Coffee is one of those things  you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream). You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your gut, your mind, etc.). And for those of us with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, we may rely on coffee to combat the fatigue and brain fog that are hallmark symptoms of an underactive thyroid.

Then there are those crazy headlines that one day say coffee is great, and the next day you should avoid it! When you’re dealing with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, what’s the answer?

If You Have a Sluggish Thyroid, Should You Drink Coffee?

With an underactive thyroid, the top symptoms my clients struggle with are lack of energy and the inability to lose weight. When they join my program to help ladies with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s, they generally assume coffee is out. And they’re pleasantly surprised when I say they very well may be able to continue to enjoy their daily java.

Personally, I love coffee. Black. With a pinch of cinnamon (tip: it adds a little sweetness and stabilizes blood sugar). And I would just consider it MEAN for me to prohibit coffee for ladies with hypo and Hashi’s!

FINE PRINT:

  • Avoid drinking coffee for at least 30-60 minutes after you take your thyroid meds. That also goes for food, other medications and supplements.
  • Avoid milk, creamer, sugar or artificial sweeteners in your coffee —if you must, try unsweetened almond, coconut or cashew milk and stevia. Steer clear of fancy concoctions from your favorite coffee shop.
  • Buy organic coffee — much of the coffee on grocery store shelves is laced with mold.

Let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is right for you or not.

Caffeine Metabolism

There is actual science behind why different people react differently to coffee. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.

NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup. Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after drinking coffee. The other half are “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.

This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much  because we’re all different!

The Effects of Coffee (and Caffeine) on Your Mind and Body

NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the metabolism I mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt and become more tolerant to long-term caffeine use. Many people who start drinking coffee feel the effects a lot more than people who drink coffee every day.

Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):

  • Stimulates the brain
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Boosts energy and exercise performance
  • Increases your stress hormone cortisol
  • Acts as a diuretic

So, while some effects are good and some aren’t, you need to see how they affect YOU and decide if it’s worth it or not.

Coffee and Health Risks

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:

  • Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
  • Sleep disruption (if you have trouble sleeping, aim to stop drinking coffee before noon)
  • Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of certain liver diseases
  • Lower risk of death (“all cause mortality”)
  • Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease

Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).

NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many, many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.

Should You Drink Coffee Yes or No?

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.

Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:

  • People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
  • People who often feel anxious
  • People who have trouble sleeping
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Children

If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:

  • Give you the jitters?
  • Increase anxious feelings?
  • Affect your sleep?
  • Give you heart palpitations?
  • Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
  • Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?

Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while to see the difference.

Recipe:  Pumpkin Spice Latte

Make this instead of Starbuck’s version, which has 50 grams of sugar!

Serves 1
3 tbsp coconut milk
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree
½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)

Instructions
Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.
Serve & enjoy!

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