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Friday, February 10, 2017

The Great Debate - To Coffee or Not to Coffee

Is Coffee Healthy? That is the question of the day lately in my circle of friends. I wrote an article Is Your Coffee Healthy a few years ago, but I thought it was time to approach this topic again, because I feel like coffee drinking is the American thing to do these days, and I wonder how this is affecting all of us.

Personally, I am not a coffee drinker. I would rather feel tired if my body is tired, so I can give my body what it really needs - more TLC and rest. BUT - I just got back from another trip to Costa Rica several weeks ago, and I had a wonderful time staying on an organic coffee plantation. I took the entire tour of the plantation, learned a ton of great info about coffee, and had an eye-opening coffee tasting experience.

I must be converted to a coffee drinker now, right? Actually no. I mean, I won't turn down an amazing cup of joe, but my husband, on the other hand, has now taken his coffee drinking to another level. He immediately bought a french press, hand coffee bean grinder, and the best organic whole beans to drink every day. It's pretty awesome to research your food and drink to this level, so I am proud of him for not settling for mediocre coffee after we learned and tasted the best of the best.

Back to the questions at hand. My super-smart researcher friend Katie Mulinix had a great answer and much insight to share on this topic, and I'm thankful she allowed me to share it with all of you.

Is Coffee good for us?

Short answer:  Quality coffee brewed well is generally an okay thing to enjoy. It depends on how much you NEED coffee, as well as the state of certain aspects of your health. If you NEED coffee, your health is less than optimal. The easier it is for you to drop coffee, the better your health is. Also, it can be too hard on the body if you have certain health issues.

Long answer:  The NEED for coffee likely stems from a circadian rhythm issue and a lack of melatonin recycling that slows your electron chain transport--which drives your mitochondria's ability to produce energy to fuel your day--and coffee is the crutch many use to fix that issue....it doesn't fix the cellular level melatonin issue, but is a crutch to overcome that. If it's one off day, this is easily recovered from. But daily NEED means you should address those issues, because downstream repercussions are also potentially looming (like hormone issues, as melatonin signaling is an aspect of sulfating cholesterol to make Vitamin D and the more common hormones like progesterone). Coffee NEED is an indicator of brewing other issues, not the cause of them, except in the case of adrenal issues or potentially in high blood pressure. [Steps to reduce one's NEED for coffee--besides reducing your intake--aren't hard but take diligence, assuming you don't have bigger issues like adrenal fatigue or high blood pressure...though those steps also help those issues too...if anyone is interested, let me know, I am not going to go on about that here, now.]

If you don't have high blood pressure or adrenal fatigue, generally speaking it's fine to have a cup. But coffee has the ability to turn into a crutch, whether it's coffee itself or life changes (like not minding your circadian rhythm) that drive the need for a crutch.

As for the coffee itself, it has a lot of nice health benefits....but it can be hard on the body too. Even seemingly healthier coffees like bulletproof can cause issues.... bulletproof coffee can cause glucose to rise in those prone to issues (also depends on the ingredients used and their affect on one's body) and upregulate other pathways in the body  that aren't beneficial; if you add cream and sugar, those need to be quality too (no need to put extra chemicals or inflammation-promoting conventional dairy into your coffee).

The hardest part about coffee is the way it can be both a WANT and a NEED but the want feeds the need until the need for the crutch grows and grows and then you have downstream implications. It can be good for you, until it's not. And then it can be tough to extract yourself from needing it AND you have bigger issues to deal with, issues that often can drive you to wanting more coffee.

However, stressing too much about anything can have worse affects on the body, so there is that aspect, too. Making an educated decision is almost always a great thing, but just keep listening to your body and paying attention to the feedback it gives you let's you know if it's a good thing or not. Stressing about whether or not it's a good decision adds cloudiness to everything you are trying to figure out. 


Katie's personal experience:
I used to drink shots and shots of espresso in massive flavored/sweetened lattes. No surprise, my health was tanking and I had adrenal fatigue, among a laundry list of other issues. I don't think coffee was the key driver (though the loads of milk and sugar were contributing factors, among many other things like endless hours at a stressful job and brewing health issues), as my other issues were major, but in retrospect it was a huge indicator of my tanking health.

I have taken major breaks from coffee for various reasons over the past few years, to heal adrenal fatigue and to do the intro to AIP [the Autoimmune Protocol], which was a key piece in turning off my immune system overdrive that was attacking my thyroid and I have healed a lot of my Hashimoto's hypothyroidism as a result....to be clear, it wasn't just giving up coffee that did this, but was part of a broader plan. 

I have settled into a place where I have a coconut milk latte sweetened with maple syrup 3-6 times a week. And it's a small, personal size French press that yields 6-8 oz of coffee, not 12 oz, per cup.
I found that, personally, I missed the ritual and comfort of a cup of something warm (or cold in summer!), but tea has never cut it for me in the same way. I also need the fat from the coconut milk and the fullness in my belly for better functioning. I rarely ever NEED coffee at this point but it's a really nice to have. I NEED the fat and the belly fullness, but those stem from those health issues I hinted at. I am definitely at the WANT stage and sometimes after a tough night, the NEED stage, but that's a short lived thing now that I have dialed in my health, and that's an indication of my greatly improved health, and a solid place to be in regards to coffee.  

So - friends - those are our two cents. Take them or leave them. The bottom line is listen to your body and make educated decisions. :-)
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