Coffee and Your Health

New studies claiming to verify whether or not coffee is actually good for you seem to pop up in the news frequently, and they often contradict themselves. These studies are funded by special interest groups and the results serve as a lobbying tool to “inform” the public and public servants, resulting in a change in public policy. I have read that excessive coffee drinking can cause heart problems. A different study claims that coffee can prevent liver cancer. It appears as if the western medical take on coffee and your health is skewed at best. As a huge fan and advocate for alternative medicine, I look to the ancient eastern philosophy of Ayurveda for some answers.

Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine (according to Google) that advocates for a balance of “doshas”, or natural bodily energies, with pranayamic breathing, herbal treatments, and a balanced diet. What a mouthful! And it doesn’t outwardly appear to have any opinion over whether or not coffee is good or bad for you, but if you take a closer look, it does.

According to Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant Larissa Hall Carlson,”every type of food can be a poison or a medicine” depending on when and how you consume it. Ayurvedic philosophy promotes balance. The best time to drink coffee is between 6 am and 10 am, after a meal. Coffee promotes digestion and stimulates the mind. The key here is not to overdo it.

Some people are naturally lethargic. In ayurveda we call that a kapha dosha. For those folks that are kapha by nature, coffee can serve as a medicinal aid to boost energy and act as a stimulant. If your dosha is vatta (naturally full of energy) or pitta (overly competitive), coffee might agitate your emotional and mental state and throw your energy balance way off track. Drinking coffee late at night is also not advised. The caffeine in coffee stays in your system for 12 hours. Clearly, late night coffee consumption would result in insomnia and disordered sleeping.

The key to coffee drinking, from an ayurvedic perspective, is moderation. Anything can be harmful in excess, and coffee is no exception. Coffee can be helpful in lifting depressed moods, aiding in digestion, acting as a diuretic (promoting urination and decreasing bloating) and as an early morning stimulant. Caffeine aside, coffee contains antioxidants and flavonoids. In the typical American diet, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants as reported by a 2005 study. The flavonoids aid brain function. Coffee also promotes growth of probiotics, which is helpful to upset stomachs and irregularity. The bad news: caffeine is addictive. Caffeine withdrawal feels like a mild hangover, complete with a nagging headache and lethargy. Although caffeine is the most consumed drug in America, it’s addictive quality is something to avoid if you want balanced doshas. Relying on coffee to give you an early morning boost every day may result in addiction. Moderation is key from a holistic, ayurvedic viewpoint.

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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