If you are one of the average Americans drinking 3.5 cups of caffeinated coffee a day, I’m pretty sure you’re going to tell me that you need your coffee, you can’t live without it and you feel awful if you don’t get it. If you are one to say that you think coffee is “drug in a mug,” you probably have reason to believe through reading or through personal experience that you and coffee (or more accurately the caffeine) don’t mix.
I get the question, “Is coffee bad for me?” all the time and to be honest I don’t have a straightforward answer because the reaction of caffeine in a person’s body is very bio-individual. Personally, I am sensitive to caffeine and cannot drink coffee everyday because I have a hard time metabolizing it. This is a very genetic tolerance. Some people can metabolize caffeine better than others based on the production of certain enzymes in the liver. Therefore, I often resort to green teas or some of the other options on my list below.
However, most of the population can handle about two cups of coffee (caffeine) per day and then a smaller percentage of the population can drink coffee right before going to bed and still get a restful nights sleep. Again, this happens because we all metabolize caffeine differently from one another. However, just because someone can metabolize caffeine doesn’t necessarily mean that they can tolerate caffeine. Caffeine tolerance is basically how your body will respond to caffeine over a long period of time and there’s a lot of research backing both ends of the spectrum here.
Yes, coffee in and of itself is a superfood. It’s packed with phytonutrients and there are some health benefits associated with moderate consumption, like increased stamina during exercise, increased memory, reduced kidney stone risk, and reduced mouth and throat cancer risk, just to name a few.
So based on this it sounds like we should be drinking coffee all day every day, right? Not so fast. There is something else going on in the body with two little tent shaped glands that sit on top of each kidney. These are your adrenal glands and they are receiving the full brunt of your coffee habit in not so great a way. Their job? To release hormones so that we can decipher between the fight-or-flight response when we’re confronted with stress. The caffeine keeps the adrenal glands constantly “on alert” and overtime this can lead to exhaustion or adrenal fatigue. Caffeine consumption also has a negative influence on cortisol. It will throw the balance of cortisol that we have in our body all out of whack. Naturally, cortisol levels are high in the morning to help us get moving to start the day, but people who have stressed adrenal glands are over producing cortisol so that it’s low instead of high in the morning. What happens next? You reach for your caffeine and an unhealthy cycle continues. High cortisol levels will also cause you to overeat and deprive you of a good night’s sleep.
Some other negative side effects associated with the overuse of caffeine include headaches and migraines (even though the reverse of this is believed to be true), poor fertility in women, indigestion and insomnia (among others). Coffee will also prevent some from getting their necessary water intake for the day and will create a very acidic environment inside us, which is never good for those of us wishing to have a hearty immune system.
If you are looking to reduce your caffeine consumption, my advice would be to drink two glasses of water in the morning before having your coffee. This will help to jump start and flush out your system so that over time coffee may not be the first thing it needs.
Check out these awesome healthy coffee swaps:
Matcha Green Tea - I can’t get enough of this stuff. Matcha tea trumps other green teas because you are ingesting the entire leaf as opposed to just the brewed water. It’s filled with nutrients and high in antioxidants and it tastes great!
Warm Lemon Water - I’ve talked about this before and I know it doesn’t resemble or taste anything like coffee, but give it a try! It will gently detox your liver and leave you feeling refreshed.
Drink Local Coffee - If you think I’m crazy for even suggesting you bring it down a notch, then don’t! But do yourself the favor of finding a local coffee roaster. Chances are it will taste much fresher and the chances of it containing mycotoxins (mold) are slim.
Herbal Coffee - Mountain Rose Herbs (.com) sells an herbal blend of organic roasted dandelion root, chicory root, roasted carob and maca powder. It has a rich and bold roasted flavor and is caffeine-free.
Vanilla “Latte” - Dr. Lipman says, “If you want something warm and comforting in the morning, you can heat up a mug of unsweetened vanilla almond milk (on the stove or in the microwave) with a dash of cinnamon and stevia to taste. It’s delicious! You could also add a teaspoon of cacao powder for a chocolate-y treat.”
These alternatives also do well for those experiencing afternoon dips. Instead of drinking a cold cup of coffee or brewing a new one, try one of these options first! I think you will be surprised by how much your body likes them. Good luck!
Until next time, Be Well.