Blood Sugar, Coffee, & PCOS: Does coffee spike cortisol?

FAQs: Does caffeine raise blood sugar? Can coffee spike your cortisol?

Many of us (including myself) depend on a hot cup of coffee pretty much every day before (and often during) work. Still, it’s important not to forget that daily habits like drinking coffee can have long-term effects on your health. This is why it is important to know whether coffee can cause a cortisol spike or lead to blood sugar problems, especially if you have PCOS. 

So does coffee spike your cortisol and is this something to be concerned with? The good news is, no, for most healthy adults, coffee shouldn’t cause significant changes in cortisol. Unless you are highly sensitive to caffeine or undergoing some kind of mental stress issue, drinking coffee shouldn’t spike your cortisol. 

However, for those who are significantly impacted by caffeine and cortisol but are not ready to give up coffee, there are solutions available. Read on to learn more and find out how coffee and cortisol correlate and what to do if you need to prevent cortisol spikes! 

Here’s what to know about insulin, PCOS, and where the caffeine in coffee comes in…

Whether you are a diabetic coffee drinker, someone struggling with insulin resistance, or an individual investigating the effects of caffeine and PCOS, understanding how your daily habits may affect you matters. This begs the question, can coffee raise your blood sugar levels? If so, what can you do to help? In this in-depth article, we will cover it all! That way, you can sip away at your coffee with peace of mind. 

Understanding the Correlation Between Coffee and PCOS

PCOS, or, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, affects up to 13% of women in the United States between 18 and 44, and possibly many more. That's around six million people across the country dealing with PCOS! This hormonal disorder impacts women of reproductive age, and up to 70% of women with PCOS worldwide are still undiagnosed, according to World Health!

So how does coffee impact those with PCOS? Well, that will depend on who you ask, and first, you need to understand how PCOS impacts your blood sugar. 

If you have PCOS, fat cells, liver cells, and muscle cells, can start responding poorly to insulin over time. This can lead to elevated blood sugar levels. So naturally, controlling blood sugar becomes more important than ever if you have PCOS.

How Coffee Affects Your Blood Sugar, Insulin Resistance, and Diabetes Risk: Click this video on caffeine and diabetes to learn more about blood sugar and coffee.

According to studies (see the above video), while it's true that caffeine can worsen PCOS symptoms (especially if you struggle with cramping or incontinence), it is also true that coffee can be used to help you control your weight and blood sugar levels.

Weight loss and blood sugar control are both helpful for those with PCOS, especially in the long run. So, the short answer is that the jury's out and results will vary for each individual, but if black coffee helps you avoid overeating or maintain your energy through the day, its benefits likely outweigh any other possible cortisol issues in the long run.  

How to Avoid Cortisol Spikes When Drinking Coffee

Cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, regulates an array of human systems including metabolism, inflammation response, immune functionality, and even certain stress responses. When the body is under stress, it tends to produce more cortisol via the adrenal and pituitary glands. 

Image: Keep calm and enjoy your coffee! Remember, to reduce cortisol, you must reduce stress throughout your life as a whole. 

  • If drinking coffee makes you feel anxious, stressed, or jittery, it could also be impacting your cortisol levels. However, if you can drink your coffee calmly and your doctor hasn’t prohibited caffeine, cortisol spikes probably aren't something you need to worry about after a cup of Joe, even if you DO have PCOS. 

  • To prevent cortisol and hormone issues, it is best to start your day off with healthy protein before coffee. This could include lean meats like chicken or something else high in protein like yogurt or cottage cheese. The key to reducing cortisol spikes is to reduce stress as a whole in your life. 

Mental stress should be taken seriously and can lead to an array of health issues over time. So, if you want to prevent or reduce cortisol spikes, look at healthy ways to reduce stress all the way around. 

Other ways to prevent cortisol spikes include:

  • Balancing your diet 
  • Leading an active lifestyle 
  • Deep breathing 
  • Reducing caffeine intake after 2 PM (or adjusting it to your sleep schedule) 
  • Getting enough sleep at night overall
  • Certain supplements like Rhodiola
  • Reducing stress in your life 
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Moving or exercising when you feel stressed

Does caffeine affect blood sugar?

For most healthy adults, caffeine does not have a noticeable impact on blood sugar levels. In medical terminology, blood sugar is known as glucose. Having as much as 400 mg of caffeine a day seems safe for most healthy individuals and their glucose levels. To help you get a better picture, a cup of coffee has about 140 mg of caffeine. 

Some studies suggest that drinking coffee may actually reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, if you do have type 2 diabetes already, caffeine may affect the way your body implements insulin, so be sure to check with your doctor first if you plan to start regularly drinking coffee or make dietary changes.

Do you have to quit coffee if you have PCOS? 

When it comes to coffee and PCOS, the evidence on the entire subject is conflicting. Some experts say that caffeine helps with weight loss, mental load, and energy, and thus, is good for people trying to lower their blood sugar, improve their health, and manage their PCOS symptoms. 

Others point out that the caffeine in coffee may temporarily worsen PCOS symptoms like cramps, irritability, and incontinence. Increasing the stress hormone known as cortisol is another issue for those who may already be under lots of stress. High cortisol levels can lead to an insulin spike and suppressed progesterone. 

The trick is to drink your coffee without inducing a cortisol spike. To do this you should eat something high in protein before drinking your coffee, balance your blood sugar, and reduce stress in your life as a whole. If coffee makes you feel stressed, consider switching to decaf

How to tell if coffee is spiking your cortisol?

Only your doctor can tell you whether coffee is actually elevating your cortisol levels. However, there are a few self-evaluations that you can do to find out whether coffee is indeed spiking your cortisol. If coffee makes you feel jittery, anxious, or stressed out, you may be one of the individuals who experience elevated cortisol levels after drinking coffee. On the other hand, if your morning cup of coffee helps you feel calm and ready to tackle the day, you probably aren't having a cortisol spike. If you still aren't sure, consult your physician and have your cortisol levels tested. 

Why is cortisol an issue with PCOS? 

Cortisol can be a problem for those who suffer from PCOS because it sometimes raises insulin and suppresses the production of progesterone. This can: 

  • Increase sugar cravings 
  • Increasing blood pressure (which could also increase insulin and cause inflammation).

How does coffee influence insulin levels?

Women diagnosed with PCOS also often display some level of insulin resistance. This may or may not also be coupled with metabolic disorders. The hormone insulin helps to keep your blood sugar regulated, meaning that insulin resistance can be a problem for those trying to keep their blood sugar levels stable. Black coffee and caffeine are usually fine for people with PCOS. However, when you start adding milk and sugar to your coffee, things get a little bit more complicated. 

Remember that insulin resistance and PCOS are not the same thing as diabetes. While all of these conditions involve the body's ability to implement insulin effectively, symptoms vary greatly from condition to condition. 

The results are mixed on how caffeine actually influences insulin. In the short term, caffeine seems to negatively impact insulin while in the long term, results are largely positive. 

In the Long Run, Caffeine Seems to Improve Insulin Sensitivity 

Long-term studies show that coffee can actually improve glycemic metabolic effects and reduce the glucose curve, improving your insulin response and helping to “speed up” the metabolism. So, even though in the short-term, coffee can increase glucose concentrations and lower insulin sensitivity, this may only be a temporary effect. To be sure, as more research is conducted on this matter, the results and effects will become more clear. 

Does coffee lead to hormone imbalances?

It would seem not. In fact, one study showed that drinking coffee increased SHBG levels. Another study indicated that coffee drinkers were 56% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to non-coffee drinkers! 

FAQS on Caffeine, Coffee, Blood Sugar, and PCOS

Now, let's go over a few frequently asked questions about coffee, blood sugar levels, how caffeine may impact diabetic coffee drinkers and more. 

What if you are a diabetic coffee drinker?

Most studies indicate that people with diabetes who regularly drink coffee don't have higher blood sugar levels than those who do not drink coffee. Some experts believe that this could be because your body gets used to the amount of caffeine you consume over time. 

Does decaf coffee raise blood sugar?

The caffeine content in decaf is incredibly low. A Cambridge study in 2018 found that decaffeinated coffee may actually improve insulin sensitivity without impacting hormone levels. 

Can coffee raise blood sugar levels?

Studies indicate that in the long term, coffee can help to improve insulin sensitivity. Yet, in the short term, other investigations have shown a slight spike in blood sugar levels, especially in those with high caffeine sensitivity.

Does coffee raise blood sugar immediately?

In most healthy adults, black coffee does not noticeably change blood sugar levels. The majority of people do not experience any noticeable changes in blood sugar levels after consuming black coffee. 

Does coffee affect blood sugar tests?

If you are taking a blood sugar test, you may want to wait to have your coffee just to be on the safe side. Still, most doctors agree that black coffee does not seem to alter fasting glucose, glycemic response, or blood sugar test markers for fat tolerance in any way. so, for most healthy adults, caffeine will not noticeably impact your blood sugar. 

Does coffee have health benefits? 

Health benefits from coffee may include improved memory, faster reaction times, elevated mood, better glucose processing, a healthier heart, liver protection, and various antioxidant benefits. 

woman with pcos holding coffee and espresso scoop

Final Thoughts on Coffee, PCOS, and Cortisol

All in all, drinking coffee doesn't seem to be a big deal for most people, even if they do have PCOS. Unless you are adding excessive amounts of sugar, syrup, or cream to your coffee, it shouldn't have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels. Still, everyone is different and your unique needs must always be considered.

Keep these things in mind: 

- Whether you have PCOS or not, it is wise to eat a high-protein snack or meal before consuming coffee. This will help you balance your blood sugar levels and avoid dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. Fiber before (or in) coffee may also be a smart idea.

- If coffee makes you feel jittery or anxious, it may be best to switch to decaf or herbal tea. At OneGreatCoffee.Com, you will find a phenomenal selection of premium natural organic decaf coffees and top-rated loose-leaf tea!


Disclaimer: This article offers general information and discussions about health-related subjects. The information and other content provided in this article, blog, website, or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be regarded, or used as a replacement for, medical advice or treatment. This blog does not constitute healthcare advice. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your healthcare provider.

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