coffee, thyroid health, thyroid, caffeine, adrenal fatigue

Is your morning coffee helping your thyroid?


Coffee. A go-to favorite morning routine or to warm your body on chilly winter and fall day. Not to mention, with fall here the Pumpkin Spice movement is well underway!

So that leads me to this question..are you one of the 150 million Americans who drinks coffee?  

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy a nice cup of organic black coffee in the morning too.  I love the taste, the smell and the slight pick me up. Unfortunately, if you’re consuming it for the purpose of getting you started in the morning, or through your busy day, it may actually be doing you more harm than good.  

More on that in a bit.

Of the 150 million coffee drinking Americans, they average 3.2 cups of coffee consumed each day. With these numbers It’s not surprising that an estimated 80% of Americans suffer from some form of adrenal fatigue. So I pose another question, is the adrenal fatigue causing people to rely on coffee to give them energy?  Or is the coffee consumption partly responsible for their adrenal fatigue?  I would say it’s a combination of both.

Benefits of Coffee

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some health benefits of coffee, like:

  • Improved cognitive function & mental focus
  • Increased energy & athletic performance
  • Contain powerful antioxidants and polyphenols
  • May reduce the risk of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s Disease
  • May reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • May reduce the risk of liver disease

I see some health experts touting these benefits regularly, all of which may be valid, in an otherwise healthy individual, like an athlete preparing for a competitive event.  However, if you suffer from adrenal fatigue, thyroid disease or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the negative effects of coffee may greatly outweigh the potential positives.

Negatives of Coffee

I’m sure this isn’t news to you, but the caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, meaning that it stimulates the adrenal glands.  That stimulation causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline which in return activates your fight or flight mode.  

See, the adrenal glands were designed to respond to the stressors of several millennia ago.  If you’re being chased by a tiger, the stress stimulates your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline, giving you the energy and alertness to elude that immediate life threatening danger. (thankfully right!) Then, once you’re safe your adrenal glands repair and recharge. Think of it as something similar to your cell phone battery, what your body is doing is preparing you for the next threat.  

Now today, we’re not being chased by a tiger, (again thankfully!) but we do have constant stress.  The adrenal glands can’t decipher between a physical life threatening stress and the mental & emotional stress we’re encountered with throughout each day, or the biochemical stress from the toxic environment, or the negative thought processes.  These are all stressors that keep you in that constant fight or flight mode throughout each day of your life.

A thousand years ago, once you avoided that danger, you would have the opportunity to rest, allowing your adrenal glands to recharge.  In today’s world, that doesn’t happen for most.  Your adrenal glands are constantly working, constantly being stimulated by your everyday lifestyle.  When you add in the stimulant of coffee, you’re asking your adrenal glands to work even harder.  It’s like the battery on your iPhone being at 10%, and you decide to stream videos.  It won’t be long before your iPhone battery just completely runs out of juice, and the same holds true with the adrenal glands.  

As mentioned earlier, the fight or flight response prepares you for danger, enhancing your vitals like increased heart rate & blood flow to your extremities, increased mental awareness and increased energy.  At the same time, your non-vitals, those not necessary to elude that immediate danger, slow down, like your body’s ability to detoxify, digest your food or repair your cells.  

Coffee, in essence, is yet another stress added to your already overly stressed body. I know a buzz kill for some of us!

I had recently written an article, “Why Your Lab Results Look Normal But You’re Still Hypothyroidal”, in which I discussed the effects of stress on the deiodinase enzymes production, which can lead to undiagnosed thyroid disease.  Consumption of coffee has the same effect on these enzymes as mental, emotional or physical stress does. Due to these enzymes, coffee consumption could have an opposite effect to fat burning and actually slow your metabolism.

Coffee can also increase symptoms of anxiety, irritability and also is a diuretic. Diuretics can lead to dehydration, which can have a negative impact on hundreds of metabolic processes within the body. Another very common effect coffee has on the body is lowering its pH. Coffee is very acidic and this is what actually lowers your body’s pH.  When your body is overly acidic, it’s going to attempt to raise your pH by drawing alkalizing minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and others from your body’s tissue, having a potential negative impact on your bones and all organs and glands.

As if coffee’s effects on the adrenals wasn’t bad enough, let’s talk about how we actually like to drink our coffee. We can’t disregard what tens of millions of Americans add to their coffee each day, like loads of sugar and sugary syrups, hormone ridden milk, synthetic creamers & artificial sweeteners and so on.  All of these add yet another level of stress to the adrenal glands, and thus impact they thyroid negatively.

Our Recommendations

Obviously, my first recommendation if you suffer from adrenal fatigue or hypothyroidism is to avoid coffee altogether.  If you’re a coffee drinker, complete removal of coffee could cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, so try gradually reducing your coffee consumption every few days until it’s been completely eliminated is recommended.  You actually might be surprised how good you feel after that initial “hangover” period is over.

You can also try switching to herbal teas. Many times, the emotional attachment to the beverage is what you’re looking for, so shifting to a different beverage may help wean you off.  Mint, ginger or cinnamon steeped in hot water all make fantastic coffee substitutes.

If weaning off completely is just too difficult, try limiting your consumption to ½ cup per day, and avoid adding the creams and sugars.  A little stevia or coconut sugar and coconut milk would be great alternatives. Just that little bit may help to satisfy your craving while limiting the negative impact to the adrenal glands.
Once you’ve eliminated your coffee and successfully restored your adrenal & thyroid function, adding a little back into your daily regimen may then provide the positive benefits that come with the bean. 

Damian Dubé

Functional Medicine & Functional Nutrition Practitioner at e3 Energy Evolved
Damian Dubé, BS, FMP, CNC, FDN-P, CES, CPT is a Functional Medicine Practitioner, Certified Nutritional Consultant, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, NPC Bodybuilding Athlete & Expert Magazine Writer with 30 years of experience.
Damian Dubé

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Comments 4

    1. We wish we could appease your plea for some form of coffee on this one, Kim, :)) ..believe me, we feel you! But, depending on the method of extracting the caffeine, sometimes they use toxic solvents like formaldehyde to extract the caffeine. On top of that coffee itself is somewhat acidic, as we explained above – making something decaf doesn’t change those negatives. So the same answer from our article stands. While it may be a better option, it’s still not better on all factors, and it’s still not your best option. Don’t hate the messenger! ;-)

  1. Your material is hard to read because the print is so gray. This is a trend that I note on the internet and it makes it difficult for us elders. I nice sharp black would be much appreciated!

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