Coffee is one of those things – you either love it or hate it.
I am firmly in camp LOVE it!
And on those few occasions I have stopped drinking it, the headaches and withdrawal symptoms were unbearable! Which actually suggests I am one of those individuals who perhaps should avoid coffee, but more on that in a moment…
Like so many of my clients, you may be confused by all the mixed messages out there on whether coffee is good for you or not. The media love nothing more than pulling out stories on coffee that one day say coffee is great, and the next that you should avoid it!
Like most things in health, you can usually find research that supports either side of an argument.
Thing is, coffee really is an individual thing.
Whether YOU should be drinking coffee is really one of those “it depends” type situations.
There is science behind why different people react differently to coffee. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking. It’s also about whether you are adrenally fatigued with cortisol issues, have anxiety, stomach ulcers, IBS…. the list goes on.
Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.
Not all people metabolise caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolise caffeine will impact how you’re affected by it. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.
About half of us are “slow” metabolisers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half are “fast” metabolisers. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.
Another thing that affects caffeine metabolism is DOSE. Obviously, the more coffee you drink, the more there is in your system, the longer it will take to clear and the effects will be stronger.
For me, I can have one strong coffee in the morning and feel great. If I have any more throughout the day I get anxious, jittery and nauseous. So I stick to that one cup
This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because we’re all different!
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body
The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly due to the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.
Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):
- Stimulates the brain
- Boosts metabolism
- Boosts energy and exercise performance
- Increases your stress hormone cortisol
So, while some of these effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect YOU and decide if it’s worth it or not.
Coffee and Health Risks
There are a tonne of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.
As a busy working mother of two young boys, I drink that one cup of coffee so that I am more likely to remember to put on pants and less likely to be late for things 😉
Here’s a quick summary of what coffee consumption is linked to:
- Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
- Increased sleep disruption
- Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
- Lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes
- Lower risk of certain liver diseases
- Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality”)
- Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease
And really, this all comes down to DOSE again. Most of these studies show that drinking one to two cups of coffee a day (and no other caffeine containing drinks) leads to these health benefits. Drinking more than this can lead to more of the unwanted effects like sleep disturbance and increased anxiety)
Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues!) which suggests that it’s not just the caffeine in coffee that has these positive effects. Like all plant medicines (yes, coffee is herbal!) there are thousands of compounds all working in harmony and it’s hard to isolate one chemical.
Mother Nature is one complex lady!
NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. I know you are smarter than this, and you are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee. Dammit.
So, should you drink coffee or not?
There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.
Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:
- People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
- People who often feel anxious
- People who have trouble sleeping
- People who are pregnant
- Adrenal Fatigue sufferers
- Those who just don’t feel well after drinking coffee
If none of these apply, and you LOVE your coffee, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:
- Give you the jitters?
- Increase anxious feelings?
- Affect your sleep?
- Give you heart palpitations?
- Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
- Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?
Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see the difference. Some of my clients say that they actually find they have MORE energy once they’ve given up coffee.
IMPORTANT: As coffee and tea are some of the most heavily sprayed crops, it’s really important to only drink organic coffee and organic tea. Regardless of how you handle caffeine, what you DON’T want is a cup full of pesticides!!
NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.
Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte
3 tbsp coconut milk
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree
½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup Rooibos Tea (it’s naturally decaf)
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.
Serve & enjoy!