The Pros and Cons of Coffee

July 5, 2012 in Categories: , , by

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Coffee drinkers around the world cheered when research study after research study proved that drinking coffee in moderation could provide a range of health benefits; including: preventing cancers, preventing stroke, preventing diabetes, preventing cardiovascular disease, preventing depression, preventing antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, preventing cirrhosis of the liver, preventing gout, preventing gallstones, and preventing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.  It can even reduce muscle soreness after a workout!  There are studies that show that you are plain old less likely to die (from any cause) if you are a coffee drinker! 1  This implies that drinking coffee every day can actually extend your life!  (This Wikipedia page has links to some of the many science articles showing coffee is beneficial).  In the paleo community, these health benefits are often cited to rationalize our addictions (coffee contains mild psychotropics) to this delightful beverage (what I generally think of as “comfort in a cup”).  Let us all raise our mugs of hot delicious americanos (whipped with coconut oil) in toast!

Er, not so fast.  Coffee is made from a seed (not a legume, but the pit of the coffee fruit).  Right away this should put us on the alert since seeds tend to contain protective compounds to prevent digestion and thereby ensure the survival of the plant species.  In the case of wheat, those compounds cause increased intestinal permeability (i.e., leaky gut) and prime the immune system to exaggerate inflammation and potentially cause autoantibody formation, which is clearly detrimental to our health.  In the case of the itty bitty seeds in blueberries, those compounds have such a low toxicity level as to have a negligible effect on our health (and the beneficial antioxidants and polyphenols in blueberries more than compensate!).  So, where on that spectrum is the coffee bean? 

Coffee is very rich in antioxidants and polyphenols.  Many of the health benefits of coffee are attributed to these substances.  These chemicals are also found abundantly in fruits and vegetables, which is why a diet rich in plant matter has pretty much the same list of health benefits as coffee (well, actually, far more health benefits).  Some of the health benefits of coffee are directly attributable to its caffeine content (which is also why drinking tea which is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and also contains caffeine is also associated with good health).  This is partly why many of the beneficial effects of coffee are not seen with decaf coffee.  Also, the decaffeination process tends to strip the coffee not only of much of its caffeine content but also many of its antioxidants and polyphenols (potentially leaving behind a few of the more harmful substances that can be found in coffee). 

A large percentage of people report that coffee upsets their stomach or gives them heartburn.  This is because coffee stimulates the secretion of the main gastric hormone gastrin 2.  This causes excessive secretion of gastric acid and speeds up gastric peristalsis (even decaf coffee has this effect).  Coffee also stimulates release of the hormone cholecystokinin (CKK), which stimulates release of bile from the gallbladder.  In a healthy individual, this release of bile salts is likely sufficient to neutralize the highly acidic chyme.  However, deficiencies in gall bladder function are associated with metabolic syndrome 3.  In the case of reduced gall bladder function or excessive coffee consumption, highly acidic chyme travels through the small intestine where it irritates and inflames the lining of the intestines.  This is also clearly a good argument for consuming coffee with food.

One of the detrimental effects of consuming caffeine (whether from coffee, tea, chocolate or energy drinks) is the effect that it has on cortisol.  Caffeine acts to increase cortisol secretion by elevating production of adrenocorticotropic hormone by the pituitary gland 4.  Excessive cortisol production can lead to a variety of health issues, including an overactive immune system, disrupted sleep, impaired digestion, and depression.  When you consume caffeine, your cortisol level increases (dependent on what your cortisol management is like to begin with and how much caffeine you consume) and can stay elevated for up to 6 hours.  With daily consumption, your body will adapt somewhat and not produce quite as much cortisol, but complete tolerance to caffeine does not occur 5.  Very importantly, if you are a habitual consumer of caffeine, your cortisol will increase more dramatically in response to stress (like that guy cutting you off in traffic) than someone who doesn’t consume caffeine 6,7.  If you have difficult managing stress as it is, caffeine is not helpful to you. 

One key study showed that moderate coffee consumption in healthyindividuals correlated with increased markers of inflammation in their blood 8.  People who drank more than 200mL (that’s one large cup in my house) of coffee every day (equivalent to 37.3mg of caffeine) had increased circulating white blood cells and several key inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers of inflammation, usually restricted to the site of injury or infection).  When cytokines circulate in the blood, they cause low level inflammation everywhere in the body.  This chronic systemic inflammation is exactly one of the situations we are trying to prevent with adoption of a paleo diet!  These increases in markers of inflammation were persistent even after adjusting for other health and lifestyle factors (such as age, sex, weight, exercise, and smoking).

If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, extra caution should be used when consuming coffee.  Internal data from Cyrex Labs shows that for people who produce IgG or IgA antibodies against gluten (i.e., gluten sensitivity), coffee is the most common cross-reactive food.  This is because there is a high degree of homology between some coffee proteins and gluten (this means the proteins look very similar so if your body is producing antibodies against gluten, they are more likely to also recognize coffee proteins).  Food sensitivities are one of the main issues that prevents the body from fully healing after adopting a paleo diet.  If your health isn’t improving as dramatically as you expected after adopting a paleo diet and if you are gluten-sensitive, continuing to consume coffee may be the culprit. 

So, should you drink coffee or not?  Are you tired of hearing me say “it depends”?  It does depend.  If you are very healthy, have lost most of the weight you need to lose, have regulated your hormones and healed your gut, coffee (in moderation) is likely to provide you a health benefit (Yay!).  This benefit is likely comparable to drinking tea and/or consuming diet rich in vegetable matter (I’m trying to say that if you don’t like coffee, don’t go out of your way to drink it).  However, in people just starting their paleo journey, especially people with evidence of metabolic derangement, giving up coffee for at least a little while will likely speed up the healing process (D’Oh!).  Also, caffeine in general is contraindicated for those with adrenal fatigue. Those people with autoimmune diseases should take special care with consumption of coffee as their systems are particular sensitive to irritants and they have a much higher likelihood of an immune response to coffee (because they have a much higher likelihood of gluten intolerance and food sensitivities in general).  Overall, coffee gets the “proceed with caution” label. 

 1 Freedman ND. “Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality”. New England Journal of Medicine. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
2 Boekema, PJ.; et al “Coffee and Gastrointestinal Function: Facts and Fiction: A Review”. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 1999. 34 (230): 35–39.
3 Ata N, et al. “The metabolic syndrome is associated with complicated gallstone disease. Can J Gastroenterol”. 2011 May; 25(5): 274–276.
4 Lovallo WR et al. “Stress-like adrenocorticotropin responses to caffeine in young healthy men” Pharmacol Biochem Behav 1996;55:365–9.
5 Lovallo, W. et. a. “Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels”. Psychosomatic Medicine. 2005. 67:734-739
6 Lane, J.D et. Al. “Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption. Psychosomatic Medicine”. 1990. 52(3):320-36.
7 Lane JD et al. “Caffeine affects cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activation at work and home”. Psychosom Med. 2002 Jul-Aug;64(4):595-603.
8 Zampelas A et al. “Associations between coffee consumption and inflammatory markers in healthy persons: the ATTICA study”. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Oct;80(4):862-7.


Sigh, confirming what I have been feeling for a while now. Coffee is doing me no good on many levels at this point in my life. I’ve cut down from 6 or 7 large mugs (an entire POT), to 2 a day. But I’ve been flirting with the idea lately that I need to lose it altogether if I’m going to get the rest of this excess fat off that I’m struggling with. I do NOT enjoy this idea. LOL But I think it’s necessary for me. Thanks for you site. It’s been so helpful for me.

There is a healthy alternative – a healthy coffee made by infusing “ganoderma” into the coffee. You can search the benefits of ganoderma, then check out my site – We have so many health testimonials from people…’s a real blessing! We also have tea, hot chocolate, capsules/nutraceuticals, soap and toothpaste.

WARNING: Ganoderma is an immune stimulant. If you have an autoimmune disease it would be wise not to dose yourself with herbs that stimulate the immune system. You *might* feel great for awhile, but then what happens to you when the immune system you just strengthened turns on your body in the usual ways your autoimmune disease causes it to? Or even “new” ways? If you are curious to learn more please ask a Chinese Herbalist about Reishi mushrooms, ganoderma lucidum or Lingzhi mushroom. They all refer to the same thing, and I suspect that a professional herbalist would not even have a healthy person dosing themselves with unknown amounts of this every day in their coffee.

My understanding is that Ganderma is an immune MODULATOR, that is, it helps regulate the immune system to a more normal setting.

Thank you for your correction. I am happy to concede that I used the wrong term. Unfortunately, my warning stems not from how this herb is categorized, but from how I have witnessed people react to it when they drank it in their coffee. It may be wonderous for the majority of people. But, I believe caution is warranted, especially for those with autoimmune disorders. I wish I had spoken to a Chinese herbalist before, not after, serving it to those I love.

Like I said over on Facebook, I don’t drink coffee but I love your scientific references and always feel like I’ve learned something from you. This post is no exception! Beyond the coffee, the information on caffeine alone is great. My hubby is (begrudgingly) on a 30 day repreaval from caffeine. This post gives me more insight and more leverage to keep him on track and hopefully prevent him from over consumption in the future.

Thank you for all you do!

There is no such thing as coincidence! I needed to hear this today and there it was! I have been following Whole 9’s autoimmune protocol for 6 weeks now and I feel AWESOME! {I’ve been grain free for 4 years} I know I have to kick the coffe habit especially since I’m going to a detox sanctuary in 10 days and I have to be caffeine free! Thank you Sarah! I needed this message to get it right in my head and set the goal of stopping this habit for my health!

Thank you for your post today. I too have a sneaking suspicion that I should reduce or eliminate my coffee consuption (as I am sitting here drinking coffee)…This is good information to keep in mind as I try to psyche myself up for this.

Thank you for the informative post. I hear nothing but defense about coffee on everyone’s blog, there are few who actually address the true ways it can harm our bodies. I am glad you are one of those bloggers who is willing to tackle these touchy subjects with thorough research.

I have been strict paleo for 6 months, and gluten-free and paleo-ish for many years prior. I’m still hanging on to the stubborn 5-8 pounds that don’t seem to want to leave my body. I do drink 1-2 cups of coffee per day. I have given up coffee lately, but usually for only a week or two, not noticing any difference. I’d like to know, once and for all, if coffee is a problem for me. How long do I have to abstain to really be able to tell if coffee is a problem?
Thanks for your input, I love, love, love your blog 🙂

The usual recommendation for elimination diet approaches to determining if you are sensitive to a food, is 3-6 weeks. I also have decided to give up coffee (at least temporarily) and my goal is one month. It takes the body a while to adapt, then heal, and then for you to notice the difference.

Also doesn’t coffee cause neurotransmitter pathway disruption? I am struggling with that now as a direct result of stopping coffee cold turkey.

What about guarana? I take a product called Zeal for Life and feel like it has really helped inflammation in my body because of all the antioxidants in it. I have had back problems for years and it has helped significantly with the pain in my back. I can do things I haven’t been able to do for years! I just wonder about the guarana! I love the energy it gives me. I don’t drink coffee anymore!

Hi Sarah!

I’m new to your blog today, and your backstory, especially your background in science, is really compelling! Having gone through a doctoral program myself (in music, so don’t worry–I’m not trolling!), I know how hard it can be on the body and soul. I was wondering: in which subject (biology, chemistry, etc.) did you receive your degree, and did you publish any articles or do any research that relate to or now inform your paleo transformation? Thanks!

I earned my PhD in medical biophysics in a vascular surgery research laboratory. I studied micro-circulatory changes resulting from systemic inflammation, but in the context of critical care medicine not general health. I published 7 first-author papers and was a co-author on 5 more. There was no nutritional aspect to my research at all (if anything, it has a pharmaceutical lean). Mostly, it just gave me the science background to be able to read the information I read now and understand it and put it into a more general context (having a thorough understanding of inflammation especially). If I ever do go back into research however, I intend to marry what I did previously with my new interests in nutrition. 🙂

Thanks so much for your reply. Given your academic background and personal history, your advice and explanations carry much more weight and substance than that of some paleo/primal bloggers out there. Keep up the good work, and don’t shy away from the scientific explanations–the more detailed the analysis and the more citations the better, as far as I’m concerned. That scholarship is what drew me, in large part, to Loren Cordain’s book nine years ago.

Hey Sarah, great article, and another nod towards the need to go Paleo and then personalise it to your needs.

Having an Autoimmune disease (psoriasis) and with my wife having another one (MS) then we are certainly going to cut out coffee for a while and see if we can bring it back in with a level of moderation.

Out of interest, are these problems not present in green tea as that is a leaf? Is there any such similar issues or potential issues with tea’s or green tea that you are aware of?

I am drinking a raspberry and mango tea and have been drinking some green tea – it does not feel as manly as my coffee bucket, sorry, I mean cup. 😉

Hi Marcus, I don’t believe that black or green tea has as much potential to be problematic (because of it being a leaf). And the research supporting the health benefits of tea is very strong (it’s much higher in antioxidants than coffee). It does still contain caffeine, of course, but about one quarter the amount in coffee, so there is the possibility for some cortisol issues. I have decided to give up coffee but not tea for now.

We drink decaf but after reading about how the coffee bean is stripped when decaffeinated, it makes me want to rethink this. There is just nothing like a cup of coffee with raw cream! Guess I just have to deprogram myself. 🙂

Wow, best post on coffee ever! Thank you so much! 5 years of plantar fasciitis (sp?) GONE within a month of quitting coffee. I didn’t even quit coffee for that reason, it was just an excellent bonus. Hellooo cute shoes again!
(BTW after 1 year, the foot pain has never returned)

An MD I worked with really feels that the roasting (burning) of the coffee bean (or seed) creates such volatile compounds in the oils, adding to the danger of coffee (inflammation, atherosclerosis, etc)

Curious to know if you’ve ever heard of the coffee alternative Teeccino, or are familiar with it’s ingredients (Roasted organic carob, organic chicory, organic dandelion root, organic ramon seeds, natural coffee flavor)? I gave up coffee and appreciate how similar this smells/tastes, but have concerns on whether it’s something I should really ingest several times a week. I guess it’s another one of those things to try and see how I do with and without! Love your site!

I have. I believe it has barley as an ingredient as well, which is a gluten-containing grain. Carob, chicory and dandelion root are all good though (and you can make your own homemade version with a mix of them).

Thanks for the response. They do offer a non-barley containing version now with only the ingredients I’d listed (dandelion replaces barley), so I did switch to that when going gluten-free. I just wanted to run it by a Paleo blogger that I respect!

My ND has also asked me to give up coffee due to extreme stress and cortisol issues, and I’m looking for alternatives. It’s hard to get the dandelion-only version of teeccino here (and I get that it’s ‘not paleo’)–but on their website, teeccino insists that if filtered through fine paper filters, even the teeccino with barley is completely gluten-free–so if it’s not gluten that makes it inappropriate, then I have to wonder how much of the gut-harming compounds of this grain will leach into a cup when brewed? (Because my gut is seriously damaged right now) Perhaps it is not so bad after all–or is it still? What about MacaPro coffee substitute; it is 100% roasted black maca root (though not as tasty as teeccino)

I have been suspicious of coffee as well. I have skin eruptions which have persisited for over a year after resconuming wheat, before I became officially wheat /grain free. I was not sure if it is dairy or(and)coffee. Of course I naturally “love” both these foods. I did begin enzymes that deal with gluten/casein. I do not drink a lot of coffee-2mugs Americano-BP style in the AM. Can I give it up? Maybe I can try for a few days and see how I feel. I am pretty sure if it is the coffee my skin inflammation/itchng will improve very quickly. If it does I will know it is the coffee. Thank you for a great article. I had no idea that coffee had so many effects.

I dropped coffee in the fall when I started thinking I maybe had adrenal fatigue. This was confirmed in Jan and now I use no caffiene except a dk chocolate. I did have an iced tea last weekend.

I have decaf maybe once a week, but I could probably cut it out all together

I became a coffee addict in Seattle many years ago. I can drink it with little effect. I can have a cup at night and still sleep well. It is part of my morning routine but I have tried to cut back on the volume this year. I switch over to hot water and lemon juice after a few cups of Joe in the am. I kind of like the change

Love my multiple cups of coffee, even though it has me running to the toilet 🙁 With a removed gall bladder & signficant endometriosis history, I felt like you wrote this article specifically for me! Lol. I don’t drink soft drink (extreme digestion pain until the wind & digestive contents are all eliminated eek). So coffee & wine have been my go to drinks when out & about. So if i give up cofffee, is tea an ok replacement? Does it have similar effects? Thanks for such a great article, it all makes sense when explained like this!

Omigosh, Sarah, I’m learning so much from you! I went gluten-free 2 years ago and it so tremendously helped my horribly severe eczema that I would never dream of “cheating”, and my asthma and arthritis problems were also greatly reduced. I started learning more about Paleo about a year ago, but just resisted making those eliminations.
Although my psoriasis was initially better with gluten-free, my itching is so much worse lately, that I know I have to eliminate more bad stuff from my diet and I was gearing up to go Paleo when I found the additional information on the Autoimmune Protocol through Melissa’s blog, which led me to you. I’m going Paleo + AIP in one fell swoop on April 1st, and trying to keep a “glass half full” attitude….but eliminating coffee – aw jeez. But thanks to your excellent info I think I can do that, too.
So have you stayed away from coffee yourself? What was your experience?
It least I can still have tea.

Yes, it’s been about 10 months since my last coffee. I still miss it but I’m afraid to try it (especially while my stress level is so high finishing the book).

Question! You said instant coffee was the problem Cyrex found not fresh. Can we have 1 cup organic fresh ground coffee in the french press? Hey rice a cross reactor? There is a serious clue for people. You really helped me Sara.

There are issues with coffee beyond gluten cross reaction. If you aren’t dealing with any particular health issues, then I think a cup a day is fine. But, if you are struggling with any chronic illness or inflammation, I think is should be reserved for a special treat.

Good article. Been Paleo for 1 1/2 years mostly 90/10 with 3 100% 6 week challenges, and while on the challenges I gave up coffee and felt great. Don’t know why I go back to drinking 16oz a day it might be just a comfort thing to sit in the morning with coffee. Did not know it had weight disadvantages along with other things. Looks like I will stop drinking, I did feel better and sleep better before. But going tent camping this weekend I’ll quit Monday and take ibuprofen to work 🙂 thanks

Aye, this one is so hard for me, but the information presented here really helps put things in perspective. I’ve got a lot of inflammation issues to address (chronic sinus issues, joint pain, food allergies and intolerances, IBS), and even several weeks into a strict autoimmune protocol and feeling many great beefits, I can feel lingering issues and reactions, and I know coffee is up there, although I only drink 1- 1 1/2 cups a day. Every time I’ve quit in the past, I struggle with feeling pretty emotionally low and unmotivates for a while. I almost always end up substituting with Yerba Mate just to have a kick in the morning, but I’m wondering if I just need to deal with the lowness and get on with myself completely caffeine free. Time to start weening I guess. 🙂

I dealt with yerba mate just fine. 1 TBS in the French press in the morning. Try it. If I could just have nuts I’d gladly give the coffee up. I am going to try raw organic macadamias from Hawaii next. I’m sure hoping that works. Not having chocolate, coffee and baked goods is bad enough. I can’t have coconut oil or flour. Geez huh!

I have been wanting to say a very big thank you to you Paleo Mom for quite some time. I just haven’t been able to find the time or the right way to do it (I’m a new mum)! Your posts are so informative and your approach to distilling information so clear and thought out. Thank you also for sharing your experiences as well. Looking forward to your book!

I think I can palate all of the AIP items but this one! Coffee seems so difficult to give up. However I must give it a go as I felt symptom free whilst pregnant and it is the only time I have ever been symptom free. Do you have any tips for kicking it? You may have also covered this, however are black and green teas options?

Thank you again.

After reading this I decided to quit my habit of decaf organic Swiss water processed Americanos (which I switched to after quitting regular coffee awhile back because of adrenal issues/low cortisol and getting too amped from the caffeine, partly because once I get started on coffee I seem to crave more and more) and go back to green tea and occasional black tea. I have been off gluten for over a decade due to ongoing challenges with psoriasis and pernicious anemia (and it has really helped). I am wondering if the lingering psoriasis patches are from coffee, so we shall see.

So are you still drinking green tea and black tea in lieu of coffee and decaf? It seems good for me (in moderation), even with my previous low cortisol issues, so I’m curious.

Yes, I still drink tea, mostly black. There’s studies that show that tea actually blunts the cortisol response to psychological stress (whereas coffee exaggerates it), so this is my rationale. 🙂

Hi, i am really interested in your comments you may have about coffee that is infused with Ganoderma. I was a professional athlete and my husband is a pharmacist….I hail from Australia and he from Costa Rica so we know about good coffee…but i have been doing lots of my own research on the amazing affects of this “King of Herbs”….and now they have found a way…(its patented) to infuse this herb into a daily (for most of us a few in the habit. Coffee. It also comes in Red and Green tea, Hot Chocolate, Cafe Mocha and Latte…this isn’t new, but just new to me….i love reading all the above comments and would love to hear what you can tell me about this coffee/tea and ganoderma. I have been drinking it for about a month now and i HONESTLY feel different. I feel better, i sleep better i can’t describe it but my mind is clearer??? and then there are SO many benefits to it from weight loss, lowers high blood pressure, improves digestive system, rejuvenates body tissue and cells, has anti-inflammatory properties…the cancer society is using it….and many more…there is 1/6 the caffeine level in this cup of coffee to the normal cup..its has 150+ anti oxidants and 200+ phytonutrients…you need 17 glasses of water to neutralize the negative effects of one cup of regular coffee…this coffee has a neutral PH…its something to think about…i am in my first week of cross fit (yes I’m VERY sore) and wonder if this is a good added ingredient to my Paleo diet…
Can wait to hear your comments..
Thank you

Truthfully, it’s not something I know much about. Other medicinal mushrooms are immune stimulators often used in immune balancing protocols (they are called anti-inflammatory because of the subset of the immune system they stimulate), but I don’t know if gonaderma is (although it’s likely). All of the herbals/medicinals in these classes can help some people and make others worse, depending on exactly what’s going on with their immune systems, so I typically recommend avoiding all of them. That being said, if you feel it’s helping you, then you should keep it up.

OK. I’ve been meaning to try to quit this stuff for awhile. I will quit it to see if I feel better. Based on what you’ve written here, it seems I will. Thanks!

Excuse me please if this has been addressed already…
You said something about how the decaffeination processs can also strip coffee if its beneficial properties -antioxidants etc. Do you know if that includes the Swiss water decaf method? Or is it possibly just best to moderate my regular coffee drinking according to how I find myself responding to it. Thank you for your time.
Awaiting your new book that should be in my mailbox very soon!

I was hoping you’d be able to lend me that oh-so-informative brain of yours!

I took tyrosine for the first time today and was so pleasantly surprised with the results I have resolved to quit drinking coffee because of it. I’ve heard that it can mimmick the catecholamine response that coffee brings- making withdrawals much more bearable- in addition to helping dopamine receptors reactivate. I’m assuming the pleasant results are due to having an existing neurotransmitter imbalance, but they were astonishing nevertheless. I was curious about a couple things though:

1)Can long term supplementation of tyrosine cause a downregulation of seratonin? I know that dopamine and seratonin and antagonistic and compete for uptake in the brain, so can using DLPA or tyrosine daily cause a decrease in seratonin and require supplementation of l-tryptophan or cessation of tyrosine/dlpa supplementation?

2)Would taking the precusor, DLPA, be more effective in minimizing the possible downregulation of seratonin? I don’t know a ton about neurochemistry or amino acids, so I was hoping you’d be able to help fill in the blanks.

I do eat a paleo diet rich in both amino acids, but have suffered from really bad brain fog for years. This is the most relief I have experienced without the random ‘good day’. I’ve been wanting to cut out caffeine for a very long time, but haven’t been able to due to having such debilitating brain fog. I do, after all, enjoy being functional throughout the course of the day.

Interesting question. Neurobiology isn’t my strongest area, but I’ve just been surfing PubMed and this is what I’ve been able to figure out.

Whether tyrosine supplementation can downregulate serotonin in humans has never been tested, but it does in hamsters. There are VERY few studies with DL-phenylalanine supplementation in humans (seems to exaggerate responses to opiates and also may have an effect on blood pressure and the immune system, reducing blood pressure and stimulating the immune system), but the related chemical 4-chloro-DL-phenylalanine is used to deplete serotonin in rat models of depression. But, the effect of tyrosine on dopamine and catecholamines is interesting, and there may be some benefit using it as a tool to quit coffee (which may help improve sleep and stress management and decrease inflammation and be overall beneficial). Still, I think there are some reasons to be leery of taking too much or taking it for too protracted of a period of time.

Interesting post! I have greatly improved my health (IBS went away and I feel great) by doing Whole30 first, then Paleo for 6+ months now, but I am still struggling with acid reflux. Coffee is something that really makes it flair up and I recently read that there might be a connection between cortisol levels and acid reflux. I find this interesting because I can eat the most innocent breakfast, some zucchini, plantains, and salmon, for instance, and still get acid reflux. There really seems to be no rhyme or reason to it – so that makes me wonder if just my anxiety of having lots to do in a day, work, etc. is enough to cause my cortisol to spike and cause my acid reflux. I am really beginning to think it is related more to how I am feeling (a little anxious or stressed usually) than what I am eating. I usually experience the acid reflux after breakfast and overnight. I hope to figure it out some day, but for now it is beyond frustrating and I can not seem to control it by diet alone!

I’m confused. Did we read the same study? I went to the study you quote (see source #8 above) and it showed “no evidence for adverse effects of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee on markers of inflammation” which is the opposite of what you wrote, “One key study showed that moderate coffee consumption in healthyindividuals correlated with increased markers of inflammation in their blood 8.”

I quit drinking coffee for about 3 months a year ago,and I noticed that without coffee it’s almost impossible for me to ‘turn my brain on’. I remember reading somewhere that it can take up to 6 months for your brain to adjust to not having caffeine, but it seems that the bulk of withdrawal symptoms dissipate after 9 days.Is it possible my neurotransmitters are still adjusting, or is it not plausible considering the amount of time I had abstained? Diet wise, I was eating paleo and tracking my protein consumption to ensure I was getting ample amounts of amino acids.

I was wondering about the safety of other caffeine sources like Yerba Mate for someone who is working on correctling SIBO while on the autoimmune protocol? I find that tea aggravates my autoimmune and I was looking for other morning alternatives. Thanks 🙂

Your posts have inspired me to follow the AIP, and also purchasing of your recent “publication”, The Paleo Approach. 🙂 These actions are in an attempt to see if ingestion of certain food is indeed associated with the severity of my psoriasis and often food-triggered epistaxis. Coffee, being one of the no-nos in AIP, is one of my favorite beverage, I tried really hard to not give it up; but this post, along with other research studies has convinced me to give up coffee, at least for a while, so that my gut could heal.

Below is another small-scale study I found on pubmed that claims habitual coffee drinker’s (N = 10) gut permeability is elevated as compared to non-coffee drinkers (N = 8). This claim was based on the finding of a 3-fold increase in urinary sucrose level in the coffee drinker after consumption of a liquid containing sucrose. The fact that intact sucrose was not broken down in the gut and permeated to the blood is a pretty solid evidence that the gut is indeed leaky, at least for non-diabetic people. Oh I want that cup of joe so bad.

The impairment of gastroduodenal mucosal barrier by coffee
A simple, non-invasive marker of gastric damage: sucrose permeability

I’m still confused if the cross-reactivity is with coffee beans or instant coffee (because of adulteration with gluten, not true cross-reactivity). I know the original study said instant coffee, but here it says coffee. Other sites say Cyrex has recently changed their lab test to say “instant coffee,” but the Cyrex website that I can call up just says “coffee.” SARA, can you please clarify this. Is your blog still accurate? (THANKS — I treasure your site & your book.)

I’m wondering if coffee enemas are ok? I rarely, if ever, drink coffee, so that is not an issue. However, I am struggling with constipation (started on the GAPS diet but starting to do more reading on Paleo protocol). I’ve come across several articles & posts touting the benefits of coffee enemas. Thoughts or insights on this? Thanks for your blog…just starting to read but so far it looks like you have fabulous info!!!


Chronic Constipation = Intestinal Dysbiosis
The majority of stool itself is gut bacteria. So the whole argument “You need more fiber in your diet” is wrong, you really need more bacteria (both quantity and diversity). Coffee Enemas are okay but they will not fix your dysbiosis (crippled gut flora). I myself have suffered for years after 3 months on anti-biotics.

Have you tried any of the fermented foods section? That’s a start.

I myself am gluten sensitive (IgG test revealed) and can tolerate coffee well (1-2 cups a day).

We went 2 years without coffee due to severe leaky gut damage from our Celiac—all 4 family members! I never thought we could handle coffee again, but we are! The one thing we are finding, though, is that coffee making methods that allow grounds into the brew DO irritate our guts and bleached coffee filters leach toxic things into the coffee too!! When we were using a hemp reusable filter, we had no problems with our coffee. But it wore out and I threw it out and have been using a mesh reusable filter that allows fine grounds into the coffee—and the gas and bowel problems are coming back. We had the same problem with french press coffee, which is why we got the hemp filter. Now off to find a replacement hemp filter so we can enjoy our coffee again and start the healing process…again.

Thanks for this, Sarah. Helpful! Good thing for me when I am following a paleo diet I don’t crave coffee. It’s probably a combination of feeling healthier in general and sleep being my challenge, but good to know moderation is important so I don’t slip back into my old ways. 🙂

Hi Paleo Mom, I have a quick question regarding coffee. I have Crohn’s Disease and Celiacs Disease. I recently within the last 8 months, started experimenting with bulletproof coffee. I can’t tolerate lactose or casein and up here in Canada, grass-fed certified lactose and casein free ghee is nearly impossible to find. That being said, some skin things have started to flare up for me, eczema like rashes on my face. After reading this, I am definitely going to put the bulletproof coffee aside (although I absolutely love it) and work towards fixing my again leaky gut. Did you retest coffee prior to just stopping it for two years? Or did you re-test? I have had blood food intolerance testing 4 years ago, coffee and chocolate came back fine, so I am hoping this is only brief. Thanks, hope to hear from you soon,



how about cold press coffee (that has significantly lower acidity levels due to the brewing process)? does it make any difference?

It’s interesting to me about this, as I gave up coffee 20 years ago because even decaf upset my stomach horribly.

I recently started drinking cold brew, which I make myself made from locally roasted organic truly fair trade beans that I grind, and it actually stabilized my bowels to a degree that hasn’t happened in years (I usually suffer from alternating IBS). Though standard coffee with conventional cream in it would leave me curled up on the floor in gut pain, the cold brew with grass fed raw milk actually seems to help quite a lot. I’m just starting on the paleo journey, and while I think I can deal with giving up the raw milk, I’m leery of starting in on a heavy load of vegetables (one thing that has in the past given me huge digestive issues) without the coffee on board… Thoughts? It’s one of the few things that has actually helped….

> I’m leery of starting in on a heavy load of vegetables (one thing that has in the past given me huge digestive issues) without the coffee on board… Thoughts?

Try organic vegetables (which aren’t covered in pesticides). Or to know what to steer clear of, check out:

I’m not really a coffee drinker, though I have drunk it in the past. I’ve read quite a bit about it since the messages about it seem so mixed. And one thing I’ve come across is the possibility, at least with most blends, of mold contamination, and I’m wondering if that’s more of an issue with those who are ill (which I AM) than those who are not. Supposedly the central American, high altitude, organic wet processed coffee has far less risk of mold contamination. I wonder if the studies made any kind of distinction in the type of coffee used, OTHER than whether it was regular or decaf.

Hi! I suffered from IBS D while in high school due to stress, but it went away when I finished school. My stomach was then fine. I worked an evening shift job, but drank coffee almost everyday and it gave me D within 15 minutes. I figured it wasn’t a big deal, but when I stopped (a good while later), my stomach was messed up everyday, and still is. I used to be able to drink beer, eat dairy and chocolate and pretty much anything without it bothering me. Now it does… Could it be leaky gut or what? What can I do to fix it? I hate living with diarrhea and urgency every morning. Thanks for any help!

I have been paleo since March of ’14 and through a long story..I gave up coffee for a month. Not by choice. My migraines were less often. I happened to have a family member give me a gift card to starbucks and found the next day I could not just jump up out of bed in the morning. I’ve tried several reintroductions between decaf, not decaf… No matter what I do, decaf gives me headaches and in general, decaf or not, zaps every last ounce of my energy. I have never experienced that caffeine high that people talk about. I wonder why my body reacts this way? Any advice? Clues? I’m just about a week off my last try and my energy is slowly coming back day by day, but I feel I am still not 100% lately. Even being paleo so long, I find that I haven’t found that fountain of energy. But, it’s definitely much improved without coffee.Ironic really.

Please tell me where you get grass fed RAW milk??? I live in Las Vegas and we have really weird laws, it is actually a crime to sell raw milk, and if they catch you transporting it across state lines, it becomes FEDERAL! Anyway, there is a guy working on that, but so far the only change is in northern NV. Just wondering, you can message me on FaceBook, or email me

I think the cross reactive in coffee was from contaminated coffee beans. I think it was Dr Kharrizhan that mentioned it in an interview with Sean Croxton…if you buy beans from an exclusively coffee place the contamination doesn’t show up…….the contaminates beans were from places that might have wheat in a vat one week; corn the next; wheat the next; coffee that next….. etc.

Another outstanding and well balanced perspective on coffee. I can attest to this one – after 35 days solid on a ketogenic aip diet with no symptoms and making the most money I ever made in one month in my life.

I had an emotional trigger and what did I do – reach for coffee after 35 days of only having one cup of yerba mate in the morning with maca and coconut oil to start my day doing better than ever. And down the rabbit hole I went. Of course the emotional trigger was based on trauma that is a whole nother story out of the context here.

But in a nutshell I had a woman I have the hots for swoon over me and give me her number and then I got scared because the attraction was like what you see in the movies (thought I had staryed into a dream) and then something in me started running flashbacks of my alcoholic mother telling me nasty things that had me looping out in fear and low self esteem.

[…] Sarah Ballantyne, my go-to girl on all things autoimmune related, is in agreement with Chris Kresser with regard to individual differences in our ability to deal with coffee. She says, “Those people with autoimmune diseases should take special care with consumption of coffee as their systems are particularly sensitive to irritants and they have a much higher likelihood of an immune response to coffee (because they have a much higher likelihood of gluten intolerance and food sensitivities in general). Overall, coffee gets the “proceed with caution” label.” […]

Thank you for the info! I am curious why drinking coffee hinders you to lose weight. Is it because of the inflammation in your body? Could you assume that inflammation doesn’t allow for proper weight lose?

Thanks so much Paleo Mom

Kristel Klessinger

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