Is Drinking Coffee Good For You or Bad For You?

Is Coffee Bad For You

Note from Matt and Betsy: the opinions expressed below are those of the author, not necessarily ours. Another DIY Natural team member Deb has a different opinion, you can read about that here. One thing we’ll say for sure, if you do drink coffee make sure it’s organically grown!

Is coffee bad for you? Let’s take a look!

Much has been made recently about all the studies that support the coffee habit. I have to admit to being much angered by the representation of the so-called health benefits of coffee that has been going around in the media. I have dithered about sharing my thoughts for a while because I know that they won’t be popular.

I should also preface this in all fairness with the confession that I am not a coffee drinker, don’t like it and never have. My husband downs all the bean juice in our house. That said, I try to be very sensitive to my clients who are coffee addicted. I sit down with many women who are suffering a roller coaster of imbalanced hormones and to every one I must say that they have to change their relationship with this drink.

The Skinny on the Coffee Studies

The studies circulating show a correlation between coffee drinking habits and health benefits. None of them are able to show a causation. While all of the media is spreading the news that folks should drink several cups a day to prevent a laundry list of diseases, they leave out the fact that none of the studies actually prove such a link.

Let’s take one of the studies showing a correlation between coffee drinkers and lower Type 2 diabetes incidence.

A study done by Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, interviewed more than 193,000 people. That sounds like an impressive sample size right? Those who said they drank more than six or seven cups daily were 35% less likely to have type 2 diabetes than people who drank fewer than two cups daily. WOW! Eureka, we’ve found the smoking gun: we all need to drink six to seven cups of coffee a day to prevent Type 2 diabetes. If we only drink two cups we won’t be as safe.

Unfortunately, this study and the others that are cited DO NOT look at the diet and activity of the subjects they interview. If I were drinking six to seven cups of coffee a day I wouldn’t probably have much time or desire to drink anything else. If I was only drinking two cups, I might have a few other drinks at some of my meals or while at my desk in the afternoon. Those drinks might be a soda filled with high fructose corn syrup.

So the upshot of this study could actually be that those who drink more coffee don’t have time to drink as much sugary pop as those who don’t. This study could be more about the soda industry than it is about how healthy coffee is, we don’t know, although I’d wager I have some of the truth of it.

Effects of Coffee on Adrenal Glands

What we do know is that caffeine pushes our overworked and overstressed adrenal glands to respond with a kick in blood pressure and a signal to shut down digestion. If we don’t live on a tropical island free of all stress and care, we probably have already pushed these adrenals pretty hard. Some of the studies demonstrated a difference between a new drinker and someone who habitually enjoys coffee. The researchers scratched their heads on that one, but of course, over time as we stimulate our adrenals to react in fight or flight mode they eventually get tired and less responsive. At that point we’re in trouble, constantly fatigued, having a hard time with focus and reaching for something to help us get the job done–the same thing that got us into the mess in the first place–coffee.

Pregnant or lactating women, their babies, and those wishing to become pregnant are especially damaged by all the hoopla to get out there and drink more coffee.

Those women who are struggling to become pregnant will find that the caffeine is drying to the cervical fluid needed for optimal fertility. We know that caffeine crosses the placenta and can lead to anemia of mom or baby. It may be responsible for a host of other possible problems for the fetus (admittedly found in another study based on correlation¹). Drinking coffee while nursing reduces the available iron supply in breast milk and can block the absorption of minerals by the nursing baby.

My Suggested Coffee Intake

I get it, folks are really attached to their coffee. Unfortunately, it was never intended to be used in the manner we do in our society. It was a ceremonial drink, it was enjoyed on special occasions. I think that is how it should still be enjoyed; buy the highest quality coffee you can find, brew it once a week and sip it slowly with someone you love. Sit down and enjoy the moment, perhaps read your favorite blog written by someone who you’d now very much like to send lots of hate mail to, if you’re still reading.

Maybe I should apologize, I do feel very bad about raining on the coffee parade, but as someone who specializes in the health of the adrenal glands and fertility, pregnancy and lactation specifically, I couldn’t keep quiet one. minute. longer.

Alternatives to Coffee?

As a way of apology for bad talking your coffee, here are a few wonderful alternatives:

Herbal Coffee

Recommendation from DIY Natural: This deep and invigorating coffee alternative is shockingly good brew and has a remarkable similarity to coffee thus making it the ideal alternative to coffee drinkers who are attempting to limit their intake of this highly caffeinated beverage! (Find herbal coffee here.)

Cinnamon Tea

Ingredients

Instructions

Place the sticks in a quart mason jar. Pour boiling water to fill and add a lid. Let this steep for 15 minutes or overnight. Pour and enjoy a robust, rich cup of tea that is naturally stimulating and doesn’t need any sugar.

So what do you think?

Is coffee good for you, bad for you, or somewhere in between?

*******

1. X. Weng, R. Odouli and D.K. Li (2008). “Maternal Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy and the Risk of Miscarriage: A Prospective Cohort Study.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 198(3), 279.e 1–8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2007.10.803

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Comments

  1. Thanks for always bringing us great articles! I L-O-V-E Dandy Blend. It’s a blend of dandelion and chicory root and it tastes just like coffee. I don’t work for them or have stock (but I wish I did) I just love turning folks on to this healthy powder that tastes like heaven.

  2. Great article however you didn’t address decaf coffee options. Does decaf change our coffee options? What about all the teas out there that also have a high amount of caffeine?

    • Unfortunately, even in the best processes, caffeine is not completely removed. There really aren’t any coffees made with coffee beans that don’t contain the problem. The amount of caffeine is very small and may not affect a lot of people if they only drink one cup occasionally. If you are someone (like those who suffer with high blood pressure) who needs to avoid caffeine for health reasons, decaffeinated coffee is no more safe than a regular cup of joe. The other side of this coin is knowing what method is used to decaffeinate. I can’t believe that the chemical washes used in most of the processes will positively affect health either.

      • Hi. I am having a hard time getting pregnant. We did conceive in July, but ended up having a miscarriage. I only drink 1 cup of decaf In the morning. Do you think this could be hurting my chances of getting pregnant and staying pregnant?

        • Hi Hayley,
          It’s not doing you any favors, but I certainly wouldn’t hold it up as something you’re doing “wrong”. Coffee dries out your body’s fluids and that won’t help with fertility. You might avoid it altogether during the first trimester just to be safe.

        • Don’t overlook the possibility that your thyroid hormones may be out of balance. Sometimes it is a real battle to get proper diagnosis if you have a doctor who only goes by TSH. On some thyroid groups I have read of those who were only able to conceive and carry to term after they fixed their thyroid problems.

        • Hayley- You might look at the GAPS diet or the Wahls Protocol to ensure that you are getting all the nutrition your body needs to conceive a baby. Our bodies are smart and know when there isn’t enough nutrition to support a baby. I wish you the best.

  3. Thank you for pointing out the holes in the study. Hopefully it will give readers pause to consider the holes in OTHER studies. I’m no researcher or scientist, but I tend to play devil’s advocate when friends talk about the latest “study” and point out the lack of correlation. I also use the “logic” approach to point out holes: e.g. a Ferrari is a car; I have a car in the garage; so is the car in my garage a Ferrari? The logic in many publicized “studies” is lacking and they can be torn apart with only a couple of thought out questions, which the blindly led refuse to consider.

  4. It depends on your blood type. Mine is AB so it is an avoid on my food list. But if you are A, it is ok to drink in moderation.

  5. I think like most everything else, it is fine in moderation. I am cutting back to one cup a day because drinking four cups a day was causing me more harm than good. The upside to that is that I will be able to afford better more expensive coffee! I really do love it first thing in the morning. I tried the herbal coffee when I was pregnant and honestly I would rather have nothing.

  6. I found it interesting that on this same blog another article was published about the benefits of drinking coffee–“Reasons You May Want to Keep Drinking Coffee”. I guess I’m kind of at a loss since it seems be be contradicting information. I am not a heavy coffee drinker (1-2 cups/day). I don’t drink it for the pick-me-up or adrenal substitute. I’m not pregnant or lactating, and I don’t drink any other sugary drinks (my liquid intake is primarily water, with an occasional herbal tea and once a day coffee). I’m also a pretty healthy and active person otherwise. So is my once a day coffee bad for me? I guess this article left me more confused unfortunately…especially since I truly trust this blog, and I’ve now seen contradicting information and advice.

    • Hi Tracy,
      The great thing about individual health is that you get to decide for yourself what is right for your body. If your coffee is not currently causing any health issues, if you can set it aside and stop drinking a morning cup easily without side effects and your body is otherwise in top shape, then there is a lot of evidence that your decision to drink it might be healthy.
      As for causing confusion, sorry about that. The other article that came through DIY was written by one of the other writers. For that person, coffee is healthy. For me and my focus on the adrenal glands, it is not. All of us are made differently- just because something is good for one does not mean that it is good for another. So please just read my article as a dissenting view to consider.

  7. I normally enjoy the articles written in DYI, but just as another reader is left with more questions than answers, I’m perplexed. I say, everything in moderation. There are side effects for everything you eat, drink or even inhale. One 8 oz. glass of soda is not going to hurt anyone unless they have diabetes. One candy bar on occasion won’t hurt anyone either. My belief is that unless you already have health issues as named in the article, a morning cup of Joe isn’t going to hurt a thing.

    • I agree everything in moderation, but I would also caution about a substance not harming you. I love coffee-I will continue to drink it occasionally but I know I have to stop most of it. I struggle to keep my iron level at 10, which is still too low. I make sure any coffee I drink is at least 2 hours from any iron rich meals, and I still take prenatals even though I am not going to ever be pregnant again. I don’t drink a lot of coffee-on a big coffee day I will have three cups. I don’t know much about the adrenal system, but I do know if I don’t eat and drink perfectly my body lets me know…

  8. coffee drinker have a lower risk then non coffee drinker according to The New England Journal of Medicine.

    However heavy coffee drinker die young.

  9. I agree with Amber, all things in moderation. Anything we overindulge in can get us into trouble. I drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day, two in the am and one in the afternoon to enjoy with my husband after work. Sometimes it’s only 1 in the morning. And Tracy, the 2 separate articles about coffee that have been posted on the site, Are contradictory! But Matt and Betsy are giving us both sides of the story so that we may make up our own minds about such matters! That’s what is called “free will.” Everyone must do what they think is right for themselves! Thank you Matt and Betsy! I appreciate both sides of the story!

  10. thanks dawn, i was actually thinking about when i could drink coffee again after the baby comes. i really do enjoy the beverage, not for the caffeine, but the many tasty things one can do with it. after reading this, i may look into the dandilion-chickory blend suzane mentioned above. im aware of just how easy it is to let ur hormones get outta wack just bc u consume something u havent researched. it seems more and more that the only things healthy are the things u personally research. some may come to the conclusion that a little is ok, that is fine, every now and then i really like to eat ice cream with brown sugar on top (yummm) but i know that the ice cream has no live cultures and is fake as hell and the brown sugar is GMO. as long as people know that there is a seemingly huge lack of effort on the scientists these days who claim to be looking out for our health… some may take a little time out of their day to find out what exactly they are putting into their bodies.

    • “the many tasty things one can do with it”…. are you perhaps talking about dessert? =) When the baby comes, you should be fine using it occasionally in that way.
      YES, YES and YES to everything you’re saying. You’re the only one who lives in your individual body…. you are the one who decides what goes into it. We ALL have to wade through the information that is available and decide what applies to us and what doesn’t.

  11. I’ve been of the opinion that one does what is right for ones body all my life. After all genetics play a huge role. At 60 I found out that my body finally had enough and rebelled. I ate sweets and drank only 1 cup of coffee a day otherwise thinking I was eating healthy. Now after becoming very sick this whole year it turns out my adrenals are unhappy kidneys are unhappy thyroid is unhappy shall I go on. Had to get very sick before I , pardon the pun, woke up and smelled the coffee. Just a word of advice from someone who had to learn the hard way. NOW I’m eating healthy I’ll tell you.

  12. First of all, I appreciate all the DIY recipes and information that you share. The coffee study makes me chuckle. If a person drinks that much coffee in a day, they probably never sit still and are not the type of person that is high risk for diabetes. I can attest to the fact that it makes your adrenals twitchy. With that said, I personally love my coffee, but I limit myself to 2 cups of 50/50, laced with coconut oil and almond milk.

  13. Thanks for posting this info. I love coffee. And I have weak adrenals so, because I love my health more I avoid drinking coffee the way I did for a while and the way most people do. The interesting fact about coffee, and something that might explain its “loaded” affects, is that it opens the crown chakra. But to so this you need a tablespoon. That’s it. People who drink lots have a blown open top chakra, hence the “awake” sensation. After a while that chakra has to have coffee to open up at all because it doesn’t remember how to do it on its own. The result is the “asleep” and addiction. Understanding adrenals is just one part. Understanding why the body is addicted is another. Thanks again for the info. Oh, anise seed has the same affect in the chakra. So if you’re avoiding coffee, chew on anise seed. It won’t tax those precious adrenals.

  14. I drink one to two cups of organic coffee in the morning. I am in pretty good health and only drink water or herbal tea the rest of the day. Coffee is not a need for me and I don’t get any withdrawal symptoms when I don’t have it, but it is sort of a comfort drink to me. The smell of it brings back cozy memories of smelling coffee brewing in my childhood. I also love the taste, and though I have tried MANY different coffee alternatives, I have not found one that can even come close. Like Amber said, I’d rather just go without and save my money.

  15. I have to disagree with the assumption that coffee in itself is bad when consumed regularly. I believe it is about moderation, like ANY food, drink, herb, etc. Medically, caffeine is a good preventive/ palliative for those who suffer from migraines and is now a common ingredient in many pain relievers (not necessarily all are good), and the amount in black teas is not sufficient. I feel that part of the problem is all the flavored creamers, adding tons of sugar (the milk is fine unless you’re allergic), and other high glycemic additives.
    I do agree that coffee in excess is a problem, but so is – water, soda, tea, any liquid we consume. It is really all about moderation. But I will freely admit to a bias – I have suffered from migraines since I was 3, and moderate coffee consumption enabled me to quit taking dangerous, expensive medications that acted directly on my heart and blood pressure. My migraines now are much less often, and less severe. I AM NOT ADVOCATING COFFEE FOR ALL MIGRAINE SUFFERERS, but for some of us it has been a real lifesaver!

    • I was really hoping someone would make the distinction between actual coffee and all the coffee drinks so I’m glad it happened.When you add all these things to get rid of the coffee taste it’s not really coffee anymore. Like if everyone could take the time to make a frappuccino they would get the chance to see that it’s mainly ice, milk and flavoring with like a shot of coffee. Yes those fancy coffee drinks are great to have once in awhile, like a special occasion but several times a day will lead to more health problems. I know I personally have cut down on the amount of coffee I drink, to a few cups a week, but they are mainly black with a little bit of sugar because I choose a darker roats(all the others are to light)

  16. I agree that coffee is not all it is hyped up to be. In certain instances coffee can be used for medicinal purposes (ex. It makes you have regular bowel movements among a few others) but even then it doesn’t take more than a cup to do the job. Thank you for sharing some alternatives to drinking coffee. To often people say its bad but fail to offer a substitute.

  17. What would you recommend to someone looking to wean themselves off of coffee? I feel like I experience migraines if I don’t have it. Thank you for the info.

    • Gina-
      I had this problem too. One year I gave coffee up for Lent and discovered that I was, in fact, a caffeine addict! I actually switched to drinking hot tea with honey in the morning. It’s not caffeine-free, but it’s not as bad as coffee. It’s a start, and it helped with my migraines. Hope that helps!

    • The migraines are an indication that your nervous system is suffering. Caffeine can suck the nutrition needed for this part of our body, so shore up your calcium and B-Vitamins while you wean off. Spirulina is great and covers both needs. You might also try the nutritive nervines such as milky oats, lemon balm, alfalfa and much more in a tea. Don’t deny yourself the coffee full stop. Buy good quality coffee that you really enjoy and make a date with yourself at least once a week. Then replace with other worthy things on the day to day. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is an herb that is both a nervine and pain reliever. It’s an antispasmodic so it’s great with headaches but it also excels at withdrawal symptoms…. it’s great for coming off coffee, cigarettes, or other drugs.

    • My daughter has true migraines. It is not a regular headache like most people get with caffeine withdrawal. In my high school, a valedictorian shot his head off because he couldn’t take it any more. It is offensive to real migraine sufferers for people to call every ordinary headache a “migraine”. That said, you may actually get a migraine. But I thought this might be the right place to vent this pet peeve.

      • Migraines are absolutely horrible and debilitating. Numerous things trigger migraines and everyone has different triggers. Too little caffeine can trigger them in someone used to a certain amount of caffeine, too much caffeine can also trigger a migraine. Ironically, high doses of caffeine can help manage the pain and make pain relievers more effective. The downside of this is a rebound migraine later. I used to use caffeine as part of my treatment of migraine but decided the rebound isn’t worth it.

  18. I have been drinking a LOT of coffee for 50 years. I am hypothyroid and maybe I have adrenal problems and I do for sure have high blood pressure. I used to drink 24 cups of coffee a day in my 20’s. Now I usually drink between 4 and 8 a day. This may be why I can’t seem to get my blood pressure to go down. As far as the thyroid and adrenals, it is probably too late for them. It certainly won’t be easy but I am going to try to get off of it and see if it helps. Do you have any idea how long it would take before I should see results if results are to be had?

  19. Caffeine withdrawal is a serious business.
    For one week I had exhausting headaches,red eyes and fatigue when I cut back on coffee.I am now living coffee free.
    How can anyone suggest coffee is therefore good for me??
    It is highly addictive and I dare anyone who has a morning cup of coffee daily to abstain for a few days and see what happens !

  20. I believe coffee is bad for us whether it is decaf or regular. Our bodies become dependent on the stimulant & when we try to stop we get headaches. Our bodies were not meant to consume caffeine. I agree that herbal teas or just good old water is the best drink we can give our bodies to help keep it running right. All the hype on drinking coffee is just another way to promote the product for consumers to think they will benefit from drinking all that mud.

  21. I have to admit I am one of those that used to drink 7 cups or more of coffee a day. I agree there was not much time or inclination to drink anything else. I recently learned I am diabetic. That diagnosis has prompted me to make a lot of changes in my diet and lifestyle. The more I learned about living healthier I started replacing coffee with water and herbal tea. Next step was to stop using sugar and creamer in my coffee and tea. My son made an interesting comment, “if you put sugar and cream in it all the time how do you taste it?” I had always been happy to drink good strong coffee black but weak or poor flavored coffee was dosed with cream and sugar. Using less coffee allows me to buy better quality coffee. So now I am saving on calories and going for flavor. I never liked plain water but adding lemon, cucumber, or mint to it makes me more likely to go for a glass than before. I am going for days without a cup of coffee and it amuses me to realize I am not missing it. Thank you for the article. It helps reinforce my efforts.

  22. I recently convinced by husband to give up all caffee to help deal with his fibro and sleeplessness. seems to be working so far (its been about a month). he has also given up diet sodas. so far he says he is sleeping much better…faster and staying asleep longer. I agree with our ideas and we all drink too much caffee.

  23. I am a coffee lover and could drink all day every day. However, I limit myself to 1 cup per day. Caffeine is a stimulant and affects all body systems. I believe in moderation.

  24. My name is Cindy and I am a cup a day coffee drinker. I have decided after reading both sides of the “story” on coffee that I will continue to drink it and enjoy it. My family and I lived as missionaries in several latin countries for many years. The people there drink very, very strong coffee loaded with honey or sugar. As for having problems getting pregnant latin families are known for their large brood! They have no problems having children while drinking coffee daily. As for blood pressure problems when we had volunteer medical teams to work with us they consistently noted the low blood pressure numbers compared to ours like 90/65. Latin people always, always seem to have energy and you dont meet many obese ones! And one final note, God gave us those beans, just like He did cocoa beans and I for one plan to enjoy both just like He gave us honey, sugar cane, agave and maple trees for syrup. all in moderation folks and raised sustainably and responsibly!!

    • Now that you mentioned it, Cindy, there was something I read about people from a certain country drinking very strong boiled coffee each morning, I think it was the Turkish or Greek coffee method, and they were some of the longest living people in the world.

  25. I gave up coffee 30 years ago because I had such a hard time with PMS.. I didn’t consume much coffee, but I had a serious head ache for 2 weeks while detoxing. When I quit, I found I just needed something hot and black in the AM. I always thought I’d take it back up when I got to menopause, but now I am not attracted to it. Because I don’t drink it now, when I’m driving somewhere I will drink some, and it really works to keep me awake, but it also affects my bladder control… actually it makes me have to pee so bad that I have to go as soon as I even think about it… it’s really awful. I wonder if that is not more people’s problem with bladder control. I have found some wonderful herbal substitutes, Teeccino is my favorite. For survivalists, it’s probably best to not be addicted to anything, including caffine.
    Great article, thanks for being honest about a very addictive substance.

  26. Dawn, I agree with you regarding the way coffee was intended to be consumed to how we consume it. Coffee was intended to be enjoyed, a special treat at the beginning or the day or evening after a meal or on special occasions. This depended on the availability. I have stopped drinking coffee as a beverage, like you would treat a juice or water. I have made it a special drink in the morning and/or evening. I have felt a great difference in how I sleep and even eat during the day. I also agree that we should find the best roast that is also affordable so we really enjoy those 2 or 3 cups a day. Folks I am talking the normal consumption size, not like those of the venti or supersized portions. Thanks for the article for I did learn and have found a great place to get a tea version of coffee.

  27. Coffee is not good for you because the caffeine shrinks the cells in the brain. The reason a person gets a headache when they have not had their coffee or caffeine is because the brain cells are trying to enlarge to the size they are suppose to be.

  28. I do not PUT much stock in studies or statistics..the results depends on Who is doing the study and statistics will say whatever you want them to say..neither is reliable…

  29. Hi Dawn, Thank you for this interesting article. I’m looking forward to try the herbal coffee you have recommended.
    I have been off coffee for a week, I feel great however I drink one cup of english tea and one cup of green tea.
    Are those OK to drink or do you think it’s the same issue since they contain caffeine?

    • Are you drinking one cup of each tea daily? weekly? The tea is going to be less caffeine than the coffee first of all. Second, caffeine withdrawals can be nasty. I think longterm I might recommend that two cups of caffeinated tea per day is still a bit much. In the short term, it may be a good idea to help step yourself down from the high caffeine consumption driven by your previous coffee. As time goes on you will want to consider whether you are drinking that much tea because you enjoy it…. or because you need it. If you really like drinking tea… after you’re over the withdrawal symptoms and your body feels more in control, try replacing one cup of your caffeinated tea a day with a strictly herbal tea. Good luck!