Coffee, your gut and hormones
Let's talk about the drug Nr. 1 for many, caffeine, and its impact on your gut health and hormonal balance.
While we are all biochemically individual, and some Metabolic Types can handle coffee better than others, I personally believe that it's one of the substances you need to quit (at least temporarily) to heal your gut and hormones. Why?
How coffee negatively impacts your gut and hormones
- It (over-) stimulates your (probably already overworking) adrenal glands, forcing them to produce even more cortisol (stress hormone). Remember that the more cortisol is produced, the less of other important hormones (e.g. thyroid or sex hormones) are produced. While this extra cortisol might provide you the (short-term) boost you are looking for, what is actually happening is that it quenches out the last drop of energy out of an already empty tank. Over time, this leads to adrenal fatigue and burn out.
- It thins the gut lining, your first line immune defense barrier. This is especially problematic if you have gut issues like leaky gut or inflammatory conditions (excessive caffein and the associated excessive stress might actually be one of the reasons you got those conditions in the first place)
- It indirectly raises blood sugar and blood pressure (through stimulating cortisol production - cortisol raises blood sugar and blood pressure)
- It is often combined with proinflammatory sugar and processed milk / creamers
- It disturbs melatonin production and as such sleep, which then aggravates hormonal imbalances due to improper recovery
- While in the short run coffee increases HCL production, in the long run it leads to LOW stomach acid, which can lead to all kinds of digestive issues (bloating, gas, indigestion), favor the installation of pathogens (viruses, bacteria...) and contribute to a whole array of health conditions, including, but not limited to acid reflux.
- It decreases the absorption of important nutrients, like calcium, magnesium, zinc and iron.
- It acidifies
- It is often loaded with pesticides (if not organic) or chemicals from plastics (if from capsules) - both potent endocrine disruptors.
- From the view point of Traditional Chinese Medicine, coffee is "hot" and can burn your stomach, gut and/or skin.
There are probably even more effects, but these for me are the most striking ones and more than enough to stop drinking it - especially if you want or need to heal your gut, balance your hormones, prepare for pregnancy or are pregnant / lactating.
How to wean off
For many people quitting coffee is not as simple, due to caffeine's addictive characteristics. The more addicted you are, the more it is a sign that you actually SHOULD give it a break! Even if it is "only" 1 or 2 cups a day! If those 1 or 2 cups a day didn't have an impact on you, why not just NOT have them? The truth is that for many people even as little as 1-2 cups can already be enough to strongly disturb their metabolism! The bottom line is that if you NEED it, you should drop it. After all, do YOU want to be in power or do you want to be ruled by a substance?
Here are some strategies to help you wean off:
- Think of it as a temporary challenge. Nobody is saying that you can never ever have coffee again. The idea is to not depend on it. To heal and then to enjoy an occasional cup (if you still feel like it)
- Start slowly, maybe just with every other day, the weekend, then one whole week, maybe two...
- If not having any coffee in a day scares you too much, try to first reduce it, from 5 to 3 to 1... thin it down with more water or reduce the quantity of powder you use.
- On the days you have coffee, only have it in the morning. Make it a rule that for every coffee you drink, you drink a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea afterwards. Instead of sugar and milk/creamer, blend it with a teaspoon of butter and/or coconut oil and maybe xylitol or stevia (prepare that at home and take it in a thermos to the office)
- Nourish your body to reduce the need for stimulating caffeine: eat good fats and proteins and slow carbs with every meal. Avoid sugar, baked goods and processed foods.
- Get enough sleep, exercise and reduce stress through breathing, meditation and/or yoga.
- To wake yourself up in the morning, put up some stimulating music, do some push ups or take a hot-cold shower.
- You could also try some energizing, yet hormone-balancing supplements, like ashwagandha or maca.
What to drink instead
Sometimes we just need a comforting hot drink. Here are some of my favorite alternatives.
- Home-made hot chocolate: Blend 1 teaspoon of pure cacao powder with hot water, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of honey and one of the following options: 1 teaspoon butter and/or 1 teaspoon coconut oil (use a blender) OR 50 ml coconut milk/cream (from the tin) OR 50 ml raw milk or cream OR 50 ml home-made almond milk. You can add 1 teaspoon of gelatin powder for extra nutrients.
- Creamy rooibos tea: Prepare a rooibos herbal tea and blend it in a mixer with some butter (1 teaspoon) or simply add some raw milk
- Green tea (also nice with butter/milk)
- Ginger-cinnamon tea (use fresh ginger and cinnamon sticks)
- Hot water with lemon and some honey
- Golden turmeric milk
Do you have other alternatives you love to drink instead of coffee? Let me know below!