Let’s take a step back – several years ago a large research study followed nurses focusing on their consumption of caffeine and if they had problems conceiving. There appeared a link between increased caffeine consumption and longer time periods until conception. Nurses who consumed 2 caffeinated drinks daily took longer to conceive than the nurses who drank 1 caffeine beverage. Nurses who drank 3 caffeinated beverages had extended periods of infertility compared to nurses drinking 2 caffeinated drinks per day. Yet, researchers had a limited understanding of how caffeine affected fertility.
A study released January 2011 (Inhibitory effect of caffeine on pacemaker activity in the oviduct is mediated by cAMP-regulated conductances. Dixon, SJ Hwang, FC Britton, KM Sanders and SM WardDepartment of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, NV, USA) found the pacemaker effect of the follapian tubes were impaired by caffeine.
So what does a pacemaker have to do with ovaries? The study is not referring to pacemaker for the heart, but to the very important pulsating waves that carry an egg down the tubes to meet with a potential sperm. Yes, the reproductive system is incredibly smart and employs microscopic waves via the fimbria. What are the fimbria? They are the fingers at the end of the tube close to the ovary. The fingers’ job is to wave in a “come here” motion (imagine using your finger to get your pet to come to you) at the corresponding time the egg leaves the ovary. The waving of the fingers pulls the egg into the follapian tube and pulsating motion in the tube continues to carry it (which the body to hoping will be an embryo) into the uterus. It’s an amazing dance between the ovary, follapian tubes, and uterus – a very delicate and yet powerful synchronization for a tiny system.
Nixon’s study found caffeine inhibits the cells responsible for production of the waves/pulsation in the tubes and greatly slows down the dance between the ovary, follapian tubes and uterus. Potentially the egg will end up lingering around, stuck waiting for the motion to whisk it into and down the tube.
The second study from NIH (Study Shows Caffeine Consumption Linked to Estrogen Changes) found estrogen levels fluctuating in women who consumed 200mg of caffeine a day. Asian women were found to have elevated estrogen levels; white women had lower estrogen levels, while black women had no change.
Proper follicular growth is dependent upon estrogen – too high or too low and estrogen may impact egg quality. When estrogen is high/low, it can impact other issues, like endometriosis or bone mass. In fact high estrogen can emphasize PMS symptoms by increasing breast tenderness, bloating and irritability.
Though the first research article utilized only cells to study caffeine and the second one had a small sample size – there appears to be a clear link between caffeine, hormones and physical interplay.
Yes, the research isn’t perfect; the question of who is affected by caffeine has not been clearly defined. Yet removing caffeine is a quick and easy change that might change your reproductive health.
Next blog posting: How does Chinese Medicine view caffeine consumption?