Coffee: A Holistic Perspective

To drink or not to drink? 

There is so much conflicting nutrition information available that many of us eventually become overwhelmed, frustrated or de-sensitized to it, choosing the answer we like best, or ignoring it all.

The truth usually lies somewhere between two extremes

I find this true in so many aspects of life, and is relevant in the case of coffee. For some people coffee is very health promoting while for others it can range from uncomfortable to dangerous.

One of my jobs as a Holistic Nutritionist is figuring out what for whom? It’s rare that I consider one food, drink or supplement to be helpful for everyone. It's also rare that there’s one thing I believe nobody should ever consume (there are a few exceptions.. high fructose corn syrup? Yeah, none of us need that.) 


  • It's delicious (although I think many of us like the sweeteners, cream and whip more than the actual taste of coffee)
  • Coffee can be a zero calorie drink
  • Coffee has more antioxidants per serving than tea which protect all cells from aging and disease
  • Some people find they can think more clearly and/or are more productive when they drink coffee
  • The majority of recent research suggests moderate consumption is neutral or mildly beneficial in healthy adults and linked with a decreased risk of:
    • dementia (including Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s)
    • overall mortality (death from all causes)
    • some cancers
    • type 2 diabetes
    • asthma (although dairy is very connected to asthma, so keep it dairy free!)
    • cirrhosis of the liver (scar tissue)
    • stroke & heart arthymias
  • Caffeine has also been shown to increase the effectiveness of certain painkillers

  • Coffee should be avoided if you have:
    • anxiety 
    • insomnia
    • high blood pressure
    • rosacea 
    • adrenal fatigue (click here for an explanation of adrenal fatigue) 
    • heart burn (it causes the sphincter/opening between stomach and esophagus to be less effective)
    • damaged gastrointesintal lining (IBS, celiac, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, peptic ulcers)
    • or are taking certain medications (for a detailed list click here)
  • Coffee is also known to cause or contribute to:
    • dehydration (coffee is a laxative and diuretic)
    • nutrient deficiencies (especially B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, iron & zinc  as it contains anti-nutrients that bind minerals and proteins in the gut and can cause them to be excreted rather than absorbed) 
    • stained teeth
    • hot flashes
    • an inability to wake up or feel like yourself without it (tolerance builds quickly)
    • bladder and/or kidney irritation
  • Coffee stimulates cortisol which has the pharmacological effect of making you feel like you’re behind schedule and can’t catch up, which can make you feel busy but doesn't always mean you're more productive
I’m someone who can be both positively and negatively affected by coffee, as I have chronically low blood pressure but also sleep issues. I’ve found that I do best to stay away from it, but when I do drink it it's in the morning and buffered with some coconut oil and cardamom. While coffee does help raise blood pressure, so does licorice root, so I usually choose this option. Again it’s all about finding the combination that feels best for you. 

In Summary

For some people coffee can be consumed in moderation with positive effects. To maximize nutrient absorption consume at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after a meal and drink adequate water to make up for coffee’s diuretic effect.

Avoid coffee if dealing with anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, GERD, heartburn, crohn’s, colitis, celiac disease, ulcers, rosacea, hot flashes or kidney disease.

Sending love in a mug, amy xx