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The Truth About Coffee: How It Can Boost Your Health or Harm Your Body

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

Full disclosure – this is not a simple nor straightforward discussion. The evidence is very mixed, and even taking that into account, we are all very individual, which has a massive effect on whether coffee benefits you personally.


coffee pictures



After a cup of coffee, most people will notice an effect within 15-20 minutes, taking longer if we have something to eat simultaneously. It is then processed by enzymes in the liver. How fast this happens depends on genetics, race, tolerance, smoking, and some medications.


Smoking increases the rate at which we get rid of caffeine, and the oral contraceptive pill slows it down, as does alcohol.

My genes process caffeine slowly, which means it may take me 8 hours to get rid of HALF the caffeine in my cup of coffee.

 

Pros

Coffee contains many chemicals; polyphenols are the most important or well-known. Research suggests these have several health benefits, including reducing inflammation, improving insulin sensitivity, protecting your liver, and possibly helping with gallstones.

Coffee drinkers tend to have a more varied microbiome (the bacteria in your stomach).

Overall, variety in your gut is viewed as better for your health. The actual reason for this improved variety is unknown, possibly due to the polyphenols but also because the coffee contains quite a bit of soluble fiber. Soluble fiber can feed and nourish the microbiome. It can also help lower cholesterol levels, which, when combined with the reduction in inflammation, means that coffee can be good for heart health.

Coffee improves bowel regularity.

For some people, caffeine may improve (i.e., speed up) your metabolism.

It improves alertness, sustained attention, and possibly mood.


 

Disadvantages

This is a long list.

For me, the two most significant issues are the impact on your stress response system and the impact on sleep.

Stress Response System

Caffeine is a stimulant that will kick your brain to produce the chemicals associated with stress; adrenaline and cortisol.

The upside of this is the increase and alertness; the downside can be palpitations, anxiety, restlessness, and your adrenal glands having a hard time (because they are stimulated to produce more cortisol and adrenaline).

This can be particularly problematic during menopause since your adrenal glands become the primary source for making sex hormones. The path to making progesterone is linked to cortisol. So if we are being pushed to make more cortisol, we will produce less progesterone, and the balance with oestrogen then tends to go AWOL.

Cortisol will stimulate an increase in blood sugar levels.

Sleep.

Caffeine is a diuretic.

Caffeine can also reduce the absorption of both calcium and iron.

Coffee is a bladder irritant.

Toxins.

The effect on the stomach is not only limited to being a laxative. Coffee can trigger acid reflux and irritate ulcers.


Caffeine can alter oestrogen metabolism – the result of this, possibly particularly during perimenopause when your progesterone reduces first, is breast tenderness.


Only you can work out the balance of the pros and cons. I like drinking coffee, but I follow an assortment of guidelines.

  • I absolutely never drink coffee after 12 midday, and in an ideal world, not after 11am.

  • I don't drink it on an empty stomach so that I reduce the rate at which it is absorbed. Drinking it with cream is another possibility.

  • I look at how my coffee is made, even the decaffeinated stuff, to reduce the toxins that come with it.

  • I go through phases of drinking the chicory stuff – sometimes I like it, other times not.

  • I limit my intake of all caffeinated drinks, including regular and green tea.

  • If my stress levels are particularly high or I feel' hormonal', I skip it.


Other things that you can do to help mitigate any problems include.

Exercise after drinking coffee or any other caffeinated drink; exercise speeds up its metabolism.


Look at what you are consuming. Energy drinks can contain a vast amount of caffeine and sugar, which can be a disaster.


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