Coffee does have some beneficial properties but it’s important to look at the big picture. The benefits from coffee can easily be gained in other healthier ways that don’t also have negative/harmful side effects.
Coffee, like any food or drink, varies a great deal in its nutritional value based on the quality and freshness of the coffee beans. From a nutritional standpoint, the best part about drinking coffee comes from the high levels of antioxidants. However, nearly all studies that lift up the benefits of coffee consumption have two things in common: 1) They ignore any non-beneficial properties and 2) the benefits achieved come from small doses of coffee as opposed to the large quantity that most people are consuming today. In other words, if you are someone who is otherwise healthy, you may have no issues with drinking a small cup of freshly ground organic coffee each day. However, if you’re already nutritionally depleted, struggle drinking coffee in small doses and/or only like your coffee loaded with cream and sugar, you’d likely do better to avoid it altogether.
What is the issue with coffee and why is it a problem?
Issue #1 – Dehydration? There is some controversy about the degree of dehydration that occurs from drinking coffee. But here’s the better question: What’s the best way to get/stay HYDRATED? A healthy body is over 70% water and even a slight dehydration can cause dramatic and dangerous shifts in physiology. Water in coffee form is far less hydrating to the body than pure water or green juices. This becomes an even bigger challenge if you’re adding dairy, sugar or chemicals to your coffee.
Issue #2 – Acidic pH. Coffee is extremely acidic, which is a major factor for balancing the pH of your body. (Your pH is one of the simplest and best indicators of good health.)
Issue #3 – Poor teeth enamel. The acid in coffee is really hard on the enamel of your teeth. As the enamel is worn down, you are more likely to suffer from painful and costly dental infections.
Issue #4 – Liver health. Coffee in excess tends to congest the liver. Your liver controls cholesterol, many of your hormones and, in part, the digestion of fats. You liver is also one of your body’s primary detoxifiers. Anything done to harm the liver impacts all of these areas.
Issue #5 – Adrenal gland issues. Coffee hurts your adrenal glands due to the caffeine. You might feel energy initially but you’re headed for a major energy crash in the long run. Your adrenal glands help your body adapt to handle stress. A compromise of the adrenal glads will hinder your resiliency to the natural stressors of life.
Issues #6 – Toxicity. Coffee is a highly treated crop. If you are drinking non-organic coffee, you’re being exposed to many chemicals— the beans themselves of course, but even more so when you heat them (as adding heat magnifies the diffusion of nearly any substance).
Coffee contains caffeine. (Did you know that even decaf can still contain up to 25% of the amount in black coffee?) Of course the damaging effects of caffeine are dose depending (meaning that you will see more damage with more coffee— 8 ounces per week will cause less damage than 8 ounces per day or, in most people’s scenarios, 24 ounces per day).
What about “healthy” coffee?
Some companies have marketed their coffee as “health promoting.” I won’t mention any names/brands, but their premise is along these lines: “People are going to drink coffee anyway so we might as well make it ‘healthy’.” This is really more of a marketing strategy than anything health related. I have personally tested these products energetically (using an advanced form of applied kinesiology), and without fail the vast majority of them don’t test good. It is easier for a doctor, nutritionist, a product-sales person or any other health practitioner to just give in and figure out how to tell people what they want to hear, that coffee is somehow good for you. Although I know that you might like it more if I were to do that, sorry… I just can’t… I love you too much! The truth is, coffee is not health promoting.
So, are there any benefits to drinking coffee?
Yes, of course. There are antioxidants, polyphenols, etc., but they come with a cost you don’t want to pay that goes far beyond your $7 bill at Starbucks. It’s similar to the benefits of red wine— while there are indeed benefits, there are lots of ways to get those benefits from sources with little to no drawback. Here’s an example: blueberries also have antioxidants but they don’t harm the liver, adrenal glands or skin. When you think about the benefits of coffee and weigh out the pros and cons, instead of asking, “How much can I get away with?” let’s ask, “How can I get these benefits without the cons?”.
Keep this question in the back of your mind: How far can we go to achieve and maintain OPTIMAL health?
How can I stop?
If you are one of the thousands of Americans who are addicted to coffee, there is hope! You may have tried to stop drinking coffee and felt negative effects… your energy leaves, headaches persist and constipation may have set in. This can deplete your motivation to reduce or stop your daily habit. However, there IS a way to avoid this withdrawal effect— Here’s the step-by-step process:
- Bedtime routine. Change your evening routine so that you are doing everything you can to get enough good quality sleep. Wind down early and seek to be sound asleep by 10pm at the latest (and earlier if you’re not feeling 100% or if you have to get up before 6am).
- Drink water. Ensure that you are drinking enough water during the day— half your weight in ounces is a minimum (remembering that most people need more).
- Reduce reasonably. Depending on how much coffee you are currently drinking, reduce it by 10-20% per week rather than going cold turkey. (This is also a personality preference… if you’re able to cut it out instantly, go ahead! Just be sure you’re supporting yourself adequately to get through the detoxification.)
- Morning exercise. Add exercise to your morning routine… Even if it’s just 5 minutes! This can activate your energy naturally.
- Go outside. Get outside for a few minutes in the morning. This helps to regulate your circadian rhythms and increases morning energy. The goal is to get exposure to natural light. This works even in the dark winter days despite the cloud cover.
- Exchange drinks. If you still want something hot in the morning, an organic herbal tea can be great. Tulsi/Holy Basil tea can be super helpful as it’s an adaptogenic herb. Be health supporting instead of health depleting!
- B vitamins. Increase B vitamins via food and/or supplementation (most people need both). A green smoothie is a great way to do this! As far as supplements, I use and have clients use a liquid supplement called Max B (you can check it out here).
While you are in the process of coming out of your coffee habit, here are some things to keep in mind.
- Get the best quality coffee that you can find. Coffee is a highly sprayed crop so it is important to get a clean organic source.
- Increase your water intake to be at least half your weight in ounces PLUS one additional ounce for every ounce of coffee you drink. (So, for example, if you weigh 200 pounds and drink 20 ounces of coffee per day, you need at least 100 ounces PLUS 20 ounces of water per day.)
- Follow the 7 steps above to help you reduce and eliminate coffee!
PS— I do occasionally recommend using coffee for coffee enemas in specific circumstances (short-term and done in a specific way)… but that’s a story for another day:)
Feel free to share this post with your coffee drinking friends!
Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease. It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.