Handling hormonal change: caffeine, alcohol, & sugar intake
How are your New Year’s intentions and new health habits going? Is part of the ideal plan to move more and quit caffeine, alcohol, and sugar? Or, perhaps modify your consumption?
The new year makes for a fun and fresh start the first few weeks, or even days. And then, the rose-colored glasses get misplaced and your goals begin to feel like… work.
For many of us, it’s not easy sticking to New Year’s goals because we only seem to care about them in the new year (it’s right in the name!). This post is about supporting your health goals throughout the year. Perhaps it will inspire a new intention: to do your best to manage hormonal change year-round.
A word on resolutions
If you’ve made resolutions for the New Year, or seem to be making the same one year after year, guess what? Making the same resolutions over and over may actually worsen our health.
For example, some experts believe that consuming large amounts of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar in excess — with big gaps in between when we "resolve" to cut them out — might actually be worse than consuming small-to-moderate amounts consistently.
Aside from that, there’s little evidence to prove that New Year’s resolutions work. Take a look at setting intentions if you feel liike you’re in a hamster wheel with resolutions. And even though we’re a week into January, it’s never too late to modify your action plan.
What’s wrong with caffeine, alcohol, and sugar?
Caffeine, alcohol, and sugar aren’t “bad” when consumed in moderation. Yet, it’s easy to overdo it when it comes to these three. In fact, this trio of indulgences may be considered “drugs," because they can be extremely addictive.
And when it comes to your hormones, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can contribute to increasing and/or intensifying menopause symptoms.
Caffeine isn’t so bad when consumed in moderation. In fact, it boasts plenty of health benefits. Most people can consume about one cup of coffee a day without any side effects. Sadly, Americans generally drink much more than their recommended share of caffeine.
Coworkers crowd around the coffee machine in break rooms, Starbucks can be found on every block in major cities, and beverages such as sodas and even kombucha have caffeine too. Because chocolate and coffee flavoring often contain caffeine, your late-night ice cream snack or pudding cup may have caffeine. Your pain reliever can also contain caffeine, which is great for speeding relief, but less great when you're trying to minimize hot flashes.
Alcohol plays a major role in our society. We toast the new year with a glass of bubbly, socialize with coworkers and friends at happy hour, and some even drink a sip in taking the sacrament at church.
Again, drinking alcohol in moderation is perfectly fine. But even in moderation, it can really amp up menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, headaches. So much so that many women decide to ditch alcohol altogether during menopause.
Sugar is another ingredient that makes an appearance in most processed foods, making it really difficult to avoid it unless you make everything yourself, from scratch. After the health industry started encouraging consumers to check the ingredients on labels, the sugar industry started using alternative names for it, making it even harder to determine how much sugar you’re eating. There are over 60 names for sugar used on labels.
The USDA and World Health Organization recommend consuming no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day (less than what’s in a can of soda).
How to stop, smart
Since alcohol, caffeine, and sugar are addictive (or just tasty and fun and in many of our favorite things), it’s easy to overdo all three — especially during the holidays … as a few of us have just experienced!
There are two camps of thought when it comes to balancing our indulgences: the one that believes it’s OK to overindulge for limited time as long as you’re well-behaved the rest of the time, and the one that believes two months’ of overindulgence (say, in November and December?) could do irreparable damage.
Both camps make solid points:
Tips on making big changes
Some experts believe that making “too-sudden changes” without a plan can lead to failure. If you up and decide that tomorrow you’re going to go cold turkey on three things you might be both chemically and emotionally addicted to, quitting without a plan could lead to quitting on your quitting — and often going overboard.
Instead, pick a date in the future to make big dietary changes. Do some research. Get some support from your doctor or coach. Make a plan together. Try to find recipes that will satisfy your sweet tooth and utilize fruits or other natural sources of sugar. Make a list of virgin (or extremely low-alcohol) cocktails that give you a refreshing kick. Or, consider switching to decaf coffee a few times a day to trick your body into thinking you’re still getting your cozy cup of Joe — without the caffeine.
Why you should start making small changes
Many experts believe that waiting until a certain date isn’t the best tactic. One of the ideas behind this is that you’ll probably indulge even more between now and then. Knowing that you won’t be able to enjoy your 3 PM cup of coffee might make you want to drink even more of it between now and stopping time.
Similarly, knowing you’ll miss your happy hour glass of wine or cocktail in the future might encourage you to drink too many right now — which could lead to dehydration or hangovers.
The best of both worlds… easing into change
There’s another group of experts that believe there’s a happy medium when it comes to indulgence. Enjoy a glass of wine at dinner (or happy hour) and don’t “go cold turkey” and deprive yourself in the future.
If you tell yourself that you can eat one cookie today, knowing there will be more cookies tomorrow, you’ll be better able to stop after just one. It’s when we deprive ourselves that we go into panic mode and eat all the cookies.
It may be easier to moderate caffeine now that the pumpkin spice and peppermint latte seasons are over. Do yourself a favor and slowly wean yourself off the 5-cup-a-day habit.
Changes come in all facets of our lives all the time. Making small changes that support you, body and mind, will feel better and be easier to maintain. Your future self will thank you for your health, energy, and focus.
How are you improving your health this year? Quitting caffeine? Modifying sugar intake, doubling your daily hydration? We’d love to hear about it, and support you, in our Community forums.
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