Literally I would be in heaven if my career could be traveling the world tasting coffee. Unfortunately this is such a controversial topic for both the AMA and Functional Medicine communities. This is a hard issue for me because I love the whole coffee scene. I am currently at a coffee shop writing this blog because I can’t be productive anywhere else. I had recently been on a mission to visit all the coffee shops in Los Angeles (Tickle Tree, Romancing The Bean, Lavender&Honey) and while I made a dent, I moved to Northern California and did not get through them all. So as you can tell, I love my coffee and this is an issue I am still working on, so no judgement to those out there who are addicted. I get it completely. I do however feel that all of us need to know the full effects of what we’re putting into our bodies and maybe knowing can at least help in some of our choices we make for our health.
I have gone on detoxes where I’ve had to take out caffeine for up to 3 weeks and man it was tough. For me it’s not the caffeine, but the flavor of an iced latte, so it’s hard for me to forgo it. One reason coffee can be harmful to your body is how addictive it is. According to Health Research Funding, over 38 million Americans drink up to 3 cups of coffee a day and 3 out of those 4 coffee drinkers are actually addicted to caffeine.That’s pretty scary to me and I can’t fully say that I am not one of those 3 people. Coffee can cause you to crave cream, sugar, cakes and other kinds of sweets and refined carbohydrates. This is an obvious bummer because of how bad these foods are and how they can contribute to weight gain. Coffee can also curb your appetite which can replace the real whole foods that your body needs. I don’t know about you but I don’t just drink black coffee. I love my iced flavored almond milk lattes with Splenda which are all not the healthiest of options. It can be a slippery slope with all these additives. If you are struggling with caffeine, maybe a good place to start is to make note of how much coffee you are drinking per day and then assess from there. If you realize you drink 3 cups a day maybe try to cut down to 2. Notice what time of day you are consuming the coffee. A lot of people will have their second cup around 2 or 3pm and this is because of sluggishness and exhaustion. This is because of poor blood sugar control and I will talk about this is my next post because it has been a huge thing for me!
Now back to the unfortunate culprit, caffeine. One cause of caffeine can be adrenal fatigue. This is not a fun symptom and I know because this is also something I suffer from. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the level of a hormone called cortisol increases greater then your body’s ability is to handle stress. You can often feel tired but wired and can’t fall asleep or you have an irregular heartbeat. If you suffer from this, chances are when more stressful situations occur your body will start to break down You can start to develop poor digestion, mood disorders, hormonal imbalance and can hurt your immune system. If you are noticing any of these issues for yourself then maybe you need to take a little break from caffeine to see if it is the reason for some of your health issues. If this sounds absolutely impossible try switching to half calf at first or if you are like me and love the flavor, try switching to decaf. Beware that if you cut caffeine out you will most definitely have intense migraines so try to do it during a lower stress week if you can. Your friends and family will appreciate it.
Another issue with coffee is how acidic it is on the stomach. Coffee is one substance that can harm the lining in your gut from the gas it creates. If the gut is irritated due to coffee the symptoms can result in pain, poor digestion or symptoms you can’t notice in the immune system. Coffee can be really toxic to your system if you already suffer from adrenal fatigue or have an already acidic stomach. If you are like me and have an imbalance of stomach acid, you should look for less acidic and healthier grown beans. Here are some great tips I found from “Rodale’s Organic Life” on finding healthier coffees.
If you want to enjoy coffee but don’t want to expose yourself to chemical solvents, the easiest thing to do is try dark-roasted coffees first. Here are a few tips on reading labels:
• Look for geographic names. Some coffee companies are explicit and label coffees as “medium roast” or “dark roast.” Others, however, use coffee terminology to describe their roasts, and more often than not the names are geographic. Medium-dark roasts include Viennese, Full City, Light French, Continental, After-Dinner, and European. The next level up includes French, Espresso, Italian, and Turkish roasts, followed by Neapolitan or Spanish roasts. Those last two have been roasted so long at such high temperatures that they usually taste burned or charred. Another upside to drinking darker roasts is that they have lower levels of caffeine, which can trigger stomach irritation. But if caffeine continues to irritate your stomach, opt for dark-roasted decaf.
• Pay attention to color. Coffee beans start out green and then turn brown as they’re roasted, gradually growing darker until they’re nearly black for the darkest roasts. If you’re shopping somewhere that allows you to see the beans before you buy them, you can usually tell by looking at the color whether it’s a dark or a medium roast.
• Remember the trifecta. While you’re shopping for stomach-friendly coffee, remember to buy certified-organic coffee (grown without pesticides), Fair Trade Certified coffee (grown by farmers in developing countries who were paid above-market rates for their crops), and shade-grown or Bird Friendly coffees (which were grown under shade canopies that serve as habitats for native birds). Not only are these better for the planet, but they also have higher levels of antioxidants and are therefore better for you.
I understand this article may be very depressing for some. I am not suggesting you completely condemn coffee and ban it from your life, but I am suggesting maybe we take more notice of what it could be doing to our bodies. Talk to your doctor if you think it is an issue for you. I have tried to replace one to two drinks a week with a caffeine free tea. Yes I know that tea is nothing like coffee in any way shape or form, but I have found that drinks such as vanilla rooibos tea lattes with almond milk can be delicious. It has been fun to see what other drinks are out there that I might enjoy. I have been making peppermint tea and adding some organic honey then putting over ice. YUM!! Don’t get me wrong I still have my lattes and I always get decaf to appease my conscious. Don’t give up! It is possible to break the addiction from coffee. I have cut it down to 2-3 drinks a week now, as opposed to my 3-4 per day. I still enjoy my hang outs at cute coffee shops and can still do work at them but I don’t always get coffee. I am not perfect at all but I have at least made a pretty big change which I am proud of. You don’t have to give up happiness and something you really enjoy, instead you can make some changes for the benefit of your body! Try to search for healthier grown beans that have less additives. Try to reduce how many artificial substances you put in your coffee as well. If you use a sweet creamer, try to use a vanilla almond or coconut milk. Try some sugar in the raw or stevia instead of Splenda or Equal. Throw a cinnamon stick in a cup of hot coffee for some added flavor. If you have some suggestions for yummy caffeine free drinks please share with us! Happy health guys!!