Is Coffee Bad for You?
Ahh the feeling of a freshly brewed coffee in the morning. Can’t beat it! Even so, plenty of people are “kicking the habit”, but we wouldn’t want to give up coffee without a pretty good reason. So we’re asking the question – is coffee bad for you?
As much as we love the stuff, a bit of digging reveals that coffee is in fact a bit of a grey area food. It has some pretty impressive pros, but a few cons you want to watch out for too! Here they are – we’ll let you decide:
Reasons to Love Coffee
There’s no denying that coffee is loaded with antioxidants, in the form of polyphenols. Here’s a little bit of science, so hold on!
Compounds in coffee are known to affect what’s called the Nrf2 pathway in our bodies, which activates gene pathways that reduce inflammation and increase antioxidant protection(1). Some studies have linked the anti-inflammatory effects of coffee (at 3 – 5 cups per day) to a significant decrease in risk of Alzheimers disease (2).
Further, a major study concluded that drinking coffee reduced risk of mortality from all causes, and specifically reduced the risk of death from lung disease, stroke, diabetes, some cancers and infections. Interestingly, since the protective effects of coffee do not come from the caffeine, subjects in this study also experienced benefits using decaf coffee (3).
Another great thing that not many people know about coffee is that it feeds our healthy gut bacteria. Our gut contains over 100 trillion bacteria, and the variety of these gut bugs (as well as which strains are predominant) has a huge impact on our overall health, and therefore our weight and appearance. Polyphenols not only feed our healthy strains, such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains, they also inhibit growth of some of the nasty ones!
Related: How To Get Clearer Skin, Naturally
So it seems that if you can tolerate a couple of cups per day (or more, even using decaf), coffee could be quite beneficial for health and wellbeing. Of course – we’re talking the best quality coffee you can find, preferably not in takeaway cups from the coffee shop (the thin plastic lining is loaded with BPA and phthalates, which you do not want to drink).
The “Dark Side” of Coffee
So…just when you were ready to drink up to your heart’s content – there are some coffee cons to consider. As with so many foods, not everyone will tolerate coffee well. And even for those who tolerate it, coffee may sometimes do more harm than good.
The thing is, coffee doesn’t always mix well with our stress-packed modern lifestyle.
Stress – especially long term, negative stress – has a huge impact on our bodies. In particular, it impacts our bodies in two ways:
1. stress draws heavily on our body’s mineral stores, including magnesium, zinc and calcium, leading to risk of deficiency, and
2. stress places hard demands on our adrenals to produce lots of cortisol (our “stress hormone”).
The bad news is, if you are experiencing long term or acute stress, throwing coffee into the mix will only make matters worse (been there – not pretty!). This is because coffee exacerbates both of the above effects of stress by not only increasing excretion of minerals including magnesium, potassium, sodium and phosphate, but also increasing the demands on your adrenals to produce cortisol. Our adrenals can become over-worked, leading to adrenal fatigue and cortisol issues.
Not sure if this applies to you? Adrenal fatigue is common and ranges from mild to severe, and a telltale sign is not being able to get up in the morning (and not feeling awake until the caffeine hit!). Another common symptom is feeling tired in the afternoon, but wired at night when it’s time for bed.
Related: How To Sleep Better | 5 Natural Tips
If this sounds a lot like you, hitting up the coffee could be exacerbating tiredness and causing you to experience greater feelings of stress and maybe even anxiety. I wish it weren’t true, but, there have been times in my life where cutting down on the coffee I “needed” to get out of bed was actually the trick to getting my energy back!
There’s a simple way I like to think about drinking coffee when I’m already stressed out, that goes a bit like this:
Drinking coffee when your adrenals are already struggling is a bit like borrowing tomorrow’s energy for today – at high interest!
If you think coffee could be making you tired, stressed or anxious, we recommend ramping down your intake over a couple of weeks. There’s no doubt caffeine is addictive, so it’s quite brutal on the body to stop overnight!
Once you are feeling better, it’s probably OK to reintroduce coffee (yes!) if you find you can tolerate it.
If you’re feeling good, waking up energised and coffee is giving you a natural lift (but not the gitters), we say go for it. Coffee has some real benefits!
But honestly, if you’re dragging yourself around hanging out for the next “pick-me-up” – listen to your body. It could be time to take a break from coffee, to recoup, back off the stress and carve out some well-needed time for self care. Not as delicious as a hot cuppa – but pretty close!
Coffee lovers out there – have you ever needed to take a break? How did it feel?