Over the past cpuple of weeks, caffeine and fertility appears to be on everyone's mind. It is an interesting topic with no hard and fast rule, as everyone is different.
 
What should we know first?
Caffeine is a drug; a drug that we are allowed to sell freely. It is a stimulant; caffeine has a pretty startling impact on the body when it is broken down. It stimulates 'neuron firing,' which means that the brain goes into overdrive. The pituitary gland (involved in hormonal control) senses this activity and thinks some sort of event must be occurring, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline.
 
Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone, and it has a number of effects on your body:
  • Your pupils dilate
  • The airway opens up to allow more oxygen into the body
  • Your heart beats faster
  • Blood vessels send blood to our muscles instead of our organs
  • Blood pressure rises
  • Blood flow to the stomach slows
  • The liver releases sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy
  • Muscles tighten up, ready for action
The fight or flight mode is an ancestral coping mechanism. Today, it perceives caffeine the same way as we would running away from danger - now you know why you are more alert and ready to go after having a strong cup of 'caffeine.'
 
 
What will this mean?
Like most things, small amounts of most substances are exceptionally well tolerated by the body. If we abuse it, then it will cause problems. A cup of coffee or even strong tea will have the same effect on your body as stress, or getting a fright, panicking and worrying. This will then interfere with your hormonal and menstrual cycle. It will also interrupt the sperm creation process in a man. This is why it is a good idea to de-stress when trying to conceive.
 
Does this mean that my caffeine intake is hampering my fertility?
The evidence is mixed, and I also think it depends on how much of a reaction you have. Let's start with the evidence. It would appear that most research indicates that above 300mg of caffeine a day can impact on your fertility - especially if it isn't great to begin with.
 
In a relatively recent review of the literature, a conclusion was drawn: while some studies have reported that increased caffeine consumption (e.g., >300 to 500 mg) is associated with a modest, but statistically significant decrease in fertility, others have not found an adverse effect. The widespread consumption of caffeine at doses associated with sub-fertility makes it a potentially important contributor to fertility problems.
 
 
Now, how does caffeine affect you?
If you do not have it are you irritable? Can you talk to people before having it? Do you get very tired after your lunch break and always look at the kettle? Do you ever get headaches or 'shakey,' if you haven't had a cup? Can you sleep after a heavy caffeine day? Constipated, depressed, grumpy, flu-like symptoms? If you find yourself answering yes to more of those questions than not, I would be concerned.
 
If you are affected by caffeine, then it is a drug and you can try wean yourself off of it or go cold turkey. There are alternatives to coffee and caffeine - herbal teas, coffee replacements, Matcha, water, etc. Your pharmacy or health store will be able to show you these and what to do.
 
If you know or suspect you don't handle caffeine well, get rid of it, or at least cut back. Some common caffeine sources are below and keep an eye on your figure. Please keep in mind that removing caffeine, like anything, is not a magic cure.
 
Decaf
Decaffeinated drinks can be processed in a couple of different ways. In the main processes, the beans are soaked and steamed to make them porous, and then a natural (water) or chemical solvent (water and ethyl acetate) is added to remove the caffeine. The water-only is not too popular, as water will strip out other useful substances in the bean as well. The most common process involves using the chemical Methylene chloride. Is it safe? Well, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has designated methylene chloride a possible human carcinogen. It is reported that the chemical is 'burned off,' during the roasting process. Frankly, I don't buy it.  
Fertility Specialist
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