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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

Thank you for writing this article! Do you have a follow up? Have you noticed dark chocolate also having an effect?

March 22, 2017 - 10:10am
EmpowHER Guest

I have known for years that coffee (including decaffeinated) causes pain in my breasts, but never tea. So I wonder, is it really caffeine or something else in the coffee? I drink 3 cups of tea a day with no problems, but if I have more than 3 cups of coffee a WEEK, I hurt.

October 23, 2016 - 12:53pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

If I drink brewed coffee, whether regular or decaf, I will have breast tenderness. If I drink instant, either regular or decaf, I don't have that problem. And I'll drink a lot of instant sometimes. I don't have any pain with teas or colas either. It's not the caffeine, it has to be some other component of the coffee that's doing it.

October 27, 2016 - 6:44pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for writing this comment. Its calmed me down a bit about what's going on in my case.

Two days ago, I tried the cold brew coffee at Starbucks. I usually drink up to two cups of instant coffee a day... but man! Starting yesterday, one of my breasts has felt so tender in one area. Why aren't scientists figuring out what is happening here?

December 24, 2017 - 9:54am
EmpowHER Guest

The lady who did my mamogram told me to stop drinking coffee after I complained that my breasts hurt. I couldn't quit cold turkey - I love a hot beverage that helps me get going in the morning! But I did some research and switched to green tea. I didn't have to go through caffeine withdrawals AND my breasts stopped hurting. I still have coffee a few times a week which seems to be fine. Once I tried to go back to coffee and after a month, I was in pain again. So, I recommend the green tea approach - it's also good for you!

September 29, 2016 - 2:06pm
EmpowHER Guest

I'm a literary translator and a story teller and recently I've started translating a new book. Of course this meant doubling my coffee intake which was already much beyond the amount people usually drink (from morning to midday I literally live on coffee). Anyway, this month my breasts were really sore during pms, so sore that even showering was hell. I was counting the days for my period to end so that I could be free of this horrible pain. And you know the story: The period has left the scene but the pain is still there with all its glory! I had an appointment for a mammography which I had to cancel because of surprisingly more pain after my period. So as the queen of pessimists, I had all sorts of bad thoughts in my mind. First, I definitely thought I was pregnant although the chances were close to zero. The test: Negative. Then started the paranoia of breast cancer or any other cancer. At nights, I was dreaming of cancer cells eating up my whole body (In addition to my fictitious mind, the reason could also be the piercing pain I felt when I turned to one side in bed for example - the pain was more at night in bed and when I woke up). Luckily yesterday I bumped into a good friend of mine who owns an organic shop and who regularly receives a lot of training on health issues as part of her job. We were talking and I told her about the pain in my breasts. The first thing she said was "are you drinking more coffee?" And she also added that women with a high tendency for fibrocystic breasts (me!), experience the discomfort more severely. So, immediately googled the subject and saw your post. From tomorrow on, I will start reducing the number of cups. (Cutting the amount even in half would make a big difference I'm sure) Anyway, we'll see what happens.

March 1, 2016 - 8:08am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I'm 69 and figured out through trial and error years ago that what you suspect is true. It's coffee. I also have fibrocystic breasts. But to get rid of the pain I must cut out tea as well, though coffee is what causes it.

April 27, 2016 - 5:44am
EmpowHER Guest

I am a heavy Pepsi drinker and sometimes I drink way too much in one day. A few months ago, I started experiencing breast tenderness, pain and swelling with one breast feeling really lumpy. I became concerned but before I scheduled an appt to see my doctor, I wanted to make sure it wasn't related to the caffeine intake. I was suspicious that it was because I had noticed whenever I drink alot in one day or for a couple days straight with not much water, my breast would become tender swollen and very sensitive.. .. Anyway, I decided to stop all caffeine and within 3 days the breast tenderness had decreased drastically as well as the swelling.. I noticed the one breast which had felt lumpy no longer felt that way and appeared almost normal.. I know for sure that caffeine is the culprit but I'm still going for a mammogram just to be sure.

January 27, 2016 - 3:35am
EmpowHER Guest

I started having fairly persistent pain in my right breast out of nowhere. Not a coffee drinker, but I drink lots of tea. My doctor recommended going caffeine free for a week and to report back any changes. The pain almost completely subsided. That was only a few weeks ago, so it's to be determined whether it will return, but my caffeine intake is pretty minimal for the time being.

August 5, 2015 - 4:07pm

I started drinking 5 cups of tea yesterday ( i just wanted to loss weight ☺) , aside to that I've been drinking coffee 3 times a day for 3 months straight and just this morning my left breast is in pain. I don't know what to do, and after i read this article , i think I'll try to stop drinking my tea and coffee for now .

July 14, 2015 - 7:49am
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