I am not going to lie to you. I love coffee. I love my morning cuppa. I look forward to it, I relish it, I miss it when it isn't in my routine. We often travel with our thermos-like french press, ready to make good java on the road at any point in time. I really really love my cuppa joe come morning time. I love the heat of the mug, the creaminess of the cream, the chocolate-y tones to the darker roast. I love how satisfying this mug of goodness is. I love my coffee so much that whenever we go on holidays, it is one of the first things we do when in a new town: we scope the place for the best cup of joe. We're not afraid to ask around. Two of the best cups of coffee I've ever had in my life were in Madison Wisconsin at a little cafe off the beaten path, and the other in Bath, England at a little corner cafe, where the cool stone benches were a welcome respite from the sweltering summer heat, a few blocks from the historic Roman Baths. I love me some good coffee.
For today's Monday post, I aim to go over some things to think about if you love your cup of joe as much as I do. If you're looking for optimal health, that is.
First things first. There is a lot of hubbub about coffee out there, and it might be a tricky situation to navigate. If you look hard enough, you can find a mountain of evidence to support consumption, and you can find just as much information there to suggest you quit cold turkey.
Let's start on this side of the fence, shall we? Coffee is a seed, and looks a bit like a mix between a cherry and a cranberry when it is picked by hand off of the plant. (Check this page out if you're curious to know the whole process from planting to brewing. At some point in this whole harvesting, the beans are fermented. Yes, fermented! (All the best things are fermented, no?) Once dried, the beans get roasted, and either get ground before they get to you or you can opt to do the grinding yourself. These ground beans get brewed into what one hopes is a delicious cup of coffee.
Know this: the coffee plant is one of the most pesticide-heavy crops out there. By opting to purchase organic coffee beans, you will be reducing the pesticide load and easing the burden on your digestive tract, as well as your liver. Good work.
Coffee is rich in antioxidants, organic compounds that are known to reduce the risk of major chronic degenerative diseases, among them diabetes. It would seem that coffee is protective to the liver, your main detoxification organ. The consumption of caffeine found in coffee appears to be a protective agent against the development of Parkinson's (mostly in men, sorry ladies.) This study points to necessary further exploration of the benefits of caffeine in protecting one against Dementia and Alzheimer's. For more benefits of coffee, head to this article for a more thorough look at some of the science backing these notions. This article points to the benefits of caffeine for athletes. (I love it when they post things like 'Coffee Makes you More Intelligent.' That there is bait, and I fell for it. Who am I to dispute?)
As you probably well know, it is the caffeine found in coffee that is the main culprit of the negativity surrounding this beverage. Caffeine acts as a stimulant on your adrenals, prodding them to work overtime releasing excess cortisol. This cortisol being released triggers your body to release sugar in that ole bloodstream, which could feed opportunistic yeasts. They start to gain hold in your gut, and these bums now send out chemical triggers to your adrenals to release more cortisol so that insta-sugar hit can get into the bloodstream so they can be fed. Again, coffee (or rather, caffeine) contributes to this picture. Taking caffeine (and carbonated beverages with caffeine in them!) out of the picture will take some of the load off of your spent adrenals, and in turn, will start diminishing the sugars available to these yeasts with the idea of starving them. Sugar cravings are all part of this cycle; once that cortisol comes out and glucose is quickly released, your blood sugar spikes, insulin comes out to help level the sugar spike at the pass, but those levels aren't sustained for very long. That sugar level then dips quite low, and your brain starts to go on survival mode and sends out messages to your adrenal to release more cortisol again in order to get that glucose back into your bloodstream so that your brain doesn't starve. (Glucose is its main food). Again, taking coffee out of the picture would help alleviate some of the stress on your adrenals, and would contribute to helping to level blood sugar levels. If you're the kind of person who reaches for the 8th cup of coffee at 2pm, you might feel you are being kept captive by this cycle of blood sugar ups and downs. You would be a good contender to look at reducing that caffeine intake, and mitigating those cups you do have with some healthy fats.
Caffeine has been linked to increased blood pressure too; this is all part of the body's fight-or-flight reaction, originally meant to get us out of the saber-toothed tiger's way. While this survival mechanism served us well those many moons ago, consuming caffeine in excess can induce our body to be in that fight-or-flight mode more often than necessary. When this happens, we are setting the stage for low grade chronic inflammation, which is at the root of so many chronic diseases.
HOW TO STILL HAVE COFFEE AND MITIGATE THE EFFECTS OF IT:
Make it a dessert-y kind of coffee by adding something high in fat. Having the fat in the mix will help slow down the absorption of caffeine to the blood stream, which in turn will help moderate your adrenals' response. You can add a tbsp of ghee or coconut oil - coconut oil is best for someone with no gallbladder, as it is the easiest fat for your body to digest. Coconut butter or cocoa butter are good options here as well. You can use full fat whipping cream, it doesn't take much. Aim to not have any sugar in your beverage as well, as sugar further contributes to the tax on the adrenals and further exacerbating the whole fight-or-flight mechanism.
Another good idea if you are a regular consumer of coffee, in order to mitigate that extra stress on your adrenals, is to make sure to consume your coffee after a good meal. If your body is busy digesting and assimilating the eggs and avocado on toast you had for breakfast, it will release that hit of caffeine much slower to the bloodstream instead of a quick jolt you would get on an empty stomach. Slower release of caffeine ensures you aren't triggering that fight-or-flight reaction as well; unfortunately, when the fight-or-flight reaction is engaged, your body shuts down digestion in order to concentrate on the task at hand. Having a coffee solo first thing could contribute negatively here.
Additionally, some of the compounds found in coffee have been found to be mild irritants to the stomach lining and that of the intestinal lining; ensuring a good meal before having your cuppa will help protect those sensitive mucosal linings.
If you are curious to read more from the 'cut out the coffee consumption' camp, make sure to read this article. They explain the correlation between adrenals and mood, and how caffeine plays a big part here.
If you are someone who is wanting to love up your adrenals, keen to balance the blood sugars, realizing not everyone starts their day with 10 cups of coffee, or if you are wanting to reduce your consumption of caffeine, if you find you are wavering towards the no-coffee camp, there are some excellent options out there. Invest in some liver-loving Dandelion Root Tea, or better yet, harvest your own! (Skip the soy milk he suggests here, and go for one of the good fats mentioned above.)
On the subject of tea, you can switch one or more of your coffee cups for a steeped cuppa tea. While some tea does contain caffeine, it is much less than you would find in coffee. Green tea for instance is a fabulously rich in antioxidants tea that would benefit your adrenals, while satisfying that need for a warm bevy.
Wanting to take the caffeine right out? Reach for antioxidant-rich liver-loving herbal teas like rooibos and fruit flavoured herbal teas. You can also make yourself a medicinal mushroom hot chocolate like the one found here. There are many other options out there too, alternatives like chicory root or pre-made coffee alternative mixes you can find at your favourite health food store. Go play with your food!
One quick thing to note: caffeine is a diuretic, which means it pulls water out of your body and increases your urine output. (Yes, you pee more if you drink coffee.) Knowing this, just make sure you are replenishing those fluids and having an extra cup of water.
Good work my friend. I'm off to have my one cup of joe for the day. And you better believe I'm going to savour it and enjoy it. Thoroughly.