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The Link Between Caffeine and Hot Flashes

Laren Katulka

If you're one of the many women who experience hot flashes during menopause, you know how unsettling they can be. These unexpected heat surges can disrupt your daily activities, interrupt your sleep, and take a toll on your energy levels.1 While they may seem like an inevitable part of the perimenopause and menopause transition, several habits can also trigger hot flashes, such as smoking, increased anxiety, drinking alcohol, and eating spicy foods or consuming caffeinated drinks.2 In this article, we’re going to specifically explore the potential link between hot flashes and caffeine.

What Are Hot Flashes?

Women often describe hot flashes as sudden surges of heat felt in the face, neck, and chest. They may turn your skin red and trigger periods of intense sweating. Some women may also experience chills or their hearts beating faster than usual during or after a hot flash.3 These symptoms, also known as vasomotor symptoms, are quite common, with between 35% and 50% of perimenopausal women and around 75% of menopausal women experiencing them.4,5 As hormonal changes are often the key trigger for hot flashes, women who have their ovaries removed through surgery or are undergoing chemotherapy, as well as those managing endometriosis with medications (i.e. Lupron), may also experience hot flashes.6

As hot flashes can occur at any time of the day or night, they can have a dramatic impact on daily life and overall well-being. For example, if hot flashes wake you up at night, you might develop longer-term sleeping problems. Restless nights can leave you feeling fatigued, unable to focus, and irritable. These issues also have the potential to negatively impact your performance at work, personal relationships, and even your sex life.7

The Role of Caffeine in the Body

Caffeine is in many of the products we regularly consume, including: 8,9

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Cola drinks
  • Energy drinks
  • Chocolate
  • Some pain relievers
  • Some cold and flu remedies

Caffeine works by stimulating your central nervous system.10 When it reaches your brain, it blocks the effects of the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine, so you start to feel more alert. It also reduces your natural melatonin levels, so if you consume caffeine later in the day, it may make you feel more alert past your normal bedtime – making it more difficult to get restful sleep.11

Feeling more alert after consuming caffeine can help to improve your memory and cognitive function – and it can also stimulate the production of the feel-good chemical dopamine in your brain.12 Researchers have also found that when caffeine makes you more alert, it also slightly elevates your core body temperature.13

Studies have shown that caffeine can increase the body's resting metabolic rate by between 3% and 11% - meaning it could play a role in your body weight. This may be because caffeine’s stimulating effects on the nervous system sends signals to the body's fat cells to break down fat and release it into the blood.14

As caffeine is a stimulant, it can make your heart beat a little faster. While this isn't usually a problem, if you consume a lot of caffeine or are sensitive to its effects, you might notice your heart beating very fast or that it develops an unusual rhythm.15 This could be a sign that you should consider reducing your intake, and it’s also not a bad idea to check in with your healthcare provider.

Research on Caffeine and Hot Flashes

There have been few definitive studies conducted on the specific link between caffeine and menopausal hot flashes. In 2015, however, the Mayo Clinic published one of the largest-scale research papers on the topic. After analyzing more than 1,800 eligible menopausal women who visited their Women's Health Clinic between 2005 and 2011, researchers found participants who ingested caffeine complained of hot flashes more than those who didn't.16

Smaller research studies published before the Mayo Clinic paper demonstrated mixed results. For example, a 2010 study of 196 people found drinking caffeinated soda or energy drinks (which also contains higher sugar content) slightly increased the frequency and severity of hot flashes.17 It’s also been hypothesized that caffeine might trigger hot flashes because it causes blood vessels to expand. This process, called vasodilation, can lead to increased blood flow, which might trigger a hot flash.18,19 More studies, however, still need to be done around caffeine to determine a more definitive connection to hot flashes experienced during menopause.

Practical Implications for Managing Hot Flashes

Understanding the potential link between caffeine and hot flashes may help you cope with your symptoms better. Taking a more holistic approach to managing your symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats during menopause can be more effective than focusing on one trigger, so it's worth considering the role caffeine may play. Some strategies to determining what role caffeine, as well as your diet and routine, may play in your symptoms include:20, 21,22

  • Monitoring your caffeine intake to assess whether it triggers hot flashes
  • Limit your caffeine intake if you feel it contributes to your hot flashes 20
  • Limiting caffeine around bedtime when hot flashes may interrupt sleep 21
  • Staying well hydrated with non-caffeinated beverages, such as water
  • Limiting spicy foods, which can trigger hot flashes
  • Exercising regularly and eating nutritious meals to maintain a healthy weight
  • Participating in stress-relieving activities like yoga and meditation
  • Dressing in layers so you can easily remove clothes if you feel yourself overheating
  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol

While there has been limited research on the direct link between caffeine intake and hot flashes, there's still evidence to suggest that caffeine might trigger this common symptom during perimenopause and menopause. Understanding the potential link and experimenting with reducing caffeine or cutting it out of your diet altogether could serve as an easy way to feel more comfortable during this transitional period.

If you're concerned about hot flashes and what may be triggering yours, be sure to consult with a healthcare provider for more personalized advice.



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