Many patients will ask whether they must give up coffee when trying to conceive. Some other frequent questions are how much caffeine is too much and is decaffeinated coffee ok? The way I answer these questions is if you are trying to improve your preconception health and have an optimally healthy body before conceiving it’s best to limit coffee to one cup per day but if you are not making enough cervical fluid or have been experiencing miscarriage it’s best to cut out all sources of caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee often has a little bit of caffeine in it so that will need to be cut out too if you fall in the second category.
Caffeine and fertility are one of those controversial issues and honestly research has not produced conclusive evidence in how it positively or negatively affects one’s fertility. You can find conflicting information even in the studies let alone trying to find answers by doing a google search. I looked at some of the studies to write this article and here is what I found. Part of it has to do with your genes and how you process caffeine and part of it has to do with the amount of caffeine and the other effects coffee itself has on the body.
From a health standpoint, caffeine can increase anxiety and stress levels. Caffeine is a compound found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. It is a stimulant and can have positive and negative effects on one’s health. It can improve fatigue, reaction times, enhance short-term cognitive function and concentration, and reduce cardiovascular disease in some individuals but in others it can elevate blood pressure and heartbeat, cause excessive jitteriness, and gastrointestinal problems. So how do we know what effect it will have on you? Obviously, some of these symptoms are quite apparent but others like the cardiovascular disease association is hard to know. It comes down to genetics and whether an individual is a “fast” or “slow metabolizer” of caffeine. Through the Love My Health genetic test I run many of my patients through we can find out what type of metabolizer they are, how sensitive they are to caffeine, and how much is too much.
It turns out that the CYP1A2 enzyme has a lot to do with the type of metabolizer a person is. The CYP1A2 enzyme is part of the cytochrome P450 enzyme family and is involved in the metabolism of drugs and other substances including caffeine. Variants in this gene impact the speed at which you process caffeine which changes the way you respond to caffeine as a stimulatory substance. By knowing which type of metabolizer, you are, we can tailor the amount of caffeine to the individual.
But what about for a fertility patient? Is it still ok to have caffeine even if they are a fast metabolizer? Several studies have shown that coffee, whether caffeinated or not, diminishes fertility in men and women. One study showed that if females drink four or more cups per day, increase the time to pregnancy and they lower their chances of having a baby by 25%. Another study showed that women who drink caffeinated tea beverages reduce their likelihood of conceiving and men who drink soft drinks on a regular basis experience a decrease in semen volume and concentration, total sperm count and percentage of sperm. Daily caffeine consumption also has an impact on sperm DNA, increases the risk of multiples, and causes chromosomal abnormalities. Women who consume over 300 mg of caffeine double their risk of miscarriage.
So how much is too much? One cup of coffee contains 96 mg of caffeine. 300 mg per day is high consumption. A slight amount of caffeine comes out to be under 150 mg but for a slow metabolizer that could even be too much. But again, if you are making low amounts of cervical fluid or experiencing miscarriage, caffeine should be ditched for the time being.
Some other ways caffeine can interfere with fertility is by decreasing blood flow to the uterus impacting implantation and too much caffeine can increase risk of blood clots causing miscarriage.
What does it mean to be a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine? People who have the typical variant of the CYP1A2 gene are fast metabolizers which means they clear caffeine from their bodies rapidly allowing them to utilize the antioxidants, polyphenols, and other healthful compounds within coffee efficiently without the experiencing the negative side effects of the caffeine. So, when a patient struggling to conceive comes into my office to improve their chances of conceiving one of the first things, I will do is the Love My Health genetic test. If we find out they are a fast metabolizer of caffeine, I will recommend they keep their coffee consumption to one cup per day. But if they are not making enough cervical fluid or have experienced miscarriage, I will recommend they cut out all sources of caffeine and we will use acupuncture and herbs to help give their body the boost that the caffeine was providing and mitigate caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Below are some of the suggestions I frequently give:
- If you are suffering from caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headache, constipation or loose stools, acupuncture can help. Caffeine restricts blood flow to the brain and if caffeine is suddenly restricted the increase in circulation to the brain can cause headaches and GI symptoms. Acupuncture can help both symptoms.
- Herbal tonics and adaptogens such as astragalus, ginseng, rhodiola, or ashwagandha can help give the body a boost and mitigate any stress associated with living caffeine free.
- Herbal teas such as rooibos, nettle, peppermint, or chamomile provide a great pick me up.
- Much of the enjoyment around a cup of coffee is in the ritual. So, try to find a replacement for making a cup of coffee in the morning. Buy a pretty teapot and sip tea from a China cup. If popping out to your favorite coffee shop is a wonderful break in your day, know that you don’t have to give this up along with the coffee. Give yourself permission to take a coffee-free break and go out and buy some tea or even a bottle of water.
Our Fertility Growth Method program is an “East meets West” approach that investigates the underlying causes that may be preventing you from getting pregnant and creates a personalized fertility plan to overcome these challenges. If you are ready to take control of your fertility and health, call our office at 385-279-2410 to schedule an appointment.