionally fragile, depression and fatigue. Drinking coffee while experiencing adrenal fatigue is only adding fuel to the fire.

People with Hashimoto’s should be extra careful as the adrenals and cortisol also modulate the immune system, and Hashimoto’s is a condition in which the immune system is already out of whack.

If you have already given up coffee and are still experiencing adrenal fatigue, consider trying our own Hormone Balance Nutritionals Adrenal Repair Kit to aid in supporting your recovery.


Worsens PMS and lumpy breasts

It’s well-established that coffee contributes to estrogen dominance (source), which can mean one of two things: we either have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, or we have an imbalance in the estrogen metabolites (some are protective and some are dangerous).

PMS, lumpy breasts, heavy periods, cellulite and even breast cancer (which is an estrogenic cancer) can be symptoms of estrogen dominance.

Estrogen is especially problematic for people with thyroid conditions. High estrogen levels (also known as estrogen dominance) rise thyroid binding globulin, making less thyroid hormone available for the body.

Estrogen dominance is also often cited as the cause of thyroid nodules and even thyroid cancer development (medical reference here).

Gluten-cross reactive food

50% of people with gluten sensitivities also experience cross reactivity with other foods, including casein in milk products, corn, coffee, and almost all grains, because their protein structures are similar. Cyrex Labs provides a test for gluten cross-reactive foods (Array 4).

Many people report having a similar reaction to coffee as they do to gluten.

Impacts the conversion of T4 to T3 hormones

Coffee impacts the absorption of levothyroxine (the synthetic thyroid hormone); this is why thyroid patients need to take their hormone replacement pill at least an hour before drinking coffee.

The indirect but important point is that coffee contributes to estrogen dominance, cited above, and estrogen dominance inhibits T4 to T3 conversion.

Can cause miscarriages

This study showed that women who drink coffee during their pregnancy are at a higher risk of miscarriage. That’s scary. Why are our doctors not telling us this?!

Is highly inflammatory

Any functional or integrative doctor would say the majority of modern diseases are caused by inflammation – a smoldering and invisible fire found on a cellular level.

This study found that caffeine is a significant contributor to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic body aches and pains, fatigue, skin problems, diabetes and autoimmune conditions are just some of the conditions related to inflammation.

Can contribute to and even cause osteoporosis

It is well-known that coffee changes our body pH to a lower, and thus more acidic, level. A low pH (which means a more acidic body) can contribute to osteoporosis.

This study has confirmed that habitual coffee drinking among postmenopausal women was the leading cause of osteoporosis.

Can cause insomnia and poor sleep

This study showed that 400mg of “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive [sleep] effects.”

This, again, is dependent on the individual and his or her ability to metabolize caffeine. Some people experience deep and restful sleep whether or not they drink coffee, while others do not, even if they stop drinking anything caffeinated at noon.

How sensitive are you and how does coffee impact your sleep? You will only find out when you give up caffeinated drinks for 5 days – then your body will tell you!

What about decaf?

It’s a disputed area, but many health practitioners don’t suggest it for two reasons.

For one, many manufacturers use a chemical process to remove caffeine from the coffee beans. The result is less caffeine, but more chemicals.

Secondly, it is the caffeine in the coffee that has the health benefits we discussed above. Without it, you are left with little benefit.

The change we resist the most is often the change we need the most

Many people I work with have made extensive dietary changes and they will admit that coffee was the last and hardest thing to eliminate. Coffee is our ritual; it’s our best friend.

But is it really? It is often said that the change we resist the most is the change our body needs the most. Let your intuition be your guide.

Bottom line – what can you do?

You will only know how you really feel without coffee when you get off it for 3 to 5 days (and please don’t say it does not impact you until you try this experiment).

The first 2 days will be tough, but that tells you something important about this addictive substance, does it not?

Many women who have given up coffee and caffeine report better sleep within days, fewer hot flashes, less depression and anxiety, and many more other benefits over time.

What are some substitute options?

If you feel like you still need a slight kick, go for less-caffeinated options, such as green tea. Use the below infographic to guide you to make better choices, or download it here.





Once you are ready to completely rid yourself of caffeine, herbal teas are a wonderful replacement.

One of my personal favorites is a Roasted Chicory Latte – it tastes like coffee, but it contains no caffeine. Making it into a smooth and creamy (yet dairy-free) latte makes the transition so much easier.




Better Than Coffee (Chicory Latte)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Equipment: blender, grater
Serves: 2
  • 1 tablespoon roasted chicory root (source)
  • 1 tablespoon roasted dandelion root (source)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, coconut butter or butter (if tolerated)
  • 2 pitted dates
  • fresh nutmeg (nut or powder)
How To Make
  1. Place chicory and dandelion root in a cooking pot and cover with water.
  2. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes.
  4. Strain and transfer to the blender, then add the ghee and the dates. Blend for 1 minute.
  5. Grate some fresh nutmeg and enjoy.

“How to Rebalance Your Hormones with Food” – FREE Online Cooking Workhop

More hormone-balancing recipes are available at the free online workshop “How to Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones”. To register, head over to Cooking for Balance.


benefits of coffee, better than coffee, caffeine, chicory latte, coffee, coffee and hormones, coffee substitute, decaf, hashimotos, too much coffee, adrenals, thyroidMedical references

Effects of caffeine on glucose tolerance: a placebo-controlled study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9846599

Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10499460

Coffee and estrogen dominance. http://www.drlam.com/articles/estrogen_dominance.asp

Maternal caffeine consumption during pregnancy and the risk of miscarriage: a prospective cohort study. http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(07)02025-X/abstract

The effects of theaflavin-enriched black tea extract on muscle soreness, oxidative stress, inflammation, and endocrine responses to acute anaerobic interval training: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=arent+s.m+black+tea

Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10499460

Dietary patterns and bone mineral density in Brazilian postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: a cross-sectional study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25804275

Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24235903

Join the discussion 39 Comments

  • Kristin says:

    While a lot of what you wrote is true; I have Hashimoto’s, Celiac and also destroyed parietal cells and I also drink one Swiss water process decaf Americano daily that I prepare out of my professional espresso machine. My antibodies test negative now and my CRP is 0.2 (a normal healthy American is a CRP of 3), I have no aches or pains. I have no symptoms of any disease. My secret was to quit eating all grain. My fasting blood sugar level is 76. My adrenals are now fine, my nails have also grown long which I could never do at any time in my life. I also no longer have period cramps. I do appreciate your article telling people about Cyrex and the miscarriages. I just want you to know that I have no inflammation or antibodies any longer and still enjoy my decaf Americano. I’m 5’7 and wear a size 6. I look 33 and I’m 46. I still have a 28 day cycle. All my food is organic and grain free. I suspect most people would rather give up coffee than grain. I also helped a 45 year old male who was very over weight with very high blood pressure, his blood pressure went down to 128/73 even though it was previously still very high at 20 pounds less than he is now, again he quit eating grain also at my direction. He still needs to lose 50 pounds. I suggest everyone read, “Grain Brain” by Dr. Perlmutter.

  • Peace says:

    I am a tea drinker by heart, and only recently started drinking bulletproof coffee to get out of bed in the morning and function.
    What do you recommend for us gals that have zero nrg and rely on caffeine to function….obviously its a temporary crutch but what effective substitute is there vs being crippled with exhaustion?
    Much appreciated ~

    • Magdalena Wszelaki says:

      Hi Peace, I suggest to address your adrenal health or whatever is the underling reason for you feeling so depleted. Coffee, Bulletproof, just burns you out.

  • M says:

    What chicory root do you recommend ?

  • […] not metabolize coffee very well. I get moody, angry and my relationships suffer. I wrote about the 11 ways coffee impacts your hormones right here. I’m not demonizing coffee. I’m just saying: if your adrenals are pooped, you are […]

  • […] you are looking at getting off caffeine (because of one of the “11 Ways Coffee Messes With Your Hormones and How to Substitute It” article, or another reason) I want to congratulate you. As with many addictive substances, coffee […]

  • Stephanie says:

    so the Matcha still has quite a bit caffeine!

  • […] created this drink because I had to stop drinking coffee (full article here: 11 Ways Coffee Impacts Your Hormones). I discovered that my body does metabolize coffee well and the result was very visible: I was […]

  • Val says:

    Read about chicory root before trying it. It has life threatening side effects. You shouldn’t tell people to drink it.

  • gene schneider says:

    Thank you for all this additional information. You answered many of my questions, but not the one I actually sent in during the webinar: Why ACV and not other kinds of vinegar? (My personal favorite is red wine vinegar.)

    • Angela Sidlo says:

      Hi Gene,
      TO answer your vinegar question, apple cider vinegar is made with apples so contains multiple types of antioxidants called polyphenols which can have beneficial effects on health. Other vinegars are often made by fermenting grain alcohol or ethyl alcohol which do not offer the same health benefits. Apple Cider Vinegar is considered the “Mother of Vinegars” I hope this helps answer your question.

  • […] strong during their workday, but this isn’t sustainable. As nutritionist and hormone expert Magdalena Wszelaki points out, there are several side effects to consider before making coffee a daily habit. […]

  • Ahnna Dorsett says:

    Dates are at the top of the Glycemic Index! What do we do if we’re on a sugar-balancing, anti-candida, low-glycemic type diet? Can we just not have this drink?

    That would suuuuuck. 🙁

    • Angela Sidlo says:

      Hi Ahnna,
      Perhaps you could use a few drops of liquid stevia as a substitute. Try it and let us know how it goes for you.

  • […] you start to rely more and more on coffee and tea to try to boost your flagging energy levels. But this article explains why the caffeine only causes further hormonal […]

    • Stacy says:

      I definitely agree to this: “is dependent on the individual and his or her ability to metabolize caffeine” because my uncle always make it a habit of drinking coffee before going to sleep and he has really a sound sleep like a baby.

  • […] way of leaky gut repair. Coffee can also contribute to female hormone imbalance – more about that here. The good news? Once you cut coffee out the mucosal lining of your gut can start to repair and […]

  • G says:

    Hi, Is coconut oil ok to use blended in coffee? If so how much ratio. Thanku ?

    • Angela Sidlo says:

      HI G,
      You can use coconut oil in any hot beverage. I prefer to use 1-2 teaspoons of organic coconut oil in my non-caffeinated hot beverages. I hope you can try it too.

  • Suzy says:

    I am wondering if the same is true of organic decaf, as since I switched to that, and only drink 2 cups per day, I have eliminated most all of the negative symptoms of drinking coffee. I drink it because I love the taste and smell, and go without some days with no problem.

    • Angela Sidlo says:

      HI Suzy, If you are having difficulty stepping away from caffeine and coffee the decaf is a gradual step. However some of the chemicals used to process decaf coffee beans are harmful to the body too. You can gradually wean off coffee by going to green tea, then white tea then herbal teas in graduated stages. I hope you can try that.

  • Penny says:

    My husband was dx with Hashimotos a year ago. Through a Functional Medicine doctor. We started drinking Cafe Bustelo expresso, 99.7% decaffeinated coffee. We order it off of Amazon. He is now off his blood pressure medicine and has kept 30# off his frame. We are gluten free now 2 years. You could still bulletproof with this coffee easily. Just FYI.

    • Angela Sidlo says:

      Penny, Thank you for sharing your experience. I agree that caffeine can effect people differently. However, many people have benefited from eliminating caffeine from their diet and improving their adrenals and cortisol levels.
      Angela ~HB team member

  • […] Reducing and/or eliminating caffeine is an important step towards rebalancing your hormones.  For more helpful information on caffeine and it’s negative effects on hormones, check out this article. […]

  • Leslie says:

    I gave up caffeine a long time ago. Just one or two cups of anything caffeinated made my chest feel like a punching bag. I can enjoy it from time to time if I want, but I figure, why bother. If one can get their energy up through healthy food and good sleep (amongst other things), why resort to a stimulant like caffeine? Thanks for this article Magdalena. With so many coffee shops on every corner of every city, it’s good that people know the consequences of drinking so much of it. Don’t get me started on the environmental impacts of throw-away cups…. ;o)

  • Helle says:

    Tank you! for taking time to write about your experience, it is very inspiring! It is so hard for me to stop drinking coffee. Even though I’m only drinking one kop a day, it sometimes makes me really ill!

    • Helle says:

      One thing that might inspire others: waiting to drink my cup til two or tre hours after I’ve got up in the morning is making me fell much better about it.

      • Angela says:

        Hi Helle,
        Often times if you wait til later in the morning to consider having a cup of coffee you find that you don’t really want it. Especially if you are eating a PFF breakfast with good Protein, good Fats, and Fiber.

  • Nanette says:

    I have been able to cut out brewed coffee by allowing only 1 cup of folgers instant coffee , only 1 tsp in 12-16oz hot water with cream. I’ve been doing this for 2 1/2 months now and it only has 30 ish mg caffeine , it’s the only caffine I have all day and I feel different already . It feels like my body is starting to heal. I also take vitamin b12 for energy . I hated the instant coffee but now I completely adjusted to it.

    • Angela says:

      It’s great that you have cut down on coffee. Instant coffee still contains caffeine, as you know. However it is more “processed” than regular coffee. I hope that you can eventually wean off of coffee and caffeine for good to see lasting results. I enjoy chickory and roasted dandelion root tea. It is a great coffee substitute and is great for your liver too.
      Hormones Balance Support

    • Julie McGinnis says:

      Hi Nanette, That is awesome! Thanks for letting us know.

  • Debbie says:

    I appreciate your article. What are your thoughts about this 2008 study on the “Effects of coffee bean aroma on the rat brain stressed by sleep deprivation…” ? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18517217

    I was wondering if even though one doesn’t drink coffee but has issues with insomnia and someone else in their household is drinking coffee late into the evening every night, could the aroma of coffee on its own possibly be the insomniac person’s cause of their sleep deprivation?


    • Angela says:

      Hi Debbie,
      From what I could tell about the article you referenced, the study found possible clues to the potential antioxidant or stress relaxation activities of the coffee bean aroma. It sounds like more studies are necessary. Sleep can be a complicated subject and may require several angles to get it back in to a good rhythm such as food & eating patterns, exercise, creating an evening ritual and so on. Thank you for sharing the article.

  • Tessa Dildy says:

    Does decaf coffee have any negative affects on hormones as well? I can’t find anything about it online. This is going to sound crazy, but I’m convinced that decaf coffee causes slight weight gain in me. Around 4 lbs. I stopped drinking it for a month and lost weight. Then started again and gained the 4 lbs back. I would drink decaf espresso 4 or so times a week with unsweetened almond milk.

  • Colleen says:

    So is it the caffeine alone or also the other elements in coffee that can be problematic?

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