As a big huge coffee lover (make it black, no milk please) I tend to advocate the numerous health benefits of coffee. But it wouldn’t be fair to encourage people to drink coffee without mentioning the side effects, some of which can be quite a big deal if you drink it the wrong way or have a pre-existing problem. So in this post, instead of discouraging drinking coffee, I better tell how you shouldn’t drink it, or rather, how exactly you should drink it to avoid the biggest side effects.

Important! please note, that I am not a doctor, so I cannot give you a medical advice. I am a qualified nutritionist, holding diplomas in nutritional therapy, personal and child nutrition and sports nutrition. I know my way around food and share my knowledge and ideas on this blog. If you are in need of a professional/medical advice, I strongly suggest that you approach your health care provider or a registered dietician in your area.

If you have read the previous paragraph and pressed an imaginary I Agree button, then let’s start.

Benefits of coffee

Mentioned not once before, the health benefits of coffee are quite impressive. There is an ongoing research and much more needs to be discovered, but the most known benefits that have been consistently shown in research include:

  • antioxidant properties that may slow down ageing and prevent various damaging processes in the body
  • effects on metabolism – coffee seems to speed it up thus aiding fat loss, but the effects are temporary and to get the most effects coffee needs to be cycled
  • dopamine release, which is synonimous to happiness hormone and can help lower the risk of depression, at least in women
  • energy boost – that is why caffeine is a common ingredient in energy drinks and pre-workout supplements
  • memory and cognitive function boost because caffeine stimulates various areas of brain and nervous system, including the ones responsible for memory and attention
  • disease prevention – the exact mechanims are not always known but it appears that coffee may play a role in protection from heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as certain cancers, including skin cancers.

Fabulous, right? But as I said, it does not come without a price.

Coffee side effects

There are quite many, and they include:

  • addiction to caffeine
  • raised blood pressure and existing heart disease aggravation
  • anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia in people with existing condition/or when caffeine intake is beyond safe levels
  • vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • heartburn, reflux and gastric issues

So how do we avoid the side effects?

  1. Do not drink coffee on empty stomach. It is quite popular to drink a cup of coffee first thing in the morning (for some, along with a cigarette). Some do it out of a habit, others try to lose weight by thus suppressing appetite. But coffee makes the stomach produce hydrochloric acid, which is used to break down food. Only there is no food to break down. In such a case hydrochloric acid irritates the stomach lining, possibly leading to gastritis and ulcers.
  2. Don’t drink coffee with meals either. Coffee is a known laxative. For some people it takes just a few minutes for coffee to work. Coffee also prompts gastric emptying – this is when the food leaves your stomach and goes into intestines for further digestion. The problem is, however, that the food didn’t have enough time to get broken down in the stomach and cannot be properly digested in the intestines. This can lead to bloating, cramping and wind, as well as diarrhoea.
  3. Don’t drink coffee after meals. Besides the indigestion, coffee with/or right after meals can lead to nutritional deficiencies. This is because caffeine inhibits absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, such as Iron and B vitamins. If you regularly drink coffee at meal times, you may be deficient.
  4. Don’t drink coffee in the afternoon. Especially if you are prone to sleep difficulties. It can overstimulate your nervous system and prevent you from relaxing and falling asleep at night. Switch to decaf if you want to enjoy your cuppa after lunch.
  5. Finally, AVOID coffee AT ALL COSTS if you suffer from panic attacks. Caffeine makes you more agitated and triggers panic pt anxiety attacks, especially when taken in large amounts. You may want to switch to a decaf in this case. Some people can also find the amount that they can tolerate without issues, like 1 cup a day.

Now, How Can You Drink Coffee?

Ideally, in the first half of the day, 60-90 minutes after your meal. That’s what tea and coffee breaks at work are for, right? And don’t worry much if you want to have a little treat with your coffee. There aren’t many nutrients in sweet treats anyway, so no worries about deficiencies. Coffee, on the other hand, has shown a positive effect on glucose metabolism, possibly preventing high blood sugar and diabetes. However, it does not apply to those suffering stomach upset upon ingesting coffe with food. Sorry, but you better enjoy your coffee on its own.

References and Further Reading




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