Or not to coffee. One of the most contentious issues surrounding Naturopathic medicine. Coming a close second only to something which I have no intention writing about, which starts with ‘V’ and rhymes with a Spearhead song, ‘rock the nation’.

When I was a second year Naturopathy student, who had been too ignorant in first year, I went through a phase spurred by shame. I would catch an earlier train into town, drink my large soy mocha at the station stealthily, before heading off to class. If I was spotted I would casually say that it was a soy dandy (dandelion root tea) or a decaffeinated chai latte. Then in third year, I meet a wonderful fellow student who reminded me of the importance of soul food, balance, and enjoying life.

There is a difference between removing something from your diet for health benefits, and simply denying yourself of things you enjoy and find pleasure in for no real reason.

I drink coffee.

It has a great taste. There is a beautiful social aspect of it. Many a morning routine contains a delightful dance with the coffee maker. A cuppa has facilitated many wonderful conversations around tables parents’ kitchens. Coffee  offers itself as a reward after writing an article, an essay, or as a treat to mark a halfway point through a rough shift at work.

I haven’t always had a healthy respect for coffee.

I have abused it, and in response, it has abused me. I’ve lived on it, using it as a fuel to get me through my days prior to studying Naturopathy. My adrenals have been burnt out. Been tired but wired. I’ve experienced periods of insomnia and terrible PMS. None of which has been solely due to coffee, but coffee sure as hell did not help.

When it’s time to pull the pin.

So why do Naturopaths recommend finding a balance and healthy relationship with coffee, or in some cases, avoidance? In some instances, caffeine can irritate the gut, increasing dysbiosis and gut permeability. It therefore can aggravate symptoms of conditions such as IBS. Depletion of nutrients within the body can occur, due to caffeine both decreasing absorption, and increasing excretion of various vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, despite the original lift, excessive or prolonged consumption of caffeine can cause adrenal fatigue and suppression. Coffee can also reduce the function of the immune system.

The considerate cup.

So what do I tell my clients (and myself)? Coffee, like all plant medicines, is a powerful drug. It should be used with respect and balance. A little bit of something occasionally is good for you, but more is not always better. Enjoy your coffee. Try to limit added sugar, syrups, and in some conditions, dairy milk. Share with friends, use it as your cheeky reward, but don’t rely on it. If you experience headaches when you skip your regular 3pm cup, or find yourself reaching for a third cup by lunch time, perhaps you need to reassess how coffee is serving you, and what may be missing in terms of vitamins and minerals to provide you with energy for your day.

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