10 reasons why coffee might not be great if you have autoimmune disease

Coffee is good for us, yes? I reckon there’s a fair bit of evidence now saying it’s so. But what about if you have an autoimmune disease? (New here? I have Hashimotos and I often write from this particular POV.) Me, I drink coffee – about 2-3 cups per week. But I’ve been starting to wonder if I might want to back off even more. And so I dug around. Figured you might like to know what I came up with…

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

10 reasons why you should think twice before drinking coffee

1. Coffee can mess up your blood sugar. Caffeine impairs insulin action. In young, healthy folk, moderate intake of caffeine is unlikely to affect blood sugar levels too much, but for some AI types, drinking coffee causes both insulin and blood glucose spikes after meals. Over time, your insulin sensitivity goes down, making it harder for the body to respond to blood glucose spikes when they occur. Ergo, havoc.

2. Coffee disrupts your sleep. I don’t sleep well at the best of times. It’s one of 3984928374 AI symptoms. Further, cell damage from AI mayhem is repaired during sleep, but only once our bodies have attended to everything else we’ve put into it during the day. Which requires solid sleep.

3. It boosts stress hormones.When stress occurs, cortisol is released to make energy available – so you can fight or flee. When stress ceases, the body goes back to its normal state. But when stress becomes chronic, as it can do with drinking coffee regularly, our body is continually exposed to high levels of cortisol which have been linked to (among many other things) compromised immune function.

4.  When drunk from a takeaway cup through a plastic lid, it exposes you to BPA. I’ve written about this recently. When the hot liquid passes through the plastic lid as you drink your coffee, BPA is drawn out of the plastic by the acidity levels and the heat. BPA has been shown to have a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. BPA is a known thyroid/endocrine disruptor, a tedious chemical which binds to hormone receptors and impairs all kinds of really important endocrine functions. The thing about BPAs you probably need to know is that even low exposure can wreak havoc (particularly for anyone with an autoimmune disease).

5. It dehydrates you. While a recent review concluded that moderate ingestion of caffeine (<300mg) does not promote dehydration, 300mg is easily attainable in 2-3 cups of coffee per day. Which I know is what some of us drink! Fluid retention and salt loss and thirst are all AI-related issues.

Energydrinkstablefinal 10 reasons why coffee might not be great if you have autoimmune disease

6. It affects the absorption of your thyroid meds. L-Thyroxine (the standard drug treatment for hypothyroidism) is absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract. A 2008 study showed a clear correlation between drinking espresso with (or shortly after) taking thyroid tablets and decreased absorption of the drug. News to me!

7. It can increase your risk of heart disease.  While unfiltered coffee (ie any coffee that doesn’t run through a paper filter) may have the highest level of antioxidants, it also leaks the highest level of diterpenes into your body. These compounds raise serum concentrations of cholesterol, alanine aminotransferase (a liver enzyme which may indicate liver disease, diabetes and congestive heart failure) and triglycerides (serum lipid levels)…All stuff that AI types can’t afford to have associated with their person.

8. It messes up your gut. The acidity of coffee itself can cause changes in gut acidity. Your stomach creates additional hydrochloric acid (HCl) – which is essential for digestion – but if it’s chronically over-produced  it can eventually reduce the body’s ability to create it, leading to low stomach acid. Low stomach acid means poor digestion, protein malnourishment and mineral deficiency. As someone with AI, I try to keep my body alkaline at all times, minimising acid where I can.

9. It messes up your electrolytes. Coffee consumption may have a negative impact on our kidneys’ ability to retain minerals vital for digestion (and other biological functions), such as magnesium, calcium and zinc. These three minerals are very depleted in my own system and are low for a lot of people with Hashimotos. Iron absorption in the stomach is heavily reduced if coffee is consumed at the same time as iron-rich foods.

But wait! What about the cytokine issue?! Indeed, this is quite a key one…

10. Coffee can worsen Th-2 dominant types. In a well-functioning immune system, T-helper Cells (Th) 1 and 2 recognise foreign pathogens and produce hormonal messenger proteins (cytokines) to go to the source of the inflammation. These helper cells work together to create balance. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your Th1 and Th2 can be messed up in a couple of ways. All AI diseases are either Th1 dominant or Th2 dominant.

If you have a Th1-dominant disease (like Type I Diabetes, Hashimotos or Crohns Disease) then you may benefit from drinking some coffee daily, as it stimulates Th2 cells (while other foods can dampen Th2 eg: echinacea…which is something that really can cause troubles for me at times). On the other hand, if you have a Th2-dominant disease (like Lupus, asthma or eczema) then coffee might increase inflammation, as can green tea and turmeric. This is a complex issue and I’d be happy to discuss it more in another post if it interests? Yes?

So where does this leave us all?

Me, I’m going to have a break from coffee for a few weeks, starting from today. My body is telling me it’s appropriate right now – the past few weeks coffee has left me toooooo racy and nauseous (my gut is literally my best gauge; I listen when my gut speaks). When I’m back in form again, I’m sure I’ll go back to a few cups a week. I don’t eat to rules. I let the rules inform me about what I’m feeling.

What about you? Does your coffee habit affect your autoimmune disease? What’s your take on it?

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