It’s hard not to buy into all the hype about how good coffee can be for you. Coffee has been shown to be high in antioxidants, prevent strokes and Alzheimer’s, reduces risk of many cancers, and even improve the gut microbiome. However, if you are suffering from a digestive disorder, suffering from chronic stress, or are trying to rebalance your hormones, the caffeine in coffee may exacerbate your symptoms hindering recovery. Let's look at a few ways this can happen:
Irritating – Many IBS sufferers find coffee to be a trigger food for their symptoms. Coffee can also cross-react with gluten in those who are sensitive causing an inflammatory reaction in the gut.
Spikes cortisol – Cortisol is our primary stress hormone. When we are under stress our bodies direct their energy towards the bones, heart, and skeletal muscles and away from other systems such as the digestive system. When this happens, we stop producing proper amounts of digestive secretions needed to properly absorb our food. In turn we suffer from symptoms of poor digestion.
Demineralizing – Coffee leaches minerals out of our bodies. Minerals are needed not just for bones, teeth, and hair, but also for creating stomach acid. Coffee is very acidic, and our bodies must maintain a pH within a very narrow window. In order to maintain this balance when we consume too much acidic food, our bodies draw minerals out of our bones, teeth, and hair in order to keep a slightly alkaline pH at all times, otherwise we would die.
Adrenal fatigue – As mentioned above, coffee causes the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. This constant overproduction leads to under-functioning glands.
Nutrient deficiencies - Coffee blocks iron and calcium absorption while causing deficiencies in magnesium, potassium, zinc and B vitamins.
Dehydration – Coffee acts as a diuretic and depletes electrolytes leaving you dehydrated if you’re not replenishing with enough hydrating liquids. For years when I drank coffee, I struggled with electrolyte imbalance. Even though I only drank 1-2 cups a day and consumed between 2-3 liters of water or herbal teas afterward, I still suffered from chronic dry, flaking lips. As soon as I stopped drinking coffee – poof! My lips became soft.
Liver Burden – While some studies show that coffee can actually improve or prevent liver diseases, the liver must filter out all of the toxins and caffeine in coffee which can weaken it over time. Coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops.
Hormone Havoc – For some women who struggle with PMS, removing coffee from their diet is all it takes to start feeling great improvement in their menstrual cycles.
It is important to note that we are all different and will have different responses to coffee. Many people can tolerate moderate caffeine intake just fine, while others may not. You can always try removing coffee from your diet for a few months and see how you feel. Then try re-introducing it to see if symptoms come back – then you’ll know if it’s right for you. Many experts recommend staying below 300 mg of caffeine per day if you are going to drink it. But be aware that this doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
If you are going to drink it, please ONLY DRINK ORGANIC to avoid the pesticide and herbicide residues. My favorite organic brand for it’s affordability and availability at supermarkets, is Kicking Horse in Half-Ass. This is their half decaf variety which helps me to keep my caffeine to a minimum when I am going to enjoy a cup. Kicking Horse uses the swiss-water process to decaffeinate their blends which, as implied, simply uses water to decaffeinate the beans. Other processes use chemical solvents or liquid carbon dioxide. So be aware when you are shopping for a decaf blend and opt for Swiss-water decaf.
Ready to quit? Great! But doing so may cause withdrawal symptoms and headaches. To avoid this, I recommend slowly reducing your intake. You can also try switching to half caffeinated coffee, then to green tea before removing caffeine altogether if you need to.