Coffee is a very controversial topic in functional medicine. There are some that consider it a super food, while others consider it a poisonous drug. What’s the deal?
If someone asks me, “is coffee okay for me?”. I will have to answer the same way I do for most things, “it depends”. Here I will discuss the pros and cons to help you determine if coffee is right for you. Spoiler alert: Coffee is healthy for those in good health!
What is good about coffee?
It turns out that coffee is super high in specific types of antioxidants called polyphenols. This supports our immune system and decreases risk of disease. That’s number one! Most research done on coffee is overwhelmingly positive. Polyphenols have also been shown to help with weight loss in multiple ways. For these reasons I consider 8-16 oz a day of organic coffee a great addition to a healthy lifestyle for many (but not all) individuals.
What is bad about coffee?
Everyone is different and what one person thrives on could be bad for someone else. Also, what is bad for us today might be a good option in a couple years. Confused yet? Let me explain…
Let’s say someone has a lot of stress and isn’t sleeping well. They notice that if they go more than a few hours without eating, they can’t concentrate and get really tired. They drink 3 cups of coffee a day just to function. They come to see me and we test their blood sugar and cortisol levels. Labs come back and sure enough they are showing signs of low blood sugar and adrenal fatigue.
The caffeine in coffee is awful for those with adrenal fatigue. It only adds fuel to the fire. This is especially true when coffee is taken on an empty stomach after fasting all night. Once your adrenals are strong and you have maintained a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can likely have coffee again in moderation.
The example above is one of the most common reasons for needing to eliminate coffee. However, there are other situations as well. For instance, some people are slow metabolizers of coffee (it’s genetic), so the caffeine has a stronger impact on them. Those individuals should limit or avoid coffee, depending on how sensitive they are to it.
If all this isn’t complicated enough, some people with autoimmune conditions do better on coffee, while others actually feel worst. How does this happen? Coffee is thought to stimulate a part of our immune system (TH-2). This is great for healthy individuals where the immune system is in balance. However, often times in autoimmune conditions the immune system is not balanced. People can be dominant in one part of the immune response and weak in another area of the immune response (commonly referred to as TH-1 or TH-2 dominance). If you are TH-1 dominant then coffee could be great since it helps lift up TH-2 and tries to balance things out a bit. However, if you are TH-2 dominant and drink coffee, this will only make you more TH-2 dominant and exacerbate the imbalance in your immune system. This is one example of the many complexities of the human body and why it is important to work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider.
What about the naysayers ?
Interestingly, while people apposing coffee often mention how it could negatively impact sleep, most of them focus on the fact that it is considered an “acidic” food or claim there are fundamental issues with coffee on an “energetic” level. For sure I have heard people say how they felt much better after weaning off of coffee. Touting benefits such as better sleep and more energy. Unfortunately, there really isn’t any scientific evidence to back up this theory of coffee being bad for everyone since it is “acidic” or has a fundamental flaw “energetically”.
If you are healthy and living a healthy lifestyle, 8-16 oz a day of organic coffee can be a healthy option.
If you have energy issues, sleep issues, have a sensitivity to caffeine, or have an autoimmune condition, you should work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider to see if it is right for you.
Coffee Tips (and alternatives):
Buy organic! Coffee is notoriously highly sprayed with pesticides.
Love the taste, smell, and ritual of coffee, but need to stay away? Try Teechino brand coffee alternatives. These are delicious and caffeine free!
Try and stick with no more than 8-16 oz of coffee a day.
Instead of junky non-dairy creamers try: Califia or Silk brand almond milk creamer, or try some decadent canned coconut milk. Stick it in the refrigerator and open it up. The cream is at the top and a similar consistency as thick whip cream. Add a spoon full of that to your coffee for a super rich treat loaded with healthy fats!
Instead of conventional half and half, buy organic grass-fed cream to use in your coffee.
For those that need it sweet, my favorite sweetener in coffee is real maple syrup. Yum! Green powder stevia or dehydrated cane juice is also a big step up from the artificial sweeteners and the white stuff.
Alkalinize with immune supporting mushroom ganoderma. This is basically a super food that can be added to the coffee that doesn’t change the flavor. Many companies sell this as something to add to coffee or already blended with coffee. Just make sure the coffee is organic!