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Is Coffee good or bad for you?

Updated: May 9, 2023

Do you rely on coffee to have a bowel movement? To wake you up? Or to get you through the afternoon?



Why are some people super sensitive to caffeine; the jitters or sweating and some people thrive and feel great?


In this blog post, we'll explore both sides and see if you should be continuing drinking coffee or if you should reduce or completely avoid, so you can make an informed decision whether to continue drinking it or not.


Before we go through the positives and negatives, I want you to tune into your body and observe how coffee affects you.


Your body will TELL you whether it's ok with it or not.


So try this:

After having a standard coffee (1-2 shots), observe how you feel and how your body reacts. Do you feel jittery? Anxious? Break out in hot sweats? Hands start shaking? Reflux? Nauseous? Fatigue? Alert? Energised? Focused? Struggle getting and/or staying asleep? Restless at night?


This can determine whether your body tolerates caffeine well or not.


When it comes to drinking coffee, there are a few things to take into consideration:


- The quality.

Not all coffee is grown and processed the same. Choose organic and spray free beans.

Choose brands that test for mould and mycotoxins. Mould and mycotoxins are naturally occurring compounds that can develop in coffee beans during growth, harvest, processing, and storage. Read my last blog on why choosing mould free is crucial.

No instant coffee please. If it's currently in your pantry, throw it out now. No, don't finish it, throw it out.

If you're going to be drinking this regularly, then you want to make sure you're putting only the best quality coffee into your body.


- The dose

Positive effects of coffee is dose dependent. 300mg of caffeine (2 shots), will improve arousal - how awake or energetic you feel - but more than this will generally cause hyper-arousal and uncomfortable jittery feeling. Research shows that how you respond to caffeine can depend on how awake or energetic you feel before you caffeine hit. Large doses of caffeine given to individuals who were already fatigue and/or sleep deprived improved their energy levels. However, large doses of caffeine given to individuals who were well rested and not fatigue actually reduced their performance as it led to a state of hyper-arousal. From this research, we can propose that it's a day to day decision to drink coffee.


So is coffee good for us or not?




The positives:


Increased Energy and Mental Concentration and Alertness


The caffeine in coffee is a natural stimulant that can increase energy levels and improve mental alertness. Caffeine works by blocking the action of a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which makes us feel sleepy and tired. By blocking adenosine, caffeine can help to increase the activity of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, which can improve mood and cognitive function including focus, reaction time, memory and attention span as well as physical performance.


Caffeine can enhance the visual system and improve visual perception. This is because caffeine can increase the activity of neurons in the visual cortex, which is the part of the brain that processes visual information. By increasing neural activity, caffeine can enhance the sensitivity of the visual system and improve the ability to detect fine details.


Not to burst your bubble here, but unfortunately executive thinking is not improved, so if you're relying on coffee to improve decision making, emotional discernment and making complex judgements, you may be disappointed!


Improved Mood and Mental Health


A cup of happiness! Coffee consumption has been linked to improved mood and a lower risk of depression. This may be due to the caffeine content in coffee, which can increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters that are associated with pleasure and happiness.


Improved Physical Performance


Caffeine can also improve physical performance by increasing the levels of adrenaline in the body. Adrenaline is a hormone that helps to mobilise fatty acids from fat tissues and use them for energy. This can help improve endurance during exercise to improve muscle output as well as delay the onset of fatigue. 2 cups before exercise can reduce muscle pain.


High in Antioxidants


Coffee is a very rich source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols (also found in berries and cacao), including tocopherols (Vitamin E) and chlorogenic acid.

Antioxidants are compounds that neutralise harmful molecules called free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to the development of chronic diseases.

Studies have shown that these antioxidants can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson's disease, dementia, and cancer. This may be due to the high concentration of antioxidants in coffee, which can help to prevent cellular damage and inflammation in the body. Of course, looking at diet, exercise and family history is crucial here.

This is also why the quality of coffee beans is important!


The Ritual/Routine


The ritual of making or buying a coffee in the morning can be quite comforting and positive. It's a time to set aside to hopefully, sit, enjoy, pause and plan your day. If coffee is your solo time in the morning, then it can be unequivocally sacred and powerful. Not to mention the social aspect of being able to enjoy a coffee with friends.





While there are many benefits of drinking coffee, like any 'drug', it is addictive and has negative effects. It's half life is 30 minutes, meaning that it'll reach maximum absorption, and effects, in this time. As you feel it so quickly, you can see why it's addictive!


The negatives:

Digestive Issues


Ever felt acidic or experience reflux after a coffee? This is because coffee stimulates the production of stomach acid, which can irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines, causing acid reflux, heartburn, ulcers, and diarrhea.

Coffee can act as a laxative and increase bowel movements, which can lead to diarrhea and dehydration. If you're relying on coffee for the daily bowel movement, this can indicate you are constipated and have sluggish digestion.

A recent study in 2020 found that coffee increased Bacteroids, which are pathogenic strains of bacteria in the gut, leading to diarrhea, which may explain why some people have diarrhea after immediately drinking coffee.

Caffeine can reduce the absorption of many minerals; zinc, copper and magnesium, and interferes with the absorption of other minerals; iron, calcium, magnesium and B-vitamins.


Adrenal Fatigue


The adrenal glands are responsible for producing hormones that are important for regulating various bodily functions, including stress response, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. Excessive coffee consumption can have negative effects on the adrenal glands, which can lead to blood sugar dysregulation (sugar cravings!) and high blood pressure.


One of the main concerns with coffee consumption and adrenal glands is that caffeine can stimulate the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. When cortisol levels are consistently elevated, it can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is a condition where the adrenal glands become overworked and unable to function properly. This can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, and immune system dysfunction.


Cortisol further decreases insulin sensitivity making it difficult for your cells to respond to the sugar in your blood, leading to uncontrolled blood sugar levels resulting in sugar cravings, weight gain, type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.


The release of cortisol is timed with our sleep wake cycle which peak around 45 mins after being awake, then drop throughout the day. If you’re drinking caffeine while your cortisol levels are still high when you first wake up, it can disrupt your cortisol’s natural flow. But waiting 1-2 hours allows the caffeine to kick in when cortisol levels start to decline, to give you a bit of a kick!


Anxiety Provoking


For many, coffee is just too stimulating. As caffeine increases cortisol, you may begin to experience symptoms of anxiety; jittery, agitated, shaky, racing heart, sweaty, manic, overwhelm, tense and headaches. Coffee can increase lactic acid, which can lead to panic attacks.


Caffeine also blocks your major calming neurotransmitter, GABA - aka your body's natural Valium, exacerbating anxiety.


Dehydration


Coffee is a diuretic and causes dehydration. Dehydration can further stress the adrenal glands. When the body is dehydrated, the adrenal glands produce more cortisol to help maintain blood pressure and blood sugar levels.


Insomnia and Restlessness


While caffeine can increase energy levels and alertness, it can also interfere with sleep patterns and cause insomnia. As previously mentioned, caffeine blocks adenosine by attaching itself to the adenosine receptors, tricking your body in order to keep you awake. Stopping caffeine consumption at lunchtime can ensure you have plenty of adenosine to help you naturally sleep. Alongside adenosine, caffeine also disrupts the release of cortisol and melatonin; hormones that are released based on our internal clock and biological rhythms.


Removing caffeine allows cortisol and melatonin to be released in their normal rhythms leading to better energy and sleep. Some individuals also clear caffeine much slower from their body, meaning it's in their system a lot longer effecting ability to sleep - if you're wondering why you're staring at the wall at night.


Depending on how long it takes for your liver to metabolise caffeine, it can stay in your system for 10 hours after drinking. This explains why drinking coffee before 12pm is important.


Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms


Regular coffee consumption can lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms when coffee consumption is reduced or stopped. This is because caffeine can alter the chemistry of the brain and cause changes in mood, energy levels, and cognitive function. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.


Liver disease


Caffeine places extra stress on your livers detoxification ability. As it is processed so quickly, it places a fast and hard stress on the liver to eliminate caffeine out of the body quickly as possible. The last things we want to do is put more stress on our already hard-working liver. Caffeine can interfere with the liver's ability to metabolise fats, which can lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver, increasing the risk of fatty liver disease. Consuming too much caffeine can cause dehydration and lead to the accumulation of toxins in the liver. People with liver disease or liver damage should limit their consumption.


Reliance on caffeine


One, two max, cups of coffee a day tends to be fine for most people, but if you're reaching more (you'd be surprised that a lot of people I see that drink up to 6 per day), then it may be a sign of an underlying issue. Relying on coffee to stay awake? When coffee is used as a coping method then there's usually something else going on that needs to be explored and addressed:

- nutrients deficiencies? Magnesium, iron and Vitamin B12 are common with fatigue

- chronic stress? Long term stress depletes the body of several nutrients including B-vitamins, magnesium, zinc and vitamin C

- Under-active thyroid? Constantly tired is a sign of a slow metabolism

- Blood sugar dysregulation? Are your cells not receiving sugar efficiently?

- Insomnia? Not replenishing cortisol and melatonin levels?


Benefits of Reducing/Removing Coffee

- Removing your daily coffee gives your body the chance to restore its natural energy balance and improves day time energy and night time sleep.

- You may also notice many digestive symptoms resolve - especially reflux and stomach upset

- Notice reduced feelings of anxiety and stress, especially if you were drinking coffee on an empty stomach

- Skin rashes and acne clear up


Tips on Drinking Coffee

- avoid drinking it within 2 hours of waking

- avoid drinking it after 12pm

- avoid coffee on an empty stomach

- always drink a glass of filtered water afterwards to avoid dehydration

- avoid drinking when you're stressed or suffering anxiety

- avoid drinking if it makes you run to the toilet shortly afterwards




Coffee Alternatives

In clinic, while I advise my patients that one per day is ok, for most, they are much better off without it and they stick to the coffee alternatives below. I find patients who switch to coffee to cacao lattes have significantly more energy and quality sleep!


For those of you who would benefit from reducing or even eliminating coffee all together, then here are some delicious alternatives:


- Yerba Mate (contains caffeine)

- Green tea (contains caffeine)

- Matcha Latte (contains caffeine)

- Cacao latte (contains caffeine)

- Medicinal mushroom latte (chaga, reishi, shiitake, lion's mane)

- Dandelion latte


So many! While some of these still contain caffeine, they have significantly lower amounts.


Moderation is Key!

The issue of whether or not coffee is bad for you comes down to the question of balance. Like any substance used in excess will have negative effects. Drinking too much coffee can make you feel anxious and edgy and will affect your stress levels. It can lead to poor concentration, gut issues, is dehydrating and will effect sleep. However, having a maximum of 1 coffee a day can have some benefits.


If you're feeling like you need a break from coffee and want to give your gut a mini cleanse, then download my free 5 Day Gentle Gut Cleanse.



 

Bec is obsessed with your gut...in more of an enthusiastic-than-creepy way! Book online for a consultation with Bec or contact us to learn more about how Natural Medicine and Colon Hydrotherapy can help you say good-bye to your gut issues!



*This blog is for educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor or other qualified health practitioners before acting on information on this article, particularly if you have a medical condition, taking medication or if you are pregnant.   



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