Coffee: Friend, or Foe?

The question I get asked most by my patients these days is, “are you going to want me to give up my coffee?” That my friend is a loaded question. It is not one that I can give an easy yes/no answer to, as it is dependent on so many factors. To start things off, I will say that I am not 100% against coffee. I actually quite like coffee myself. What I do find concerning is when people are using coffee as a crutch to get through the day. I recently saw a colleague post that when it comes to coffee it should be 1 coffee and 5 meals, not 5 coffees and 1 meal, which I think is a great way to look at things. Coffee has a number of benefits including: improvements in athletic performance and mental alertness, source of antioxidants, and it also may reduce the risk of colon and liver cancer.

It is true the HOW of how you coffee is a huge factor. One of the most common mistakes I see in my practice is people who have a coffee, and just coffee, for breakfast. This is the WORST way to consume coffee. Coffee spikes blood sugar levels. Spiking blood sugar levels is not what we want to be doing first thing in the morning. If you have been following my blog for any period of time, you should know by now that one of the most important factors for blood sugar control over the course of the day is having protein at breakfast. This protein helps to stabilize blood sugar helps. If you are having only a coffee for breakfast, you are sending your blood sugar soaring. When your blood sugar crashes, in about 2-3 hours, you are going to be left starving, shaky and looking for a carbohydrate and sugar fix.

If you are drinking coffee, I want it to be working for you, not against you. The number 2 most common mistake I see in my practice with people drinking coffee is the time of day they are drinking it. I recommend no more coffee after noon. Why is this? Coffee has a half-life, the time it takes for half of it to get out of your system, of 12 hours. That coffee you drank at noon can still be effecting you and your mental alertness at midnight. I have had numerous patients resolve or greatly improve their insomnia by not drinking coffee past noon. If you want to make sure that coffee is not a factor in with your sleep problems, stop the coffee at 9 am.

For most people, 1-2 cups of coffee is ok to consume, with protein, and before noon. By 1-2 cups, I mean 1-2, 250 ml servings, not a Venti from your favorite coffee shop. I am also not including those mocalicious caramel Frappuccino’s. That is a milkshake, not a coffee. There are 3 groups of people who do not suggest consuming coffee on a daily basis 1) Anyone with hormonal problems (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Irregular Periods, Infertility) 2) Highly Stressed/Overworked People (Mom’s I am looking at you!) 3) Women with Low Iron/Anemia

Coffee and Polycyclic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) do not mix because it causes a spike in blood sugar, which triggers the release of insulin. Many women with PCOS already have trouble with their insulin control, and coffee makes the problem much worse. If you have irregular periods, this can be a sign of PCOS. When it comes to fertility, the research is still inconclusive with respect to coffee. There have been studies that have shown an increased risk of miscarriage and an increased risk of ovulatory dysfunction. It is best to avoid coffee, if you are having difficulty getting pregnant

Coffee acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system and increases cortisol levels (our main stress hormone) to levels similar to those that we experience during an acute stress event. In other words, coffee makes your body think you are stressed, being chased by a bear, and makes it release stress hormone. This has a negative impact on someone who is “stressed out”, as your body has to work overtime to keep up with your cortisol needs. The rapid increase in blood sugar caused by coffee is also seen by the body as a stress event, and results in even more cortisol getting released. Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands and over time this can lead to your adrenal glands (the batteries of the body) getting drained. For women with hormonal or adrenal issues, I suggest fully stopping coffee for 1 month, and then re-introducing 1-2 cups/week of coffee. 

Finally, coffee and women with low iron do not mix. Coffee binds to iron and makes it even more difficult for your body to absorb. Iron supplements should not be taken within 2 hours of having a cup of coffee.

That was a lot of info! To recap

HOW to Coffee

  • Drink your coffee with a protein rich breakfast (20-30g)
  • Stop drinking coffee at noon
  • Take a 30 day coffee vacation if you
    1. Have hormonal problems (PCOS, Irregular Periods, Infertility)
    2. Are under a lot of stress
    3. Have low iron

For this week, keep track of your regular coffee habits. In next week’s blog post I will cover “coffee hacks” to make your coffee work overtime for you, as well as, good coffee alternative for those who fit the criteria of needing a 30 day coffee vacation.

How many cups of coffee you drink/day? Post in the comments below.


Talk Soon,

Dr Alexis

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment