The pros and cons of coffee

Most of us LOVE coffee, and for a good reason – it gives us energy, and many of us cannot imagine starting the day without it! While others may have more of a love-hate relationship with coffee, loving the boost of energy but dreading its side effects. For many of us, the nuances of coffee are unclear; what are the benefits and drawbacks of drinking coffee, is coffee right for everyone, and what other coffee alternatives are there? In today’s post, we will cover these topics to give you more clarity on coffee. 

What is coffee

Simply put, coffee is a beverage made from the roasted seeds (“beans”) of the coffee plant. Coffee beans are rich in caffeine, a natural stimulant affecting the brain and Central Nervous System, increasing alertness and combatting fatigue. 

Caffeine is primarily broken down in the liver, where the rate that it is metabolized varies among people. This is why some people can tolerate three cups of coffee with few side effects, while others feel jittery even thinking about having a cup. 

Benefits of coffee

Aside from a boost in energy, coffee has its benefits mainly due to its profile rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are key players in fighting free radical damage and helping to protect your cells. 

Potential benefits of coffee on your health: 

  • Protective against neurodegenerative diseases
  • Protective against some cancers (oral, pharyngeal, colon, liver, endometrial cancer, and melanoma)
  • Protective of liver health
  • Protective of heart health
  • Protective against diabetes 
  • Protective against depression
  • Increases energy and concentration 
  • Lowers risk of specific GI diseases

It’s also important to note that while coffee has many potential benefits, the way you take your coffee matters. For example, if your coffee is filled with sugar, cream, and flavorings, this is going to be very different than just drinking coffee black. 

Reevaluating how you drink your coffee to reap its benefits is advantageous for your health (think: substituting sugar for cinnamon, using organic milk or an organic dairy alternative, skipping out on those artificial flavorings, and getting creative with real ones instead like vanilla extract and cocoa powder).  

Drawbacks of coffee

Coffee likely has caused undesirable side effects in most coffee drinkers at one point or another, mainly due to its stimulant: caffeine. 

Cons of coffee: 

  • Digestive upset (diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, & abdominal pain) – caused by the release of gastrin, a hormone that stimulates movement of the digestive tract, and low acidity 
  • Fluctuations in mood (particularly anxiety and irritability) – caffeine is a stimulant that triggers the release of adrenaline which may worse feelings of anxiety and nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances and insomnia 
  • May suppresses appetite, leading to reduced intake of nutrient-dense foods
  • Lowers absorption of nutrients such as magnesium and B vitamins

In addition to these more obvious drawbacks of coffee, certain conditions may benefit from limiting or removing caffeine. 

  • Histamine Intolerance – coffee is high in histamines
  • Hormone Imbalance  – can increase cortisol and blood sugar levels, negatively impacting hormones
  • Adrenal Fatigue – coffee may seem like the solution given the fatigue, but in reality, caffeine stresses the body out even more, exacerbating the problem
  • GI conditions (Celiac, IBD, IBS) – coffee is acidic and increases gastric secretions, which can harm the gut lining and cause distress 

If you are suffering from any of the above, coffee may be the culprit. Even though it’s hard, we suggest limiting or eliminating coffee from your diet for a period of time (even just 1 week to start) to observe how it impacts your body. 

Coffee alternatives 

Even though coffee is a staple, many people find that they actually feel more energetic and better all-around when they swap out their coffee for an alternative. 

Some of our favorite coffee alternatives: 

  • Dandelion tea – tastes super similar to coffee (this is great for my histamine people)
  • Yerba Mate – good source of energy and well-tolerated by people with IBD
  • Matcha – provides long-lasting energy without the crash, whole promoting a sense of calmness and concentration 
  • Dandy blend 
  • Chaga tea 
  • Chicory root tea 
  • Four Sigmatic mushroom blends (does have some coffee, but lower amounts)
  • MUD/WTR (does have some caffeine, but no coffee included!)

The Bottom Line

Coffee has its pros and cons. While coffee can positively affect your health, I find that many people do better without it (or at least less). If you do choose to drink coffee, we recommend purchasing a quality, organic coffee blend because of the harmful mycotoxins and mold that is often found in traditional coffee. Tuning in to your body and possibly even eliminating and reintroducing coffee is a great way to understand its impact on your body better. Additionally, there’s a handful of great coffee alternatives you can play around with! 

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