Caffeine and PCOS: The Facts

As I sit writing this article, I’m sipping my regular morning of coffee. I do enjoy my morning coffee and I would be reluctant to give it up. But I do sometimes wonder how helpful this delicious cup of caffeine is to my PCOS and it’s symptoms. It is also a question that I am often asked. So, I thought that I would do a bit of research into it and here is what I found.

Coffee has it’s pros and cons

It is unsurprising that caffeine (and coffee in particular) is a polarizing topic with some people saying that it has very clear benefits and can be enjoyed in moderation and those that say that it should be avoided. So, I’m going to present the research that I’ve come across and you can decide, based on where you are at and your PCOS symptoms, whether you should give up coffee or not.


Coffee and Type 2 Diabetes

Caffeine-and-PCOS-diabetesThere has been a lot of very interesting research that has shown that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes (1 , 2). This is really interesting because, as you know, women with PCOS are also at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

At the same time, however, coffee does have an immediate effect on insulin sensitivity and can make your body insulin resistant soon after drinking a cup. So, the study refers to people who are regular and habitual coffee drinkers.

Interestingly, these positive benefits were seen in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee drinkers, suggesting that it may not be the caffeine in the coffee causing these benefits.

Coffee and SHBG

Sex hormone-binding globulin or SHBG is an important protein that is produced by the liver and is of particular interest for women with PCOS. Its role is to pick up and bind to testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and estradiol (estrogen) in the blood. (3) As soon as these hormones have been bound to SHBG, they become inactive and don’t have any effect on us.

Women with PCOS tend to have low levels of SHBG. This means that there is more active testosterone and estrogen in our body than we need or should have, resulting in hormone imbalances. So, we need to try to raise those levels of SHBG so that there is less testosterone and estrogen to wreak havoc on our symptoms.

Conveniently, one of the ways to raise levels of SHBG is by, you guessed it, drinking caffeinated coffee (4).

Coffee and Adrenal Fatigue

The adrenal glands play an important role in women with PCOS. You see, the adrenal gland produces hormones that eventually become testosterone. They also produce a small amount of testosterone themselves. In fact, 50% of women with PCOS have high adrenal androgens. So, we need to be mindful of looking after those adrenal glands (5).

Now, caffeine stimulates the adrenals and can lead to adrenal fatigue, where your adrenal glands are burnt out and you’re running on empty. So, maybe coffee isn’t such a good idea for women with PCOS?

Caffeine and Fertility

Caffeine-and-PCOS-fertilityThere is some research that suggests that caffeine consumption (>300 – 500 mg or about 4 cups of coffee per day) is linked to decreased fertility although researchers aren’t sure why this is the case (6). Bearing in mind that PCOS directly impacts on our fertility already, I’m not sure that we need to be adding to our fertility problems with our coffee addiction.

So, those are the main things to consider when it comes to caffeine and PCOS. While it may help prevent Type 2 Diabetes and increase SHBG, it can also lead to adrenal fatigue and fertility issues (which we already have).

Now, I am not trying to conceive (I thankfully have 2 miracle children) but I am still very aware of my PCOS and want to make sure that it remains well-managed. In light of my own research, I am very seriously considering giving up coffee, if only to see if I feel any better without it.

What About You?

I think it’s up to every woman to decide if they should give up caffeine or not. There seems to be pros and cons of coffee consumption and you may choose to continue drinking coffee, depending on whether you’re trying to conceive or how bad your PCOS symptoms are

So, I am going to give up caffeine for the next 30 days (after I finish this last cup of coffee ☺ ). I still really enjoy the taste of coffee so I will have some decaffeinated coffee if I really feel like some (and I will still get the benefits of a lower chance of Type 2 Diabetes).

You can either go cold turkey or wean yourself off caffeine. I am going to go cold turkey. I suspect that I may be a little grumpy over the next couple of days and I may also have withdrawal symptoms for a couple of days.

So, how about it? Are you up for a 30 Day Caffeine Free Challenge? Let me know in the comments if you’re in! I for one can’t believe how good I feel 🙂

The PCOS Weight Loss Program Inclues:


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Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton

Tarryn Poulton is a PN1 Certified Nutrition Coach and PCOS expert who has been a leader in the online PCOS space for over 8 years. Tarryn has the support of leading clinicians from around the world who support her scientific approach to understanding and talking about PCOS this includes all medical journals and ongoing research. You can read more about Tarryn and the team here.

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