Mim's Blog


Coffee

There are over 200 chemical constituents in the roasted coffee bean; of which, caffeine is the most widely known and studied.

Near my clinic is a coffee shop. I often see victims furtively gulping down a cappuccino before their appointment with me, obviously thinking that coffee and naturopaths don’t mix.  However, coffee can be compatible with good health.  It improves concentration, clarity of thought and even physical strength and endurance, which is why coffee used to be on the banned list of the World Anti Doping Agency and forbidden for Olympic athletes. 

During the 1930’s Aussies treated with suspicion a beverage favoured by the Septics, with tea being the favoured drop, a remnant from the Motherland.  Times have changed, Italian and Greek migrants brought their love of good food and fabulous coffee, and now Australia lattes with the best of them, chugging our way through an average of 3kg of coffee beans annually.

Coffee is the world’s favourite drug. If you don’t believe it is addictive, try giving it up for 72 hours. That unremitting, throbbing headache is evidence of caffeine withdrawal. Coffee has been around for a couple of thousand years but only became popular in Europe in the 1500’s. Voltaire, the French poet and revolutionary was said to drink 50 cups of coffee a day. The most I have come across was a merchant banker who drank 25 cups a day.  

Caffeine

Caffeine puts the ‘ tude in coffee. A white flavourless powder when it is isolated from the bean, caffeine is the active drug in coffee. The bit that keeps us coming back for more. Every day. The  average cup of coffee delivers around 100mg of caffeine. Ten cups or 1,000mg of caffeine can have toxic effects, and 10,000mg of caffeine is lethal. People who drink coffee (or other caffeinated beverages including tea and cola) are often addicted to caffeine. If you don’t believe me, try going without for a few days. That throbbing headache is called caffeine withdrawal and can happen with a habit as little as a cup a day.

I don’t like removing coffee from anyone's diet unless it’s really necessary. A cup of coffee can be a small reward during a trying day, and a creamy turmeric latte (let's hope this trend ends soon) beats sipping a glass of water with a friend. Here are the pro's and con's.


The Good and the Bad

There are always two sides to every story. The upside of caffeine is that it is a mild stimulant, increasing our capacity for intellectual work and physical performance, reducing drowsiness and promoting more rapid and clearer flow of thought. Caffeine also relaxes the smooth muscle lining blood vessels, bringing relief to those with constrictive headaches or migraines, and as smooth muscle also lines the bowels, explains the compulsory morning coffee some people need to get things moving.

The  downside of caffeine is that it is can disrupt sleep patterns and increase the time it takes to fall asleep. Caffeine may cause nervousness, trembling and anxiety in sensitive individuals. I recommend those who suffer from anxiety desist or at least reduce their coffee consumption. Recently the British Medical Journal showed that five or more cups of coffee a day doubles a woman’s risk of miscarriage. While other studies have suggested that coffee may reduce your chances of conceiving. For women who suffer from tender breasts prior to their period, reducing coffee 2 weeks prior to menstruation can help.

The bad news continues. Drinking a cup of coffee or tea after dinner can reduce the amount of iron absorbed from that meal by up to 40%. Caffeine also increases the rate of calcium excretion, a problem for people at risk of the bone-thinning disease, osteoporosis.

Enjoy your Java

So enjoy your cup of coffee or even three. The only times I'd say to desist or reduce is for those people with anxiety and for whom it affects their sleep.  The other time I ban the bean is when a patient says they 'need' their coffee to get through the day.  Alarm bells then go off in my head. This patient is adrenally exhausted, and the stimulant that is caffeine is just flogging those poor exhausted adrenal glands.  The medicine is to reduce coffee and take adaptogen herbs such as SIberian ginseng and Withania... and of course, reduce the stress if possible. 


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