As the weather starts getting chilly we all crave a nice hot beverage to get the day rolling or when we want to settle down and relax. For many people their drink of choice is coffee. Unfortunately for those of us who are avid coffee drinkers, and even more so for those with thyroid conditions, there are a number of reasons why we may need to look for an alternate beverage for the coming seasons.
There are definite benefits to be found in coffee aside from being hot and delicious. It contains a high level of antioxidants and polyphenols (also available in many fruits and vegetables) and some studies have shown that coffee may even help prevent cancer, diabetes, depression, cirrhosis of the liver, and gallstones. However great these benefits sound, coffee’s impact on the thyroid may cause it to be more detrimental than beneficial.
How Coffee Harms the Thyroid
Coffee is a prime carrier of caffeine, an intense stimulant for the central nervous system. This compound is responsible for a number of the drink’s benefits, but also many of its faults. In his book Coffee and Health, Gerard Derby presented research that linked high doses of caffeine to enlarged thyroid glands in lab rats.
In addition, high levels of caffeine increases cortisol production. This boost provides a temporary high of energy by activating our stress response. Constant or extended release of this stress hormone leaves the adrenals and immune system in a continuous state of exhaustion. Sustained stress can also lead to weight gain, sleeping issues, and ultimately a terrible crash.
Those with hypothyroidism are likely familiar with symptoms such as digestive issues, heart palpitations, nervousness or shakiness, and poor sleep. Interestingly enough those who are over-caffeinated or have difficulty breaking down coffee, also known as “slow metabolizers,” share these same symptoms. Those who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism may want to reduce their caffeine and coffee intake in order to reduce the likelihood of these symptoms occurring and thereby acquire a better understanding of what specifically is causing them.
Coffee and hypothyroidism have yet another commonality, calcium deficiency. Those who are calcium deficient are at risk of bone deterioration and osteoporosis. A natural effect of coffee is alteration of the body’s pH level. By lowering pH, coffee can cause the body to become more acidic leading to greater bone deterioration and eventually osteoporosis. Furthermore, caffeine causes the body to excrete calcium through urine, thereby increasing the possibility of calcium deficiency.
If you are taking any form of thyroid replacement treatment, it’s important to remember that drinking coffee within an hour of taking your medication can reduce the absorption rate significantly, undoing all of the work these medications are intended to accomplish. The medical journal Thyroid published a study that absorption levels were between 23 to 55 percent among patients who ingested coffee within 60 minutes of taking their medication. However, this study did not test caffeinated as opposed to decaffeinated coffee.
Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease, which interact closely with the thyroid, are negatively impacted by coffee. Because the beverage stimulates gastrin release, which promotes intestinal movement and transport, greater stress could be placed on your already weakened digestive system and intestinal lining. Additionally, bile production and digestive enzymes are increased through coffee ingestion. This leads to further digestive exertion which can be highly detrimental to those with these autoimmune conditions.
What do I Drink Now?
Tea, in addition to being delicious, provides a multitude of various health benefits. In a study published by the European Journal of Public Health, it was stated that regular consumption of specific herbal teas may alleviate thyroid symptoms. That said, black tea should be avoided because it contains fluoride which negatively impacts the thyroid.
Below are some teas that can help ease you out of the world of coffee and into improved thyroid health.
Benefits of Specific Teas
Certain teas bring with them specific benefits and flavors. To find out what works best for you and tastes best here is some general information.
Chamomile: Among all teas Chamomile appears to be the best option for improving thyroid health and reducing risk of thyroid cancer. In a study published in the European Journal of Public Health, it was found that consumption of herbal teas, specifically chamomile, was greatly beneficial when drank regularly and for extended periods. Data showed that those who drank chamomile two to six times a week over 30 years showed an 80 percent reduced chance of thyroid cancer as well as various other thyroid conditions. Traditional Medicinals offers a wide variety of wonderful, organic, high-quality teas including Chamomile.
Chicory Root: For those finding it difficult to make the switch from coffee to tea, Chicory Root may be a good place to start. In addition to boosting digestion, it is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. It also boasts a very similar taste to coffee. Many have found this tea to be an excellent coffee replacement because it satiates their craving without the caffeine.
Sage: Sage is not just a popular herb in cooking but also acts as a powerful and tasty tea. When utilized as a tea, Sage promotes improved memory and relieves symptoms related to nervous system conditions. Additionally, sage eases muscle spasms, aches, and multiple menopausal symptoms. Alvita offers a delicious and organic Sage tea.
Astragalus: Also known as Huang Qi or Milk Vetch has been utilized in treating the common cold and bolsters the immune system. Although Astragalus may be considered bland by some there are a number of recipes available online that can enhance the flavor.
Elderberry: This fruit is most commonly used in cold and flu treatment. Symptoms such as fever, headache, and cough can be partially or completely relieved by sipping on a nice brew of Elderberry tea. Additionally, the flavonoids contained in elderberries help defend against inflammation and boosts the immune system. Buddha Teas offers an Elderberry tea that is guaranteed to be free of additives or toxins.
Tulsi: Like many teas, Tulsi is often used in treating the common cold, influenza, fever, and headaches as well as a number of other symptoms and conditions. Fortunately, this herb sometimes referred to as Holy Basil, Ajaka, Albaheca, or Santa Baranda, is easy to find in a range of flavors including Jasmine, Lemon Ginger, and Chai. Organic India offers Tulsi tea described as a genuine organic product for conscious, healthy living.
With greater information on what our beverage choices do to our bodies we can make smart decisions and help our thyroid instead of hindering it. By switching from coffee to tea we can boost and build up a number of the body’s systems while quenching the thirst for a hot seasonal brew!