Patients don’t often ask me this question, probably because they don’t want to know the answer. The answer to this question isn’t always a “no,” however. There are certain foods/drinks on my “do not eat/drink list,” but coffee (and caffeinated tea) isn’t on it. Caffeine consumption is definitely individualized as it pertains to being a health benefit or detriment. So how can you filter through the glut of media attention and scientific studies regarding these substances? It’s really quite simple.
Caffeine used to get a fairly bad rap in the media and it seems that most people generally have a negative view of its effects on overall health. However, caffeinated coffee and tea have also been applauded as having health benefits related to their inherent antioxidant capacity. So which is it? There is so much conflicting research that it can be quite difficult to get a direct, simple answer. As with most things, it comes down to the individual. I use in-office testing on patients to determine my recommendations, and in this article I’ll offer some simple common sense to help you decide.
First, do you use caffeine to counteract fatigue? If you do, it’s probably best to avoid using it as a stimulant and instead address your underlying cause(s) of fatigue. There’s evidence that caffeine can stimulate stress hormone production, which in turn may tax your adrenal glands. If your adrenal glands are already under/over-functioning, this can further the imbalance. It’s synonymous with whipping a tired horse. This is especially true for those who need that 3pm or 4pm “pick me up” to get through the day and for those who get insomnia or jittery after caffeine consumption.
Do you get a withdrawal headache if you miss your morning cup? This would indicate that your blood vessels are over-dilated and as a result, causing the pain; caffeine is needed to constrict them. Although research literally says this is “nothing to worry about,” it seems fairly common sense that your body has lost its ability to adapt and is dependant on caffeine to function “normally.” In these instances, many of my patients have gone through the withdrawal and then find they feel generally worse after consuming it again.
Do you have to “digest” your cup of coffee or tea? Some people experience a lack of appetite or feel “full” after drinking caffeinated beverages. Your liver is required to ramp up detoxification mechanisms to break down caffeine and if your liver (and/or gallbladder) is “sluggish,” you may experience this. Also, a flood of stress hormones may put you in a “fight or flight” response, causing a lack of appetite while your body gears up to respond to a stressor. This is definitely an indicator that it’s worth abstaining from caffeine. And it’s a no-brainer that if you need/use it as an appetite suppressant, you should really look into why your body’s metabolism isn’t up to par. Also, that feeling of needing to “digest” your coffee or tea may very well be related to what you add to it (e.g. dairy, almond milk, sugar, etc.).
I hope this helped you become more informed on deciding whether or not to indulge in coffee or tea. Regardless of what research says, you are an individual and not necessarily going to respond the same way the participants of a scientific study may have. Scientific studies can be important, but they’ll almost never apply to every individual. I base a majority of my recommendations and treatments on the evidence I receive from both research and (more importantly) examining my patients’ response to stressors as the individuals they inherently are. As such, I recommend finding a doctor you trust who knows how to accurately address your health based on research and assessments from your body. I do this through applied kinesiology.
Dr. Rob D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Diplomate and Board-certified teacher of the International College of Applied Kinesiology