The Connection Between Coffee & Autoimmune Disease
83% of adults in the US consume coffee. That number comes pretty close to the estimated 46 plus million people with autoimmune disease. So the big question is – Does coffee cause or contribute to autoimmune disease? Recent research shows that several forms of autoimmune disease are linked to coffee consumption. But the truth of the matter is, it’s not just the coffee. It is how it’s made, how it’s grown, how it’s served, what it is served in, and how much of it you choose to drink. I know…it’s never a simple black and white answer.
Does coffee cause autoimmune disease? Let’s dive into the basics on the topic:
Autoimmune Diseases Linked to Coffee
A recent study found that coffee consumption was linked to rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and celiac disease. The same study found that coffee contributes to gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD – see image below). Other studies have found that coffee can cross react with gluten, and that some instant coffees are actually cross contaminated with gluten. In my practice, it is common to see people with existing autoimmune disease feel worse when they consume coffee. At this point, you are probably getting mad at me for sharing this information, but don’t shoot the messenger, and don’t stop reading. The rest of this post is very revealing.
Think About This When You Are Drinking Coffee
It’s not just the coffee. Although research does show that coffee consumption is linked to autoimmune disease, you also have to consider several other factors common to coffee consumption.
What you put in the coffee matters
Many don’t just drink black coffee. They add dairy, non-dairy creamers, nut milks, sugar and artificial sweeteners, and other GMO fillers. Because dairy is often processed with microbial transglutaminase (meat glue), and can mimic gluten, it poses a threat for those struggling to overcome autoimmunity. Non-dairy creamers are full of GMO corn syrup, highly processed oils, and other chemical additives known to trigger autoimmune disease. Nut milks often contain gum thickeners known to cause inflammation to the GI tract. Sugar is definitely a contributing factor in autoimmunity, and now research is linking artificial sweeteners to autoimmune thyroid disease.
Many people are habitual coffee gulpers, taking in as much as a pot of coffee per day. It is important to understand that too much coffee comes with too much caffeine. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that disrupts a healthy sleep cycle. Sleep disruption is one of the primary triggers in autoimmune disease. High doses of caffeine also acts as a diuretic, contributing to the loss of minerals, water soluble vitamins, and dehydration. High doses of caffeine can also trigger excessive cortisol release from your adrenal glands, leading to large fluctuations in blood sugar, weight gain, and muscle loss. All triggers in the autoimmune process. So for some, it is not the coffee per say, but it is the quantity consumed on a regular basis.
The Cup Matters
What you put your coffee in is also important. The throw away paper cups used by most coffee bars and restaurants are lined with a coating often created from polylactic acid derived from GMO corn or sugar sources. Some linings are made from polyethylene derived from petroleum. And don’t forget, the lids and stir sticks are derived from plastics containing endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA that have also been linked to autoimmune disease.
Who Should Avoid Coffee?
If you have a diagnosis of autoimmune thyroid disease, celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, GERD, peptic ulcer disease, or Barrett’s Esophagitis, avoiding coffee is probably a good idea for you. If you have a leaky gut, avoiding coffee is probably a good idea, at least until you resolve the issue. Don’t forget that some people are also allergic to coffee. So if you aren’t sure, ask a functional medicine doctor to test you for this. And most importantly, pay attention to how you feel. If drinking coffee causes you problems, stop drinking it. In my practice, coffee is most commonly linked to autoimmune joint pain, muscle pain, anxiety, sleep problems, and gut irritation. So start with looking for those symptoms first.
If you find that coffee creates problems for you, try using green teas, herbal teas, bone broth, or a
If You Must Drink Coffee
If you will not give coffee up, consider the information above as a guide. Keep your consumption reasonable (1 cup/day). Consider the source of the coffee. Organic, whole bean is best in order to avoid mass pesticide exposure. Avoid using pod based machines. The water tanks in these commonly grow mold which can also be a trigger for autoimmune disease. If you use an instant coffee, make sure that it does not contain gluten. Drink out of a real glass and avoid the plastic based toxins. Drink your coffee in the morning to minimize the effect it can have on your sleep. Avoid drinking your coffee with chemical additives.
Two brands that I can highly recommend are:
- Purity Coffee – This company is a whole bean, certified organic, mold free coffee.
- Organo King Coffee – This instant coffee is organic, gluten free, and contains reishi spores. I like it because reishi has immune modulating effects that have been show to be supportive for those with autoimmune disease.
Alright, now that I have turned you into my enemy;) leave your scathing commentary below! Or you could just share your experience with coffee and autoimmune disease.
Always looking out for you,
Dr. Osborne – The Gluten Free Warrior