Is Drinking Coffee Good For You or Bad For You?

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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?

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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

Dawn Combs

About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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Comments

  1. Suzy says

    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?

    • Dawn CombsDawn Combs says

      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!

  2. mildrid says

    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…

  3. Jennifer says

    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.

  4. Gail says

    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.

  5. Korkee says

    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.

  6. Cindy says

    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!!

    • Shelley says

      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.

  7. Julie says

    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.

  8. renee says

    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.

  9. Trina says

    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.

  10. Alice Clark says

    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.

  11. JENN says

    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 !

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