Coffee and I have a long history together, including my years as a Barista for one of Seattle’s oldest coffee shops. When I started working in coffee I consumed only a cup a day, by the end I was drinking more like 4-6. I was obsessed with the art of making coffee and the culture that surrounds it. I even considered opening my own coffee shop instead of pursuing my dream of cooking. I had to give it up, however, when I had a health crisis that I now attribute to adrenal fatigue. One day I woke up and I could not tolerate caffeine anymore. If I had any more than ½ shot of espresso, I would start sweating, shaking, and feel nauseous. This was the first thing that brought me to the doctor suspecting a thyroid problem.
Needless to say, it was easy to stop drinking coffee since it was affecting me so negatively. In the beginning, I just switched to decaf. A few months later after finally getting my Hashimoto and Celiac diagnosis, I began to change my diet and became more in tune with my body. I began to notice that even if I had one decaf coffee in the morning, I would have a hard time sleeping at night. I then went through a phase of occasional use, like on the weekends or vacation. Finding the autoimmune protocol was the final nail in the coffin for my coffee habit. Once I eliminated and then reintroduced it, I found that I didn’t enjoy it as much any more.
In this article I am going to present some information on why you should consider eliminating coffee for a little while as well as some alternative beverages you can use instead.
Coffee and the autoimmune protocol
Coffee is technically a seed and is not recommended for the elimination phase of the autoimmune protocol. According to this article at The Paleo Mom, nuts and seeds tend to be the least problematic and the easiest to reintroduce back into the diet. If you are doing a strict autoimmune protocol, I think it would be wise to give up coffee for the duration of the elimination.
Coffee and cross-reactivity to gluten
If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, you should definitely explore the possibility that coffee may be harmful to you. Coffee is one of the most common cross-reactive foods to gluten, meaning some people’s bodies may recognize them as the same or very similar.
Coffee and adrenal fatigue
The short story of caffeine and the adrenal glands is that it over-stimulates them, which leads to further fatigue. A person can get into the habit of continually using caffeine to keep their energy stable, which may work temporarily but results in long-term setback. This can lead to adrenal symptoms such as difficulty waking up in the morning, fatigue not relieved by sleep, lethargy, decreased ability to handle stress, increased recovery time from illness, depression, energy fluctuations, and insomnia, among other things. Having an autoimmune disease is already a huge stressor on the body, and I believe that it is easier for those of us that have one to go down the path of adrenal fatigue more quickly. Removing coffee (and all caffeine, for that matter) from the equation helps our body manage stress more easily.
What about Decaf?
Decaffeinating coffee is a process that uses solvents to extract the caffeine – not exactly something that I would recommend consuming for anyone. That being said, I have been interested in swiss-water process decaf coffee, because it is not processed with any chemicals. The process uses water to extract the caffeine from the beans without the loss of other water-soluble ingredients. The only downside to swiss-water process is that it does not completely remove the caffeine.
Although it is hard to replace the flavor of coffee, there are a few warm beverages I have learned to love instead of it.
- Bone Broth: I have replaced my cup of morning coffee in the morning with a mug of bone broth. I love the ritual of having a hot beverage with my breakfast. I like to have at least one mug of broth a day, and having it with breakfast ensures that I don’t forget.
- Ginger Infusion: You can make a ginger infusion simply by slicing up some ginger and adding hot water. I like drinking it as-is, but it can be sweetened if you like. I enjoy this in the afternoons when I get a little energy slump – it keeps me hydrated while waking me up with a mild ginger flavor.
- Herbal Tea: Chamomile and peppermint are my go-to herbal teas. Chamomile has relaxing properties while peppermint soothes the stomach. I like to drink these after dinner, before I go to bed.
- Rooibos Tea: Of all of the options above, this is the most coffee-like replacement. It is a red, earthy-flavored tea made out of the leaves of a bush grown in South Africa. I like enjoying it plain, but I have tried blends with both vanilla and lavender. If I go out for a cup of tea with someone I will almost always order some sort of rooibos tea.
Have you managed to break up with coffee, either for an elimination diet or permanently? I’d love to hear your experiences and any beverages you have learned to enjoy instead!