April 4th, 2015 | Posted By: Magdalena Wszelaki | Posted in Articles, Thyroid, Thyroid Diet Coach

11 Ways Coffee Impacts Your Thyroid

Black magic. Black medicine. Morning elixir.

If you had to give up either coffee or the internet for 2 weeks, which one would you choose? How about either coffee or sex for 2 weeks?

Yeah, that was me, too.

Warning: if you love coffee and can’t live without it, this article won’t sit well with you. And that’s OK. My job is to help you see the truth. In fact, if you find yourself dismissing and rejecting it, that could be called denial.

Because the change that we resist the most is the change we need the most.

I also want to share with you my own journey with coffee so you know that I’ve had my own share of denial, experimentation and surrender.

I’ve had a long and turbulent relationship with coffee and caffeine. When you start drinking coffee at the tender age of 15 because your mom drinks it 4 times a day and the house smells of the Italian roast all day long, you slide right into it and it becomes a part of you.

I’m serious about these beans. I did a barista course when living in Seattle and have therefore acquired a decent knowledge of roasting techniques, bean sourcing and brewing techniques. Seeing and smelling the black and thick-as-oil liquid pouring out of my Italian $1800-espresso maker is what used to make my mornings.

Going to a new place meant finding a [good] coffee place that understood what good espresso was (I dislike American watered-down coffee) so I can get my fix first thing in the morning. Beans and I were inseparable. BFF.

Coffee, Hashimoto’s and Me

As a person with Hashimoto’s, I’ve come a long way. Diagnosed in 2008 with TPOab above 1000 and feeling terrible and helpless, I’ve managed to get them down to 66 by making significant diet changes (mainly repairing my gut), quitting stress and honoring my body’s need for sleep.

However, my progress hit a plateau. And then, I was found to have estrogen dominance and wonky cortisol levels. Me? After all those changes? I know you can relate how you just want to pull your hair out.

So I asked myself “what is the most difficult change I could make that I have been resisting all this time?”

And the answer was coffee.

“I’m only quitting coffee for two weeks, I can always go back to it” was a really good thing to say to myself as it didn’t make me feel like the umbilical cord between coffee and I was cut off forever.

It would require a new article to fully elaborate on my full health journey but for now, I will just share that coffee was a huge antagonist of my own healing path and the healing path of my clients.

I want to share with you what I have learned so you can be more educated and make the transition as well (if coffee is your antagonist.)

Taking steps to remove gluten, dairy or sugar from your diet can feel like a breeze compared to giving up coffee. However, as with anything that makes us feel that good, there is another side to your java fixation, and you need to know about it.

Benefits of coffee

Many reliable studies are often cited in confirming that coffee is full of antioxidants and polyphenols. However, these same antioxidants and polyphenols can also be found abundantly in many fruits and vegetables.

In addition, there are also a variety studies showing coffee’s role in the prevention of cancer, diabetes, depression, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones, etc.

Beyond science, there is also the undeniable feeling of comfort in a morning routine, a stop at a favorite coffee shop, the smell, the buzz, and the energetic boost and mental clarity that come with a good cup of joe.

Everyone reacts differently

Is coffee bad for everybody? Not really. Each of us can have a different reaction to coffee. Some people get jittery and nervous, while others feel uplifted for hours. Many coffee drinkers report feeling good for the first two hours (mainly due to a dopamine spike), but eventually their energy and mental alertness will start dropping rapidly.

That was most certainly me – feeling delightful for a couple of hours and then slipping into depletion. The worse symptoms I discovered was that coffee made me very angry and moody hours after drinking it. My PMS got worse and most definitely the estrogen-to-progesterone balance was out – if you continue reading, you will know why that is so.

Coffee is metabolized in Phase I of the liver detoxification pathway, and some people have a harder time breaking it down – we call them “slow metabolizers.” This can either manifest immediately, presenting shaky and jittery feelings, or in a delayed fashion, such as poor sleep and digestive issues.

What is so worrisome about coffee?

If you are suffering from thyroid issues, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, hot flashes or hormone-related conditions, it’s important to be fully aware of the “other side of coffee” and make an educated decision whether it is good for you.

Here are some of the lesser-known facts about coffee:

  1. Increases blood sugar levels

According to this study, caffeine increases blood sugar levels. This is especially dangerous for people with hypoglycemia (or low sugar levels) who feel jittery, shaky, moody and unfocused when hungry. Blood sugar fluctuations cause cortisol spikes, which not only exhaust the adrenals, but also deregulate the immune system. This is highly undesirable for those of us with adrenal fatigue, Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. Such cortisol spikes are also highly inflammatory (read more below).

  1. Creates sugar and carbohydrate cravings

As the result of the above (increase in sugar levels), when our blood sugar levels come down, we need an emergency fix to bring them back up. This is why people who drink coffee at breakfast or indulge in sugary and processed breakfasts crave carbs and sugar by 11am or later in the day.

  1. Contributes to acid reflux and damages gut lining

Coffee stimulates the release of gastrin, the main gastric hormone, which speeds up intestinal transit time. Coffee can also stimulate the release of bile (which is why some people run to the bathroom soon after drinking coffee) and digestive enzymes.

In a person with a healthy digestion, this is not a big deal. However, for people with autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Graves’, compromised digestion (such as IBS, or “leaky gut”), this can cause further digestive damage to the intestinal lining (source).

  1. Exhausts the adrenals

Coffee stimulates the adrenals to release more cortisol, our stress hormone; this is partly why we experience a wonderful but temporary and unsustainable burst of energy.

What many of us don’t realize is that our tired adrenals are often the cause of unexplained weight gain, sleeping problems, feeling emotionally fragile, depression and fatigue. Drinking coffee while experiencing adrenal fatigue is only adding fuel to the fire.

People with Hashimoto’s should be extra careful as the adrenals and cortisol also modulate the immune system and Hashimoto’s is a condition in which the immune system is already out of whack.

  1. Causes estrogen dominance = thyroid nodules, worse PMS and lumpy breasts

It’s well-established that coffee contributes to estrogen dominance (source), which can mean one of two things: we either have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, or we have an imbalance in the estrogen metabolites (some are protective and some are dangerous).

PMS, lumpy breasts, heavy periods, cellulite and even breast cancer (which is an estrogenic cancer) can be symptoms of estrogen dominance.

Estrogen is especially problematic for people with thyroid conditions. High estrogen levels (also known as estrogen dominance) rise thyroid binding globulin, making less thyroid hormone available for the body.

Estrogen dominance is also often cited as the cause of thyroid nodules and even thyroid cancer development (medical reference here).

  1. Gluten-cross reactive food

50% of people with gluten sensitivities also experience cross reactivity with other foods, including casein in milk products, corn, coffee, and almost all grains, because their protein structures are similar. Cyrex Labs provides a test for gluten cross-reactive foods (Array 4).

Many people report having a similar reaction to coffee as they do to gluten.

  1. Impacts the conversion of T4 to T3 hormones

Coffee impacts the absorption of levothyroxine (the synthetic thyroid hormone); this is why thyroid patients need to take their hormone replacement pill at least an hour before drinking coffee.

The indirect but important point is that coffee contributes to estrogen dominance, cited above, and estrogen dominance inhibits T4 to T3 conversion.

  1. Can cause miscarriages

This study showed that women who drink coffee during their pregnancy are at a higher risk of miscarriage. That’s scary. Why are our doctors not telling us this?!

  1. Is highly inflammatory

Any functional or integrative doctor would say the majority of modern diseases are caused by inflammation – a smoldering and invisible fire found on a cellular level.

This study found that caffeine is a significant contributor to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic body pains and aches, fatigue, skin problems, diabetes and autoimmune conditions are just some of the conditions related to inflammation.

  1. Can contribute to and even cause osteoporosis

It is well-known that coffee changes our body pH to a lower, and thus more acidic, level. A low pH (which means a more acidic body) can contribute to osteoporosis.

This study has confirmed that habitual coffee drinking among postmenopausal women was the leading cause of osteoporosis.

  1. Can cause insomnia and poor sleep

This study showed that 400mg of “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive [sleep] effects.”

This, again, is dependent on the individual and his or her ability to metabolize caffeine. Some people experience deep and restful sleep whether or not they drink coffee, while others do not, even if they stop drinking anything caffeinated at noon.

How sensitive are you and how does coffee impact your sleep? You will only find out when you give up caffeinated drinks for 5 days – then your body will tell you!

What about decaf?

It’s a disputed area, but many health practitioners don’t suggest it for two reasons.

For one, many manufacturers use a chemical process to remove caffeine from the coffee beans. The result is less caffeine, but more chemicals.

Secondly, it is the caffeine in the coffee that has the health benefits we discussed above. Without it, you are left with little benefit.

The change we resist the most is often the change we need the most

Many people I works with have made extensive dietary changes and they will admit that coffee was the last and hardest thing to eliminate. Coffee is our ritual; it’s our best friend.

But is it really? It is often said that the change we resist the most is the change our body needs the most. Let your intuition be your guide.

Bottom line – what can you do?

You will only know how you really feel without coffee when you get off it for 3 to 5 days (and please don’t say it does not impact you until you try this experiment).

The first 2 days will be tough, but that tells you something important about this addictive substance, does it not?

Many women who have given up coffee and caffeine report better sleep within days, fewer hot flashes, less depression and anxiety, and many more other benefits over time.

What are some substitute options?

If you feel like you still need a slight kick, go for less-caffeinated options, such as green tea. Use the below infographic to guide you to make better choices.

Caffeine-Infographic_2-458x1024

Once you are ready to completely rid yourself of caffeine, herbal teas are a wonderful replacement.

An Adaptogenic Coffee Replacement I Love

One of my favorite replacements for coffee? Rasa. It’s an adaptogenic coffee alternative. In case you are new to this – adaptogens are a group of herbs that support the endocrine, nervous and immune systems – restoring and balancing it so you can experience the fullness and depth of energy. I call it the “energy from within” or living off a growing bank account.

Rasa is packed with 12 organic adaptogens like ashwagandha, reishi, and chaga. It delivers even-keeled energy from a warm cuppa, without the jitters of caffeine. Each herb is in meticulously-balanced proportions to optimize both benefits and taste. They taste-test every batch of herbs and reformulate based on the strength of each harvest to ensure a robust, complex, balanced flavor.

If you’re looking to kick your coffee habit and reset your body with even-keeled energy, Rasa is a great place to start.

[RECIPE] ROASTED CHICORY ROOT LATTE

Here’s another one of my favorite coffee alternatives: a Roasted Chicory Latte – it tastes like coffee, but it contains no caffeine. Making it into a smooth and creamy (yet dairy-free) latte makes the transition so much easier.Coffee-RoastedCHicory

Time to prepare: 15 minutes

Time to steep: 10 minutes

Serves: 1

Equipment: blender

Ingredients

1 tbsp roasted chicory root

2 cups water

1 tbsp ghee, coconut butter or butter (if tolerated)

1 pitted date

fresh nutmeg (nut or powder)

How to Make

  1. Bring water to a boil, add chicory root and steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Strain and transfer to a blender.
  3. Add the ghee (or any fat you decide to use) and the date. Blend for 1 minute at high speed.
  4. Top with freshly grated nutmeg and enjoy.

28 Comments to 11 Ways Coffee Impacts Your Thyroid

  1. Thanks for sharing the article about Coffee Impacts to Thyroid. here is given 11 ways coffee impacts, their advantage, the disadvantage, worrisome about coffee? absolutely nice. It improves the basic knowledge about thyroid that people should take care of their health.

      • I I gave up coffee about a month ago and I now enjoy the natural feeling of being tired in the morning, knowing when I need a nap (being able to take one) and taking naps and sleeping better. I don’t miss the artificial, manic energy boost. I looked at I did a Google search because I had a suspicion that coffee and caffeine may have been linked to a lot of potentially deadly side effects. Your article has brought some of those to light. I’m sure more research will be done especially in the area of breast cancer and thyroid injury. If you Google “does coffee cause cancer” or “is coffee bad for you” to see how much power the coffee industry has to cloud the internet with the positive affect of coffee and confuse anything negative. I wouldn’t doubt that some of the comments are from coffee industry PR peeps. Thanks again!! Very well written and informative.

  2. Thanks for sharing I made the decision to quit coffee/ caffeine this week and just read your article. Helps make my decision make more sense! My hormones have been off for years. PMS issues and even had my uterus removed this past January. And I have hypothyroidism and fibrosis which causes joint pain and joint deterioration. Just wish I knew this years ago maybe would have avoided many health issues!

  3. In Point 9, the study that you hyperlinked makes the opposite conclusion, that theaflavin-enriched black tea extract is anti-inflammatory and actually helps boost recovery time of athletes. Make me think if all the other points also poorly researched?

    • Not to say that the other points are 100% accurate, but I believe your last question seems a little like an association fallacy. I would do a bit more research on the other points before a hasty generalization is made, and remember that we are not just talking about athletes. We are also talking about people with serious health conditions and auto immune disorders. Thanks for sharing your thoughts though.

      • Not an “association fallacy”, but rather a reasonable ground for lack of confidence. The author hasn’t removed the incorrect link information, which reminds me of Guardian articles about the “far right” for some unfathomable reason.

  4. Hi Magdalena! Great article, great site! I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto, recently. Did you ever take L-Thyroxine or did you normalize your levels just by nutrition? And what’s your opinion about black tea? Can I replace coffee with chai or will that, too, have a horror story?

  5. Hi, I like your infographic with a link to your post? Can I use it in my post on how to fall asleep instantly? I would be perfect for my section on caffeine and sleep.

  6. “Among men, consumption of caffeinated coffee increased total testosterone and decreased total and free estradiol. ”

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3502342/

    It is my understanding that in Caucasians coffee lowers estrogen, specifically caffeine increases androgen output.
    Half your argument is based on coffee’s effects on increasing estrogen, and the link you posted mentions 4-6 cups and does not say which gender or ethnicity was studied.

    1-3 cups a day should be beneficial for a man (and I am no lover of coffee)

  7. You may be wrong about how long it will take to see the difference in your new caffeine free life. Stephen Cherniske of “Caffeine Blues” insists that you be caffeine free for at least a month before you claim that caffeine doesn’t affect you. I found that to be true for me and after six weeks it was OTHER people who were noticing how ‘calm & relaxed’ I seemed. Unfortunately, I got back on sometime later (it really is hard to quit!) and now I have to start all over again, but I, too, was diagnosed recently with Hashimoto’s so your words here have inspired me to let go.

  8. thank you so much for this. i have graves disease for 4 years. and despite taking medications regularly and avoiding foods that could trigger, my hormones don’t normalize longer. i have given up everything except coffee. i drink 2-3 cups daily so the next time I went for a check-up my thyroid hormones were not balanced again. i have to give up coffee if i want to get better.this is a great article.

  9. Great article! I recently gave up coffee because of the inflammation it caused after I drank it. I have thyroid nodules that continue to grow and also gluten intolerance. Abstaining from coffee is something that I found makes me feel better and after reading your article I feel like I’m in the right path. Thank you for sharing.

  10. I usually have a cup morning – love it – but will go some days without. Makes my digestive system like clockwork…I get a “cleanse” in the morning, if you know what I mean. I have hypothyroidism (I believe the opposite of Hashimotos/hyperthyroidism) – maybe coffee is extra good for hypo 😉 Although, that is good to know it could mess with the pill I take if consumed to close together. Also, I was told once my estrogen levels were low…all the more reason to drink coffee?! 🙂

  11. Is there an article that discusses if it is caffeine or the coffee that affects levothyroxine (L-T4)? I haven’t seen an article that implicates caffeine, only coffee. Which makes me think that it’s a chemical in coffee that is the problem, not the caffeine. “Of the many compounds identified in roasted coffee, the specific compound that accounts for its L-T4–binding property has not been reported. The exact mechanism of how and where sequestration occurs is not known. Caffeine has not been specifically implicated in causing the interaction. No published studies observe the effects of decaffeinated coffee on the absorption of L-T4.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Volume 116, Issue 7, July 2016, Pages 1073-1075, 1076

    • I’m with you totally on this one! I’ve exhausted my limit on searching for studies and info on this subject and the decaffeinated relationship.

  12. This was an incredible article. This is a mutifaceted perspective that is seldom reported. Thank you so much!

  13. Hi .I’m a 53 yr old male and I’ve had Hashimoto’s for about 20 years. One small cup of coffee per day is not harmful to me. As long as I have it before 9 am. Maybe we overthink these things too much.

    • Hi Dana,

      I recommend taking a break from coffee, and then include it back in your daily routine for a couple days. Pay attention to how your body feels both with, and without coffee. (Like what you would do with gluten on the elimination diet).

      If you feel it works for you, stick with it!
      If it doesn’t sit well with you, feel free to check out a brand we love called Rasa. (Can be found in our AllThingsWeLove page).

      Healthy Regards,
      HB Team

    • Hey Priya,

      Chicory root is often a good alternative for folks with thyroid concerns. However, if you have specific concerns, it may be worthwhile for you to check with your medical professional or a clinical herbalist to see if this is a good fit for you. =).

      Also the brand we mentioned above, Rasa, has lots of great info on Chicory, as this wonderful root is part of their formula. This may be a great place for you to start your research.

      Healthy Regards,
      HB Team

  14. How about Swiss water processed low acid decaf organic coffee? The problem is the caffeine and/or the chemical processing?

    • Hi Beth,
      Yes, that seems like a better choice by far. There is no single answer. It all depends on what works best for you.
      Healthy Regards,
      HB Team

  15. Thank you so much for this valuable information. I’m really struggling right now and have known for a while that I needed to cut out coffee, this has confirmed it and given me the kick start I needed.

    • I’m glad this information was helpful for you. Your hormones and your energy levels will thank you for taking on this transition. You got this!

      – HB Team

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