Coffee….is it so bad?

The growth of coffee shops has been incredible over the past few decades, from the cafe down the road that sold a cup of Nescafe if you didn’t want a proper mug of tea with an English Breakfast, to the whole barista experience it has now become, it has changed significantly in my lifetime. There is now an eye watering 1.6 billion cups of coffee consumed globally each year. Tea is the drink of the North of England, I was brought up on it, strong with milk and sugar, it not only gave you hairs on your chest, as my father would say, but it was the main staple throughout the day to drink, we never had coffee!

Tea was the main stay in the UK, but over my lifetime the rise of the coffee shop has returned, Coffee shops have always been an important place for socialising, and exchanging information, and on introduction to Europe coffee was called by it’s opponents “the bitter invention of Satan” it was back in the 1600’s so this potentially shouldn’t surprise you. I’m not that opposed to it to think that a simple bean drink is Satanic, but I do consider it’s not helpful if I want to improve your health. But those opponents soon got over their issues with coffee because it meant that people were no longer meeting in the rather rowdy taverns apparently, less the better the devil you know it seems and more apparently to the ability to focus on business dealings of the day. So for a 150+ years coffee shops ruled, as did Burke and Hare by the sounds of things, potentially using coffee to stay awake during the wee hours! Then in the mid 18th Century our beloved tea took over, we know things revolve through fashions and coffee made its return in the last couple of decades with the big brand coffee shops, knocking our powdered Nescafe drinking into a top hat, and showing us how true coffee shouldn’t not only look but also taste.

The coffee shops now create works of art in a cup in some respects, it’s not just a simple cup of coffee that you order, firstly they can absolutely latte everything by the looks of things, frothed milk or it’s alternative is king. They understand the visual delight that food and drink should have, and therefore have the whole sensory experience off to an absolute tee! The smell is enticing purposely, the look of the drink with patterning by the barista on top becomes a talking point, never mind Instagramed, and repeated over Facebook for all to see. The cooking of the beans is also an art form, with specialist independents going to great lengths to know the roasting of their beans inside out, and the taste they are likely to give with different timescales of roasting. The coffee shop has again risen to take over our drinking habits, and who would think that you would be paying more than you would ever believe for a cup of coffee and a handful of beans. In fact a few years ago if I asked you to pay £2+ just for the few beans that are ground with water and milk you would very likely look at me with a look that clearly said, you are extorting money. Yet a lot of people pay that daily, a few times a day in some cases, which comes to a few hundred pounds, and if you have the syrups, and sweeteners then of course this is going to add to your actual physical pounds!

But one of my clients said to me just recently what’s so bad about me drinking coffee, well I’m going to identify some key issues that may make some of you think twice about drinking it as your main drink all day. For me coffee isn’t completely bad, it just depends very much on the health you have at the time as to whether it’s a good idea or not to have it.

The main problem I have with coffee drinking is that for many it’s more than one a day, the addiction that can happen with coffee is because we build up a tolerance to the effects of the caffeine. So where we had a energy hit, and increase of focus with one coffee it then becomes 2, then 3 and soon you need it just to get up in the morning and get going. This isn’t a good health position to be in. Organic coffee when used with a healthy body for training can be helpful, can be, but I remove more people from coffee than I put on caffeine drinks. Caffeine is actually quite toxic, it’s the rest of the nutrients in the bean that helps to reduce this toxicity, so allowing the body to have some benefit from consuming it.

If you are chronically stressed then coffee is going to increase how stressed you are feeling, it also has a diuretic affect, and adding coffee to this mix reduces your hydration level and affects your electrolytes. So although research says that it can be useful prior to training, it can have it’s draw back in regards to balancing your minerals. Hydration is one of the biggest issues I see continually, to the point of sounding evangelistic about it, in fact one of my clients wrote to me about how the article in the Mirror recently quoting me hadn’t mentioned water for once, but if I can’t get hydration right then I’m unlikely to resolve the overall health in the long run.

The impact of caffeine consumption is often shown through people having IBS and Gastrointestinal issues, because it’s having the same effect a stressful moment would have on the body. We all know those times when we are so stressed that we can’t eat, or have cramping and diarrhoea, well this is the effect that caffeine has over time if you are having large amounts of it.

Are you a smoker? Interestingly research shows that caffeine metabolises twice as fast in smokers as it would do normally.

Then drinking caffeine in the day is shown to impact on sleep, in fact I now see this in children who are drinking these awful caffeine drinks, they can no longer get to sleep and are awake for hours. Sleep is a much under rated aspect of good health and daily wellbeing. Behaviours change the next day, performance and cognition changes, as well as the inability to focus when sleep depravation sets in, the obvious solution at 3pm in the afternoon for most people is to drink more coffee and to take other stimulants such as sugar and chocolate to keep themselves awake and so the cycle of insomnia continues. Appetite is profoundly affected with the changes in sleep patterns, and in particular the duration of the sleep that you get matters, and it affects the leptin hormone which is very sensitive to changes in sleep duration, in particular, this affects insulin, and therefore appetite and the appetite suppressing hormone is decreased and you end up eating more. After less than a week of sleep duration changes, you will have changed how much leptin your body is releasing from it’s cells, and the ghrelin peptide which is also affected so that the body is stimulated to want more food. Cravings start to happen….oh no!!

Your body craves more calories when it feels more stressed, and sleep deprived, hence why you are drawn to eating more energy rich foods, such as chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cake etc. Fast food, that creates guilt, are you wondering why coffee with syrups are such a good seller? Don’t it’s because they contain caffeine, and a lot of sugar, fast energy in so many ways and a great stimulant, but you are likely to pile on the pounds with them.

When I see a high cholesterol picture I look for 2 things, firstly the stress levels that the client is experiencing, then the amount of caffeine they are consuming in that order normally.

The other issue I have is mold on beans, when any food is stored, it has the opportunity to attract mold, and for someone who is ill with a level of intestinal dysbiosis I really don’t want this as an added factor. It may not be the coffee that is the issue, but if mold is and it is for now many of my clients this will not help them get well. This will happen with most stored foods, and has been happening since time began, but a compromised immune system will with these aspects of coffee struggle to get well.

Finally don’t forget that caffeine is a psychoactive substance effectively which you should consider a drug that crosses the blood-brain barrier to stimulate the central nervous system. When we consume a food such as coffee regularly we are looking to change things within ourselves, whether this is conscious or unconsciously it’s still happening, and something that you should become mindful of doing. Because you are using it to replace something else, most likely energy, so you may wish to look deeper at your lifestyle if you are relying on coffee to help you get through the day.

It’s like with most things, we are all different so some will be ok and never experience any health issues from drinking any amount of coffee, and others will fall at the first hurdle, it’s because of our genetic inheritance. But for the majority research shows that caffeine does have it’s down side when consumed in an amount which for you would be harmful!

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