Ahhh. The morning cup of coffee. Such a pleasure, and so difficult for many of us to give up! New research is showing some amazing health benefits to drinking coffee. Coffee contains antioxidants and polyphenols. It has been shown to help with cancer prevention, dementia, depression, and even diabetes. Many people can enjoy coffee, and do not experience any direct health effects. However, what about the great many of us that struggle with autoimmune conditions? Is coffee safe for us to drink? Do the benefits outweigh any possible risks?
If you are amongst the many of us who struggle with autoimmune diseases, such as hashimoto’s thyroid, psoriasis, sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis (among many others), there are several things to consider regarding coffee. We hate to be the bearer of bad news for coffee drinkers! However, it’s important to make an educated decision when it comes to consuming coffee.
The first thing to consider if you have autoimmune issues, is that coffee is a seed. If you are following a strict Autoimmune Protocol, seeds are cut out of the diet for a period of time, and then reintroduced. Therefore, you would want to remove coffee for the first few weeks, along with any other seeds.
Leaky Gut, Gluten, and Cross Reactivity
If someone has an autoimmune condition, that person more than likely have what is known as “leaky gut” or intestinal hyperpermeability. People who have a leaky gut, are most likely reacting to gluten (amongst other proteins like dairy and soy). Although gluten is one of the main culprits here, coffee is often cross-reactive to gluten. What this means is that the body cannot tell the difference between the gluten molecules and coffee. The body may continue to struggle with flare-ups, similar to if the individual were still consuming gluten.
Adrenal Fatigue, Coffee, and Autoimmunity
Coffee stimulates the adrenals to release more cortisol, the “stress hormone.” We experience an increase in focus and energy after consuming coffee. However, long term, coffee can wreak havoc on our adrenals (especially if we are already struggling with fatigue due to our autoimmune issues). Adrenal fatigue is associated with weight gain, sleeping issues (insomnia), fatigue during the day, anxiety, depression, and anger. Adrenal fatigue is also associated with inability to handle daily life stressors. For those of us with autoimmune conditions, we are more likely to experience adrenal fatigue due to the stress of managing the symptoms, and the toll it takes on our body. Removing coffee from the diet will place less direct stress (or fuel on the fire) for the already drained adrenal gland.
Coffee also increases blood sugar and can cause cortisol spikes. This can lead to shakiness, feeling jittery, anxiety, restless, and even dizzy and nauseous. This has an affect not only on the adrenal gland, but also the immune system. We want to keep things calm when we struggle with autoimmune conditions, not “ramped up.”
Alternatives to Coffee?
Coffee is pleasurable, we know this. However, sometimes the hardest habits to quit are the ones we need to quit the most, because they are harming our body. It’s worth trying to give it up, and then reintroducing to see how your body reacts with and without coffee. What are some alternatives to try, that are less stimulating and taxing on the body? Sometimes we just need to have something warm to sip in the morning. We find comfort in that part of our morning routine!
Here are some alternative hot beverages you can sip on:
Herbal Teas: there are so many varieties to choose from, without the stimulation of caffeine
Bone Broth: coffee is a diuretic, and tends to pull minerals from the body. Therefore many coffee drinkers are mineral deficient. Bone broth is a great way to get minerals and healthy fats, while still enjoying something hot to sip on.
Choffy: Choffy is brewed cacao beans, it contains a healthier stimulant that is less taxing on the adrenals than coffee. However, keep in mind this is still a bean. If you are in the elimination phase of the Autoimmune Protocol, you will want to avoid this for the first several weeks.
Will you ever enjoy coffee again? It’s all about listening to your body and understanding what works and what doesn’t. I found that for me, coffee has a profound affect on my adrenals and my thyroid. I just seem to function better (less irritable) without out. I also realized that it has been very difficult for me to give up! I love the taste of it, and the ritual of sipping it in the morning. I have since switched to tea, but still a caffeinated type. This New Year I am vowing to switch to bone broth each and every morning!