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Breast Tenderness and Pain—Is Your Coffee to Blame?

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Why are my boobs sore? Is coffee the reason? via Unsplash

May I ask you a personal question? Do your breasts hurt?

If you answered “yes,” you are not alone. According to research, many women say "my boobs hurt" or "my boobs are sore" at some point or another. For many of us, this pain will come around menstruation, when breasts tend to be bigger and more sensitive anyway. But for other women, these uncomfortable feelings just don’t want to go away.

Since I asked the personal question it’s only fair that I answer it too so here goes—yes, they sure can and do! And I have a young son who loves to crawl up on my lap and too often I have to sort of move to one side to make sure he’s not bumping up too hard against “the girls”.

Not too long ago, I got to thinking about the situation and why breasts can so often get sore and painful for so many women, myself included. It struck me how when I was pregnant, rather than have the increased sensitivity and pain that so many women report during this time, mine actually felt better. Then I got to thinking—what, besides the pregnancy itself, was different during those two times I was expecting? And before long it hit me—in both pregnancies I almost completely eliminated caffeine.

This epiphany got me to thinking even more, and then it got me doing research. What I realized is that now that I’m a busy mom of two boys who works from home and tries to keep an average of about 25 plates in the air at all times, I have upped my caffeine intake more than ever. Just ask the friendly baristas at my neighborhood Starbucks—they’ll tell you. I love my caffeine and I have two big doses of it a day—at home in the morning, and at Starbucks literally every afternoon.

So could this increase in my beloved coffee be the reason for my sensitive girls? I got on the computer and did some research, and lo and behold, there is a direct connection between caffeine and breast tenderness.

For example, in a study conducted by researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, 61 percent of women with breast pain had a reduction in breast tenderness when they cut out caffeine. Although the study was not completely conclusive, it seems like cutting back on caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soda that contains caffeine wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Another article I found said that cyclic breast pain (or pain related to the menstrual cycle) can be made worse by certain foods and beverages and medications. Caffeine, they said, is one of the worst. Caffeine apparently contains a chemical called methylxanthine that causes blood vessels to dilate. This swelling can then cause the breasts to distend and become more painful. The article stressed that the effect that caffeine has on our breasts does not cause or lead to cancer, and that each woman has to weigh the discomfort against her love for coffee.

As much as I adore coffee, I think it’s time to cut back a bit, at least on the caffeine. Over the next few weeks I’ll gradually cut back on my regular coffee, substituting decaf instead for part of it. I’d like to see what happens if I halve my caffeine consumption, and I’ll be sure to let you all know what happens.

Add a Comment26 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

It's just day one for me, I'm cutting out caffeine especially coffee. I feel as if the pain is lessening already so we shall see. I have been checked out by my doctor, mammogram, and ultrasound, with nothing being found. I decided to try this after reading a few inconclusive studies on the breast pain/caffeine connection. After reading this article and the comments I feel encouraged to at least follow through and make the necessary changes. It will be worth it to feel better, thanks so much!

March 23, 2015 - 5:17pm
EmpowHER Guest

It's not the caffeine. It must be something else in the coffee. I switched to decaf more than a year ago and have been drinking "instant" for the convenience. And I've been fine. Then on a whim, two weeks ago, I started drinking ground decaf French roast. OMG, the pain! Either the stuff was mislabeled as decaf or it's something else in the coffee that does it.

February 26, 2015 - 8:43am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Even decaf has a small amount of caffeine in it. The more processed the coffee (e.g. instant), the more caffeine we are able to pull out. Even switching to a better/more pure type of coffee will cause an increase in your caffeine levels. Maybe not enough to keep you awake all night, but certainly enough to cause your breasts to react if they are already subject to that reaction.

December 30, 2016 - 2:21pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Decaffeinated really means less caffeine.

August 17, 2015 - 4:18pm
EmpowHER Guest

Since my forties, I have been experiencing lumpy painful breasts 2 weeks before my period that lasts until after my period is over. I have been a coffee drinker for 25 years so when my doctor suggested quitting, I ignored her advice. Recently, I had to quit drinking coffee due to stomach pain. I cannot believe the difference it has made with my breast pain and lumpiness. It has vanished! I am 1 week away from my period and I have absolutely no pain or lumpiness. It was really hard to give up coffee. I swore I never would but now, I am so glad I did. The stomach pain has subsided, too!

January 25, 2015 - 6:51am
EmpowHER Guest

I am experiencing breast pain - pretty chronic - both breasts and when I went to the doctor she said I have a lot of new cysts - clusters even. She mentioned that I should cut out barista coffee - she said that I could still have caffeine from instant coffee and that I could drink tea. It's only been three days and I am in more pain than when I went to see her. I have had a green tea or two and still eating chocolate so perhaps it's time to say goodbye to those too from the comments I've read here.

January 5, 2015 - 6:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I only have pain on my left breast, but when I don't have caffeine, I am pain free. So I now drink decaf, and have finally found a good full bodied brand, that is also organic.... I get the K-Cups and use the second to largest cup size, so its stronger... if anyone is looking, its called Gorilla organic .... LOVE IT! I get it at Acme and Shop rite....

December 13, 2014 - 7:21pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I was wondering if decaf would work, because it still has a little caffeine?

February 24, 2015 - 9:38am
EmpowHER Guest

Coffee gave me breast lumps. I tried many doctors and no one could find anything. They told me the burning should go away but the lump was growing and the pain was getting worst. I had a good diet. So one day I cut my coffee from the root. My friend told me, it's the coffee. 2 weeks later the pain was almost gone, 2 months later the 'lime size' lumps dissolved. Today. After a year without caffeine, I craved coffee, I had it, an u feel a bad burn again on my breast. I must be too sensitive but I must say goodbye to coffee once and for all :((

November 19, 2014 - 3:12pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi Alison,

I'm so glad you wrote this article because I have been experiencing similar pain and had no idea why. At a young age of 22 (and never pregnant) my mind went immediately to breast cancer (it doesn't help that October is breast cancer awareness month so it's already on my mind). I went to the doctor yesterday and he said that it could be due to the caffeine and chocolate that I consume on a daily basis. The only thing I found to be weird is that it's only one breast, instead of both. It has also noticeably increased in size recently in addition to the pain that I've had for a while, which made me wonder a bit. Have you noticed that too at all? I'm getting an ultrasound in a week so at least I'll get confirmation then but I'm still worried because it just seems so weird. Who would've thought that caffeine would have such a strange side effect?!

October 24, 2014 - 7:45am
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