Coffee: OK or no-no?
The discussion about coffee consumption has always been quite emotionally charged.
There are legitimate concerns about the “coffee wars” in the coffee growing countries, forcing small producers out of business, and we also need to be aware that coffee and caffeine containing products often have a fair amount of chemical additives.
Aside from that, pure coffee, organically grown, does have a long history as a natural remedy in traditional medicine! It is listed in the German Monography E for herbal remedies as analeptic, stimulant, and tonic for age-independent states of weakness and exhaustion.
Its main effect is on the cerebral cortex, where it can improve mood, increase the ability to learn and memorize, lead to spurts of increased performance, and increase blood circulation in the brain. This effect can actually be used in individuals with cerebrovascular disease to induce sleep!
Caffeine can also stimulate the metabolism of glucose and lipids, in other words, it may help with weight loss (that’s why you often find it in slimming formulas!).
Its stimulating effect can be achieved by drinking 1-2 cups of coffee or 2-4 cups of tea. No link to cancer has been found so far. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Well, every good thing has its downsides, too, of course! And here we go:
Caffeine may induce panic attacks in susceptible individuals, so if you are anxious by nature, stay away from it! The possible explanation is that it increases the level of lactic acid, thus making you more acidic – just like stress hormones do. It may also throw your serotonine levels off balance. Another effect of higher acidity is that calcium gets mobilized from its body storage. The consequence is calcium loss through the kidneys, which get activated too; hence your need for a bathroom break after coffee or tea consumption!
Research has shown that a loss of 40mg of calcium a day will lead to a 1% decrease in bone density per year. To put it in perspective, 1 cup of coffee= 6mg calcium-loss.
That means your risk will increase with every cup you drink. 1-2 cups of average strength coffee, however, did not change bone density in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1990. The women in the study were taking a bone mineral supplement, though.
I would advise that, if you cannot or don’t want to kick the habit (like me!), you take a good bone mineral formula every day, but not along with your coffee, since you’d lose it soon after at your bathroom break!
Take it at lunch or in the evening instead. By the way, you’ll also need extra magnesium and potassium. Women on HRT should go easy on coffee altogether, since it reduces the benefit of estrogen. There seems to be a threefold increased risk of hip fracture in post-menopausal women drinking 4 cups of coffee or more. One to two cups a day did not make a difference.
People with epilepsy should avoid caffeine as it changes the seizure threshold of the brain. With high blood pressure, however, the findings are less conclusive. There may be a brief rise in blood pressure, but it levels out with tolerance to caffeine, and no lasting effects have been reported. The same is true for irregular heart beat. As with everything, use caffeine in moderation!
If your high blood pressure is stress-induced, you may be better off without caffeine altogether, since caffeine increases the levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline.
There is another group of people I would advise not to consume any caffeine: Would-be moms! 4+ cups of coffee a day reduce your odds of becoming pregnant by up to 40%!
Now, just for the fun of it, I’d like to cite from a Homeopathic Materia Medica about the use of coffee as a remedy: “Strong black coffee, drunk as hot as possible, is indispensable as an antidote in a large number of poisons, especially narcotics. Hot coffee by rectum (as an enema) in cases of extreme collapse.” (William Boericke, MD)