Coffee: Is it good or bad for us? You might get media whiplash trying to figure that out. The truth is, I find this subject to be as confusing as you probably do.
After all, the media certainly doesn't help clarify whether America's favorite cup of joe is going to land you in the doc's office or set you free with a clean bill of health. And when one night's news report conflicts with another's blatantly-contradictory messages, it is no wonder why so many of you shrug your shoulders in utter confusion as you refill your morning mug and get on with your day!
And with the velvety aroma and promise of energy from that caffeine jolt, you might rather just assume that there must be something to those beneficial claims...
I know all about this adoration of coffee. I too was smitten and enamored with Coffea Arabica. We had our courtship during the 1990s, when I worked more than 80 hours in the emergency room and saw 30 to 40 patients a day.
I traded sleep for espresso, authentic energy for Haagen Daz coffee ice cream and normal circadian rhythms for high-speed, caffeinated adrenaline rushes.
But then, my body began to communicate to me what I had been attempting to not hear -- slow down and let the natural systems assume their proper course. You can read more about how I successfully turned my health around here.
As I began to tune into my body and provide it with what it really wanted -- fresh, whole, real, unprocessed foods, sleep, relaxation, and the time to enjoy the life I had created for myself and my family -- I was able to break up with coffee and make up with my health.
You can too, and I'm going to tell you how. But first, let's discuss what makes coffee such a hot topic widely disputed in today's health circles.
While there are many controversies about coffee's role in the prevention of Parkinson's disease to breast cancer, I'm mostly interested in the conversation relating to its effect on blood sugar metabolism. If you have read my latest book, The Blood Sugar Solution, then you already know how insulin resistance and inflammation are at the core of modern-day chronic diseases.
The single most important healthy habit all of us can adopt is to manage our blood sugar by decreasing the triggers that push it out of balance. Curious if coffee is one of those triggers?
As Dr. Walter C. Willet of Harvard School of Public Health says, "Coffee is an amazingly potent collection of biologically active compounds." Like any food-like substance, coffee has far-reaching effects on the body and needs to be respected as a potent drug.
Caffeine, perhaps the most widely appreciated "drug" compound in coffee, only makes up a mere 1 to 2 percent of the bean. The chlorogenic acids, caffeol, polyphenols, phytoestrogens and diterpenes are now beginning to be researched on their effects on human health and glucose metabolism as well.
In the 1980s and 1990s several prospective cohort studies were done to investigate the correlation between coffee and diabetes. Many of those studies reported that there is an inverse dose-dependent association with the risk of Type 2 diabetes. This means that for reasons still unclear, all those research studies found that the more coffee people with normal blood sugar drank, the less risk appeared for developing Type 2 diabetes. Several constituents in coffee might be responsible for these consistent findings.
Chlorogenic acid in coffee might inhibit glucose-6-phosphatase, an enzyme that regulates blood sugar metabolism in the liver. It could also be due to the indisputably-high levels of antioxidants, which have a benign effect on insulin sensitivity.
Not surprisingly, the news channels then sounded the bell that coffee was protective, and we all enjoyed our cup of joe without any remorse.
Until the next report.
Some curious minds wanted to know exactly who was protected. And why? How? These studies showed that in people with Type 2 diabetes coffee intake was correlated with insulin spikes and increased blood sugar after a meal. Further research has shown that the caffeine in coffee might be the culprit responsible for the secretion of higher levels of insulin from the pancreas.
Clearly higher insulin and glucose levels are not the work we want to bestow on a body healing from insulin resistance. Considering that diabesity affects nearly 1.7 billion people worldwide and growing, the nightly news now sounded the alarm of caution that perhaps our coffee habit is a detrimental addiction needing to be kicked to the curb.
I often am asked why coffee is removed from my programs. While certain populations of people may tolerate coffee and even enjoy some health benefits, it is evident that it is not for everyone.
Chances are if you are reading this either you or someone you care about is sick, inflamed, hormonally imbalanced, nutritionally-compromised, overworked, stressed out, fatigued, depressed, and toxic. Coffee is not part of the medicine required for your healing.
Here are 10 reasons why:
- The caffeine in coffee increases catecholamines, your stress hormones. The stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin. Insulin increases inflammation, and this makes you feel lousy.
Now what... If you think you can't cut that coffee out, think again. I did it and now I want you to feel the same level of renewal and restoration I experienced.
It's a wise experiment to provide yourself a break from coffee intake and see what it feels like to live your life on your own fuel. Remove coffee and caffeine safely from your system and see how authentically energized you feel!
How to Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms
Those who consume the most caffeine, alcohol and sugar, and those who have the highest toxic load, tend to have the most difficulty initially. In any event, symptoms of withdrawal usually disappear after three or four days. It is best to slowly reduce your intake of caffeine and coffee.
- Make sure you drink at least six to eight glasses of filtered water daily. Instead of coffee in the morning, take some warm water with freshly-squeezed lemon juice.
Take this quiz to find out how toxic you are.
I know this is a difficult goal, but I assure you that your body and mind will thank you. The sense of calm, clarity and restful sleep will reward you with the simple pleasures of innate health and an energy that is rightfully yours.
Now I'd like to hear from you...
Are you addicted to coffee and need caffeine to get through your day?
What have you tried to break free from caffeine and what worked best for you?
Have you developed an appreciation for teas and if so, which are your favorite?
Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.
van Dam RM, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB. 2006. "Coffee, caffeine, and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study in younger and middle-aged U.S. women." Diabetes Care (2) 398-403
Tuomilehto J, Hu G, Bidel S, et al. 2004. "Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Among Middle-aged Finnish Men and Women." JAMA 291: 1213-9.
Moisey LL, Kacker S, Bickerton AC, Robinson LE, Graham TE. 2008. "Caffeinated coffee consumption impairs blood glucose homeostasis in response to high and low glycemic index meals in healthy men." Am J Clin Nutr 87 (5): 1254-1261
Lane JD, Feinglos MN, Surwit, RS. 2008. "Caffeine Increases Ambulatory Glucose and Postprandial Responses in Coffee Drinkers With Type 2 Diabetes." Diabetes Care. 31(2): 221-222
Mark Hyman, M.D. is a practicing physician, founder of The UltraWellness Center, a four-time New York Times bestselling author, and an international leader in the field of Functional Medicine. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on YouTube, become a fan on Facebook, and subscribe to his newsletter.
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