Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

My Love/Hate Relationship With Coffee

Mmmm, coffee.   The smell of it in the morning is comforting and welcoming and I have always loved the taste of a good cup of coffee.  When I was little and I stayed overnight with my grandparents, I would get up early with my grandfather before he went to work for toast and coffee.  They used a stovetop percolator pot and with pre-ground, sit on the shelf, store-bought stuff, Papa made the perfect cup of coffee.  I now have that old pot, along with a larger capacity Corningware ceramic percolator, an automatic drip and an espresso pot.  I would still like to aquire a French press.  I buy beans fresh from the coffee roaster in my town and grind them myself.  Yes, some would say that I love coffee.  But, there are two sides to every story, especially a love story. 

 Too much caffeine from coffee makes my heart race, my hands shake, and forget about sleeping if I drink it after 3p.  When I have patients come in who suffer from anxiety, sleeplessness, hot flashes, and skin irritations, one of the first things I ask is how much coffee they drink.  The standard answer is 2 cups a day.   After having asked many people this question, I am not surprised to learn that the meaning and size of 2 cups a day is widely variable and often translates into 24 oz or more per day. But they always seem surprised at my suggestion to cut back some.  The caffeine amount in coffee is measured in 5 ounce servings so 24 oz. is almost 5 servings per day of a very acidic beverage and quite a bit of caffeine.  And some people definitely drink even more that. 

 So while about 300mg of caffeine in 10 oz of coffee is well tolerated in an otherwise healthy adult, 750 mg might be pushing it as far as the body’s detoxification processes can handle, and just might have some effect on sleep and nervousness since caffeine is a stimulant.  Coffee as an herb is also warming and acts as a diuretic; hot flashes and urgent, frequent urination anyone?

For the love of coffee…Research of late is revealing the anti-oxidant power of coffee and subsequent risk reduction of liver, kidney, breast, and colorectal cancers.   Short-term negative effects of coffee are an increase in blood pressure and serum cholesterol but there may be some long-term cardioprotective benefits of drinking caffeine and coffee in moderate amounts and coffee seems to lower the incidence of type-2 diabetes possibly because certain compounds in coffee lower blood glucose levels.   

And for the haters…Those who believe in a link between acidic blood chemistry and disease are all for cutting back on the café.  The ph of coffee is 5 which is acidic.  When our blood is acidic, the alkalizing minerals calcium and magnesium are leached from the bones.  This activity is not good for bone health and deficiency of these minerals is related to sleep problems, headaches and muscle spasms.   In addition, a low pH disrupts normal cell division and abnormal or uncontrolled cell division can lead to cancer conditions.  Though if coffee has anti-oxidants then one could argure that it’s basically a wash. 

So is Mother nature just doing her thing by creating the perfect balance? Are coffee lovers just trying to support and rationalize their addiction?  Are coffee haters just depriving themselves of this tasty beverage as a rebellion to the coffee gluttony?  Is the current research sponsored by Starbuck’s? 

My answer to these questions is that yes, Mother nature has provided something to us that probably is a perfect balance and that we, per usual, ruin it through greed and gluttony.  If you are drinking so much coffee that you cannot function in the morning yet cannot sleep at night then it’s time to cut back.  If not drinking coffee causes severe headaches and constipation then it’s time to cut back.   If you drink more coffee than water, it’s time to cut back.  If you have anxiety, hot flashes, and irritable bladder, it may be time to cut back.  Some people feel better when they completely cut out coffee but I prefer to change my behavior and moderate versus abstain from something I enjoy.  As for the last question, I really would be curious to see who sponsor this type of research.

 Anyway, what can we moderate, wishy-washy, non-abstainers do to continue to enjoy Mother nature’s perfection, reap the benefits of our beloved coffee, and avoid the negatives? 

  1. There is the possibility of buying de-acidified coffee or doing it yourself:    Grind one pound of coffee beans and add it to 8 cups of water in a glass bowl or large pitcher, place the mixture in a cool dark corner and allow it to soak for approximately 16 hours.  Filter the liquid extract through a coffee or fabric filter into a glass jar.  Store the sealed jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and to make your coffee, add 1-2 T to 8 oz of hot water. (from Healing With Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford).
  2. Try the coffee holiday.  Give your body a break and go one whole day without it, then if you are really feeling crazy try a couple of days or even a week.  Pick a weekend day or other more flexible day where you can not drink coffee and then when you feel the deep fatigue or withdrawal headache coming, you can take a nap.  Depending on the severity of your addiction, you could ease into it by replacing the cup o’ joe with some green tea and definitely remember to drink lots of water.
  3. Address your exhaustion and other symptoms.  If you NEED 6 cups of coffee to get through a day (30oz) you probably also need to get more sleep and make other healthier lifestyle changes.  If you have some of the other symptoms mentioned in this article, chances are that coffee consumption is only a part of the problem so go visit your acupuncturist for some help!
  4. Buy organic, as local as possible, and invest in a grinder.  Coffee can be toxic due to chemicals involved in the cultivation and processing, and the oils go rancid quickly once it is ground.  Reduce these risks by buying organic beans from the nearest roaster.  Then grind those beans fresh as needed and you will produce a better tasting and healthier cup of coffee.  Enjoy!

Cancer Lett. 2009 May 18;277(2):121-5. Epub 2008 Oct 1
Pharmacol Ther. 2009 Feb;121(2):185-91. Epub 2008 Nov 11
Am J Cardiol. 2008 Dec 1;102(11):1502-8. Epub 2008 Sep 11.
Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Dec;33(6):1290-300
Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Dec;33(6):1269-83.
Healing With Whole Foods 3rd Edition, Paul Pitchford


August 3, 2009 - Posted by | acupuncture, health info you should know, nutrition, self-care | , , , ,

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