Caffeine comes from plant seeds and leaves, but it is a drug that has a physical effect on the body. This chemical usually does not cause any lasting harm, although it is sometimes linked to the development of breast cysts. Large amounts of caffeine can affect a woman's hormones and indirectly lead to breast discomfort. Caffeine, however, does not cause cysts, no matter how much you consume, according to MayoClinic.com internist Dr. Sandhya Pruthi.
Cysts are small sacs, typically filled with a material like fluid or air, and are usually benign. Cysts can appear almost anything on the body, including under the skin and on your organs. Caffeine is most commonly associated with breast cysts, although the link is anecdotal and there is no medical evidence to back it up. Excess caffeine consumption does appear to raise your risk of high-risk, precancerous breast lesions, which are a different condition.
Cysts have a variety of causes unrelated to your caffeine intake. Some cysts are genetic or happen due to an infection or a cellular defect. Blockages in your duct can cause fluid backup that leads to a cyst, and chronic inflammatory conditions may also trigger these small lumps. You can get a cyst when you are infected with certain parasites or if you suffer an injury that breaks a blood vessel. Ruptured oil glands in the skin also lead to cysts.
Caffeine does not cause cysts in the breasts or anywhere else on the body, no matter how much you drink. Heavy coffee drinkers and others who consume a lot of caffeine may notice some unpleasant breast effects, however, according to Pruthi. Large amounts of caffeine boosts your production of stress hormones such as cortisol. Those hormones eventually interact with your reproductive hormones if you continue to drink a lot of caffeine. The substances interact and cause breast pain and swelling before your period, although you do not develop cysts. The problem usually stops if you cut back on caffeine.
You may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking coffee to ease breast-related symptoms. Caffeine withdrawal can make you drowsy, depressed and irritable, according to CBS News, and it can affect your ability to concentrate as well. You may experience a headache and feel as if you are getting the flu, with muscle pain, stiffness, nausea and vomiting. You can taper off caffeine rather than stopping your intake abruptly to reduce or totally prevent withdrawal symptoms.