Hot flushes and night sweats could leave you feeling dehydrated and thirsty so in light of the current thinking that too much caffeine is likely to increase symptom severity, Food Scientist and Nutritional Therapist Susie Debice BSc Hons DIP ION, reveals which herbal teas are best suited for the menopause…
The truth about caffeine and the menopause
The studies regarding caffeine consumption and menopausal symptoms have over the years been somewhat conflicting. Some studies reveal that caffeine beverages may be helpful for menopausal symptoms associated with mood, mind, focus and fatigue. Yet other studies indicate that women who drink lots of coffee tend to experience an increase in severity of symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.
The key message here is that it’s the quantity of caffeine consumed (tea, coffee, energy drinks) that often takes you over a threshold for which symptoms may then become more pronounced. Since stress, exercise, smoking and level of fitness are also considered to be factors that impact on symptom severity, your caffeine threshold could also be influenced by these lifestyle factors. This is perhaps why some women can drink three cups of strong coffee a day and sail through the menopause and other women find that just one cup a day has them feeling more flushed and flustered than usual.
How does caffeine affect hot flushes?
A 2014 study by the Mayo Clinic, the results of which were published in the journal Menopause, confirmed an association between caffeine intake and increased severity of hot flushes and night sweats. This study was to date the largest study to investigate the relationship between caffeine and menopausal symptoms and confirms caffeine to be a factor.
Another study published in the journal for scientific research Health links the vasomotor response (basically the way caffeine influences blood vessels to dilate), to be the mechanism attributed to the increased severity of flushing for some menopausal women.
Let’s not also forget that tiredness, fatigue and insomnia are all common symptoms associated with the menopause and although a cup of tea or coffee may offer a quick energy burst, this is often not sustainable and may typically follow with an energy dip and a more enhanced feeling of tiredness and fatigue. Plus, too much caffeine is known to be over-stimulating for the nervous system which could contribute to menopausal insomnia.
Keeping hydrated with herbal infusions and tisanes
Swapping your percolated brew or builder’s brew for a caffeine free alternative could be a sensible swap to help you dampen down menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. Since caffeine is a natural diuretic, these herbal alternatives give you a head start when it comes to staying hydrated. Many people are unaware of the many health benefits of water and the importance of keeping hydrated. Drinking at least two litres of water a day contributes to the normal regulation of body temperature and the maintenance of physical and cognitive functions, which may be helpful for those menopausal symptoms that relate to mind, mood, lethargy and flushes! The water contained in a mug of herbal tea counts towards your two litre daily target.
Variety is the spice of life
There are so many flavours and brands to choose from when it comes to herbal teas and it’s all about the quality of the botanicals that the teas contain. Reputable brands include Tea Pigs, Pukka, Dr Stuart’s, Clipper, Qi, Heath & Heather, Yogi Tea and Dragonfly Tea. But what are the best options during the menopause? Well that all depends on the symptoms you are experiencing. Most of these tea companies have their own women’s health blend which typically contain ginseng, black cohosh, red clover, chasteberry and liquorice which may contribute to hormone balance.
You can also find various night-time blends which typically contain hops, lavender, camomile, lemon balm and valerian to help soothe and settle before you head to bed. Or if you are feeling a little flat and deflated then a peppermint or spearmint could help you feel refreshed. And if your day is proving a little too demanding then tulsi, camomile, ashwagandha or ginseng may help you get through your day.
By Susie Debice BSc Hons, Dip ION – Food Scientist and Nutritional Therapist