Like so many things we consume in this world there is no clear line to answer this question. It is more about you and your body - how it processes caffeine, are you allergic to it, the quality of coffee beans, how you drink it and of course the even bigger reason, why do you drink it. So, here's what you need to know:
1 // There is a gene and enzyme, both called CYP1A2, and because coffee is metabolized through the liver if you have the two copies of this gene (one from each parent) you are considered a fast metabolizer of caffeine, meaning it will affect you less than someone who has only one or none of this gene. You can do the 23&Me test to see if you have this gene variant and others. And for those that are fast metabolizers, it’s been show that 1-3 cups of coffee daily can reduce your risk of heart attack, thought to come from the good antioxidants and polyphenols. Those without this gene show that coffee (caffeine) may contribute to heart attack.1
2 // Yes, you can be allergic to coffee. Sad I know. I also know because I used to be allergic to it. How do you know? You can do a food sensitivities test or an elimination challenge. Eating food we are allergic to causes an immune reaction in our body that causes it to think that they need to protect our bodies from that substance and can lead to leaky gut and a host of other symptoms in our body as a reaction and if not controlled can lead to autoimmune diseases and cancers. Additionally, if you are allergic to it, it's not the end of the world, simply an extended break from it (I have lots of great substitutes for you if you'd like) and healing your gut and then you should be set to enjoy your coffee again.
3 // Coffee and/or caffeine does improve athletic performance in most people, and best in those that are fast metabolizers of caffeine. 1
4 // Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it is very dehydrating. It is also acidic and can mess with our digestive system. Both of these cause our bowels to move faster than normal and don’t allow the body to absorb all the proper amounts of nutrients in the food we consume.
5 // It is a stimulant, often why most of us consume it, to wake up in the morning or alert from that afternoon slump. However, if there are any adrenal health issues or imbalanced hormones this can further elevate our stress hormone cortisol and cause a host of issues, including imbalanced blood sugar, which often leads to afternoon sweet or salt cravings and over eating in the evening.
6 // Coffee is an appetite suppressant. This messes with balanced blood sugar and ultimately our hormones.
7 // How do you drink your coffee? Often it's not black. It can be loaded with sugars and milks, and if not carefully chosen we can be consuming a lot more toxins than just the caffeine. So, when I have my cup of coffee daily here are my rules:
- Eat something first, this will have the least effect on blood sugar and our stress hormones, this will help prevent that coffee crash or the jitters that we sometimes feel.
- Drink a high-quality coffee, organic (this means no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals, good for our bodies and the earth) and fair or direct trade (this cuts out the middle men and gives money to the small farmers producing more quality beans) also coffee attracts mold fast, this ensures its as fresh as it gets.
- If you need creamer, try an organic milk, with no sugar, or make your own nut milk sweetened with dates.
- Add in some good fats like coconut oil, ghee, or Brain Octane Oil, this slows down the absorption of caffeine into your blood stream, think less jitters
- Add in cinnamon to balance your blood sugar better and make it naturally sweeter without the sugars and empty calories.
- Add in some herbs like reishi for immune, rhodiola for energy or pine pollen for allergy help.
8 // So despite all this should you drink coffee? Maybe? Maybe not. Just because you always have doesn’t mean you are always meant to. Our bodies change. If you ever start to feel jittery, anxious, indigestion, have trouble sleeping, or just feel off when consuming coffee it might be a sign to take a break for a bit. Don't worry. You can always come back to it down the road. Be aware of what you put in your body and how it makes you feel. Only you know the answer to that. Often if we are thinking about it being an issue, it usually is. Trust your gut, literally and figuratively.
9 // This begs the question: why do you drink coffee? Do you love the taste? Do you love the ritual? Are you simply trying to function? Be honest with yourself here. If the answer is that you enjoy it, then please enjoy it. But if you feel like you can't function without it then a deeper conversation needs to happen. What else is going in your physical body and how we that be healed naturally without stimulants? Also, know that afternoon slump is very natural, even if your blood sugar is balanced most peoples’ energy dips between 2-4pm. So rather than pushing through it with coffee, which increase your stress hormones (the opposite of what you need, more stress), try a quick 10-minute walk outside or 3-minute meditation or some mildly stimulating herbal tea (like ginkgo or gotu kola) or a green juice.
10 // But decaf is fine right? Not necessarily. Have you ever thought about how they get that caffeine out of that little bean? It’s a big process involving a lot of chemicals and you don’t now exactly how much caffeine is still left. However, if you do consume decaf, always opt for the swiss-water process. This is the most natural process - they take the green bean and soak it in water until the caffeine dissolves. It’s 99.9% caffeine free.
11 // If you are anything like me, you love the ritual of making and drinking your cuppa joe in the morning while reading the paper or iPad. The hardest part of all of this is changing your routine. A few things you can try, start your morning with a cup of water with lemon, since the body is already dehydrated from a night of sleep this is particularly great to start the day. Or try a cup of herbal coffee like Herbal Revolution Roasted Root or Dandy Blend first thing in the morning then have your 6-8 ounce cup of coffee with breakfast.
Now, after all that information, if you are wondering where I personally stand with my coffee habits, I will tell you I LOVE my cup of coffee every morning, but it hasn't always been this way. And I am often going days, weeks without it to test myself and see how I feel about it. I also don't use it for energy to get out of bed and I usually have a cup of herbal tea first thing in the morning before I enjoy my coffee and breakfast. But I am one of those peopel that love the ritual of it and the taste. I love freshly grinding the beans every morning by hand or with my electric burr grinder depending on the day, then I use a steal pour over (different than the picture above) with a Hario Kettle. And I am definitely particular about what type I drink and how I drink it. I usually follow the rules above in #7. Now, all that aside, I generally have 1 cup a day, which is why it has to be a damn good cup. On the weekends, I will allow myself 2 cups if I am feeling it. And nothing ever after morning so it doesn't have any chance of disrupting my sleep, but 2pm is the absolute cut off time.
Lastly, if you do have a cup or two of coffee, make it the best possible cup and here's the key: ENJOY IT. Often the judgement of what we “should” be doing beings more stress to our physical and mental bodies that THAT is what does more harm than letting that “should” go and just enjoying. Listen to how you feel and don’t fear change. Without change there is no growth. If nothing changed what a boring world we would live in.
“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” – Leo Tolstoy
What's your favorite way to drink coffee? And if you have any questions about this or your consumption, let's chat!