The Truth about Coffee & Caffeine
By: Dr. Skip Hellen ND, CNC (Health Doctor)
In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, temporarily stopping
drowsiness and restoring alertness. It is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug.
Beverages containing caffeine currently enjoy enormous popularity in North America where
roughly 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.
Coffee is the second most traded product in the world after petroleum. Annually, world
wide coffee production tips the scales at about 6 million metric tons generating well over
30 billion. People who buy regularly buy coffee at drive through windows on their way to
work will spend on average over 50 hours a year waiting in line. The largest coffee-producing
nation, Brazil, produces around 40% of total world coffee supply. Coffee is consumed at
1400 million cups each day and is the most popular beverage after water.
For many Americans, the rich smell of fresh coffee in the morning has solidified into a
life coffee drinking habit. Many say “I really love coffee. I don’t just drink it, I savor
and enjoy it.”
Is the largely appealing odor of coffee and its consumption a health benefit or a habit that may
eventually lead to physiological danger and biological damage? The answer to this question is
still being aggressively debated on both sides of the aisle. While some coffee studies show
great benefits, others show potential harm. It is prudent to examine all potentially unhealthy
habits before they result in illness, disease, and premature biological degradation. Knowing
the facts will provide the necessary information required to make an informed decision
regarding the habitual consumption of coffee.
While I have not developed the coffee habit, I have enjoyed coffee flavored ice cream in
the past. Some habitual coffee drinkers complain of insomnia, headache, and irritable bowel
syndrome, yet they refuse to give up the coffee drinking habit. Many are in denial about the
role excessive coffee consumption can play in compromised health. Some would say they are
addicted and they may be right.
With studies showing both health and ill health properties of coffee consumption, it’s not
hard to see why many of utterly confused. The decision regarding the coffee habit has become
a conundrum for some. Mixed studies results on coffee’s effects only serve to complicate the
How Does Coffee Consumption Affect the Body?
Coffee (caffeine) is a central nervous system stimulant and a diuretic. The diuretic response
diminishes in chronic users over time as a strong tolerance develops. Caffeine is absorbed and
distributed very quickly throughout the body. After absorption, it passes into the brain.
Caffeine does not accumulate in the bloodstream nor is it stored in the body. It is excreted
in the urine many hours after consumption. Caffeine will not reduce the effects
of alcohol, although many people still believe a cup of coffee will "sober-up" an intoxicated
person. Caffeine may be used as a treatment for fatigue or drowsiness but not effective for
Fight or Flight Response
Within five minutes of consuming caffeinated coffee, the caffeine begins to stimulate your
central nervous system, triggering the release of stress hormones, causing a stress
("fight or flight") response. This biochemical response transfers blood out of the center
of the body out to the arms and legs to facilitate battle (fight) or escape (flight).
With the reduction in blood around the digestive organs, digestion becomes compromised.
For this reason it is prudent to consume coffee (caffeine) alone to avoid digestive
complications. In short don’t eat when consuming caffeinated beverages.
Positive Points about Coffee Consumption;
- Some studies have shown that moderate consumption may reduces the risk of Alzheimer's,
Parkinson's, heart disease, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, gout and some types of cancer.
(caffeinated coffee only)
- A study shows that Americans get most of their antioxidants from their daily coffee
consumption. One to two cups a day maximum appears to be produce health benefits, according
to the studies.
- It has some antioxidant properties (fights oxygen free radicals).
- May improve memory and cognitive function.
- May be linked to reduced levels of estrogen and insulin.
- May reduced risk of developing gallbladder disease.
Negative Points about Coffee Consumption;
- Caffeine is a drug and addiction can be a significant problem for regular users.
- Increases wakefulness, faster and clearer flow of thought, increased focus, and better
general body coordination.
- It is acid forming therefore contributes to osteoporosis.
- Causes wrinkles.
- Responsible for weight gain.
- None organic coffee beans are laden with pesticides and unhealthy chemicals which adds to
toxic accumulation (toxemia – the foundational cause of most illness and disease).
- May lead to a magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesaemia.
- May cause stiffening of arterial walls.
- Caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland, triggering stress hormones release causing a stress
fight or flight response which disrupts proper digestion.
Excessive Coffee Consumption (caffeine) can lead to the
following health problems;
Increased heart rate
Elevated blood pressure
Is Coffee Consumption Safe In Moderation?
While there are studies that find moderate coffee consumption may have some positive health
benefits, other studies find the opposite. It seems that moderate consumption is less likely
to cause ill health problems if consumed alone (no food for an hour after consumption).
Perhaps the most important fact to understand is that coffee changes internal biochemistry
quickly interfering proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Moderate caffeine intake, is not
currently considered to be a health risk.
The Coffee Question – What is a Healthy Amount?
Coffee presents somewhat of a dilemma for a naturopath. Coffee beans are a product of nature.
The caffeine contained is natural in over 60 types of plant species, but coffee is the most
recognized of the caffeinated beverages just ahead of tea. While coffee beans are natural,
coffee beverages are not as they are highly processed. There are many natural plant foods
that contain compounds that are unhealthy therefore not prudent to consume. Coffee falls
into the unhealthy category for me. While coffee (caffeine) appears to possess both positive
and negative health properties, the negatives outweigh the positives in my opinion. Sugar is
another example of a relatively natural substance that is highly processed and has almost
entirely negative health properties. Now to the question at hand, three 8 oz. cups of coffee
(about 250 milligrams of caffeine) per day is considered by the scientific community to be a
safe amount of caffeine consumption. I respectfully disagree.
All things consumed affect internal biochemistry therefore effects health. While coffee has
both positive and negative affects on biochemistry, I believe the negatives outweigh the
positives. Hormones are extremely powerful biochemical triggers and excessive adrenaline
production can have a very negative effect on health especially when adrenaline is triggered
frequently as in the case of habitual, excessive (over 3 cups daily) coffee drinkers.
Optimal health is best achieved when not only all drugs are eliminated from consumption but
all toxins are eliminated from the body as well. The best optimal health consumption habit
regimen consists of 80-100% raw, natural, health generating foods. Until our consumptive habits
conform to this model we are neither going to achieve nor maintain optimal health and will
almost assuredly suffer rapid aging, frequent illnesses leading to life threatening diseases
and premature death. The best strategies for achieving and maintaining optimal health is
acquiring a solid health education, then master the secrets and skills of effective internal
biochemical management and adopt health generating habits aligned toward achieving ultimate
health. Anything less will not produce lasting optimal health. One more very important fact
that must not be overlooked, as we age optimal health habits become more important not less.
The things that we could get away with (poor consumptive habits, unhealthy behavior, lack of
exercise etc.) in younger years are not forgiven biologically as we advance in age. We
MUST become much more vigilant regarding our health as age advances. Health
knowledge, discipline and dedication are critical in our later years to hold back the ravages
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"Illness and disease are
optional, choose not to participate" ~ Dr. Skip Hellen
It’s important to understand that optimal health can only
be achieved and maintained when nutritional, physical, and mental requirements
are met resulting in systemic biological balance (homeostasis).
The following are the cornerstones of success with anything
in life, make these qualities an important part of your life strategy and you
will achieve excellence in anything you do.
character requires personal
commitment advances positive
tenacity promotes success
~ Dr. Skip Hellen
OPTIMAL HEALTH ACTION STEPS
1. (Develop) a strong sense of self respect and discipline
2. (Pledge) Take the "Declaration of Health Independence" pledge
3. (Test) Complete the health assessment test (establish a personal health baseline)
4. (Decide) Set a goal to achieve personal health excellence (optimal health)
5. (Education) Learn health principles how to achieve optimum health
6. (Heath Compass) Buy a pH litmus test kit, start testing frequently – keep a test result log
7. (Manage/Adjust) Change behavior habits for best results
8. (Commitment) Stay the course until achieving personal health excellence
9. (Mentor) Help another achieve personal health excellence
Since behavior habits and nutrition are critical components of human health and longevity,
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DON’T TAKE YOUR HEALTH FOR GRANTED. IF YOU DON’T TAKE PROPER CARE OF YOUR
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The important thing to remember is consumptive habits (foods) will form the foundation of
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Developing strong personal character (respect, belief, knowledge, discipline, commitment)
are the cornerstones of all personal excellence accomplishments.
Taking the "Declaration of Health Independence" pledges and adopting the behavior principles
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Sense proper health habits form the foundation
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