Coffee is good for us, yes? I reckon there’s a fair bit of evidence now saying it’s so. But what about if you have an autoimmune disease? (New here? I have Hashimotos and I often write from this particular POV.) Me, I drink coffee – about 2-3 cups per week. But I’ve been starting to wonder if I might want to back off even more. And so I dug around. Figured you might like to know what I came up with…

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

10 reasons why you should think twice before drinking coffee

1. Coffee can mess up your blood sugar. Caffeine impairs insulin action. In young, healthy folk, moderate intake of caffeine is unlikely to affect blood sugar levels too much, but for some AI types, drinking coffee causes both insulin and blood glucose spikes after meals. Over time, your insulin sensitivity goes down, making it harder for the body to respond to blood glucose spikes when they occur. Ergo, havoc.

2. Coffee disrupts your sleep. I don’t sleep well at the best of times. It’s one of 3984928374 AI symptoms. Further, cell damage from AI mayhem is repaired during sleep, but only once our bodies have attended to everything else we’ve put into it during the day. Which requires solid sleep.

3. It boosts stress hormones.When stress occurs, cortisol is released to make energy available – so you can fight or flee. When stress ceases, the body goes back to its normal state. But when stress becomes chronic, as it can do with drinking coffee regularly, our body is continually exposed to high levels of cortisol which have been linked to (among many other things) compromised immune function.

4.  When drunk from a takeaway cup through a plastic lid, it exposes you to BPA. I’ve written about this recently. When the hot liquid passes through the plastic lid as you drink your coffee, BPA is drawn out of the plastic by the acidity levels and the heat. BPA has been shown to have a role in the pathogenesis of autoimmunity. BPA is a known thyroid/endocrine disruptor, a tedious chemical which binds to hormone receptors and impairs all kinds of really important endocrine functions. The thing about BPAs you probably need to know is that even low exposure can wreak havoc (particularly for anyone with an autoimmune disease).

5. It dehydrates you. While a recent review concluded that moderate ingestion of caffeine (<300mg) does not promote dehydration, 300mg is easily attainable in 2-3 cups of coffee per day. Which I know is what some of us drink! Fluid retention and salt loss and thirst are all AI-related issues.

6. It affects the absorption of your thyroid meds. L-Thyroxine (the standard drug treatment for hypothyroidism) is absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract. A 2008 study showed a clear correlation between drinking espresso with (or shortly after) taking thyroid tablets and decreased absorption of the drug. News to me!

7. It can increase your risk of heart disease.  While unfiltered coffee (ie any coffee that doesn’t run through a paper filter) may have the highest level of antioxidants, it also leaks the highest level of diterpenes into your body. These compounds raise serum concentrations of cholesterol, alanine aminotransferase (a liver enzyme which may indicate liver disease, diabetes and congestive heart failure) and triglycerides (serum lipid levels)…All stuff that AI types can’t afford to have associated with their person.

8. It messes up your gut. The acidity of coffee itself can cause changes in gut acidity. Your stomach creates additional hydrochloric acid (HCl) – which is essential for digestion – but if it’s chronically over-produced  it can eventually reduce the body’s ability to create it, leading to low stomach acid. Low stomach acid means poor digestion, protein malnourishment and mineral deficiency. As someone with AI, I try to keep my body alkaline at all times, minimising acid where I can.

9. It messes up your electrolytes. Coffee consumption may have a negative impact on our kidneys’ ability to retain minerals vital for digestion (and other biological functions), such as magnesium, calcium and zinc. These three minerals are very depleted in my own system and are low for a lot of people with Hashimotos. Iron absorption in the stomach is heavily reduced if coffee is consumed at the same time as iron-rich foods.

But wait! What about the cytokine issue?! Indeed, this is quite a key one…

10. Coffee can worsen Th-2 dominant types. In a well-functioning immune system, T-helper Cells (Th) 1 and 2 recognise foreign pathogens and produce hormonal messenger proteins (cytokines) to go to the source of the inflammation. These helper cells work together to create balance. But if you have an autoimmune disease, your Th1 and Th2 can be messed up in a couple of ways. All AI diseases are either Th1 dominant or Th2 dominant.

If you have a Th1-dominant disease (like Type I Diabetes, Hashimotos or Crohns Disease) then you may benefit from drinking some coffee daily, as it stimulates Th2 cells (while other foods can dampen Th2 eg: echinacea…which is something that really can cause troubles for me at times). On the other hand, if you have a Th2-dominant disease (like Lupus, asthma or eczema) then coffee might increase inflammation, as can green tea and turmeric. This is a complex issue and I’d be happy to discuss it more in another post if it interests? Yes?

So where does this leave us all?

Me, I’m going to have a break from coffee for a few weeks, starting from today. My body is telling me it’s appropriate right now – the past few weeks coffee has left me toooooo racy and nauseous (my gut is literally my best gauge; I listen when my gut speaks). When I’m back in form again, I’m sure I’ll go back to a few cups a week. I don’t eat to rules. I let the rules inform me about what I’m feeling.

What about you? Does your coffee habit affect your autoimmune disease? What’s your take on it?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Anna

    Slightly unrelated but there was an interesting article in nymag about how introverts and extroverts react differently to caffeine. Certainly for me I only use it as a pick-me-up on the very odd occasion when I’m super tired. If anything in the medium-long term I find it drains my energy rather than enhancing it. Plus it makes me perspire!

  • eve

    Have been thinking about giving up coffee for a while now…where do you sit on decaf?

  • Susie

    Coffee definitely affects my blood sugar. So much so, I find it causes overeating/binging at times. It also causes me to feel ungrounded.. I think hence going for food to ‘ground me’. Love it, but there is a dark side for sure!!

    • I find the same. Many find it curbs appetite, but not so for me much of the time and I put it down to the blood sugar issue.

      • Nina Dee

        This is quite interesting as a coffee addict (i’d forgo wine over caffeine any day).. I have recently noticed how abnormally hungry I am all throughout the morning. I wonder if this may have something to do with it? I have 2-3 long blacks every morning before 9!

      • Susie

        Yes! My partner has very stable blood suagr and he can use it as a meal replacement. Im not hungry but it obliviously spikes my blood sugar? Love your work! x

  • connie Curtis

    Good information for us all to know.

  • Donna

    Would defianately like to know more about Th2 and coffee please. Thanks!

  • Tina

    Great read. I also wonder how decaf coffee may impact on AI conditions. i know decaf comes with its own set of good and bad depending on how it has been decaffeinated – but wonder is it the better option.

  • Lana

    Sarah, I gave up coffee almost a year ago to help my overactive thyroid recover and repair and it was the best decision. My stomach was acidic, it made my anxiety skyrocket and most scarily, I realised I was addicted to the stuff – even by having just one latte per day, I would get cranky if it got to 10am and I hadn’t had a coffee. Quitting was hard but I am all the better for it now. I’ve saved a heap of money too! Now I only drink decaf coffee on the weekend or as a very rare mid week treat when I get sick of the tea selection at work (you may also find the fact that I find ‘real’ chai tea – no powder crap – sweet now instead of spicy, interesting).

  • Jane

    Timely post. Coffee has been on my mind a lot lately. Do I or don’t I? My thyroid says no (under active) my Type 1 says yes! My gut is saying no. My emotions are saying yes!! Would love more posts on this. At the moment Type 1 is my biggest issue so I am going with that. But hang on my TSH is playing up for the first time in 13 years so maybe it’s a no to coffee. Oh F$&K I’m confused!

    • Remember, the T cell info is a broad thing…I’ll expand a little more in another post

      • Kay

        Please do expand more on the T cell info Sarah, all news to me and very interesting to me – a long time Hashimoto’s sufferer. Also thank you so much for your info, I have learnt more from your posts in the last 6 months than I have in 30 years – eg for 30 yrs I have thought I was forever catching the flu until I learnt from you that I am suffering flare ups of the AI.

  • Brooke

    More in another post would be fab Sarah… and I’ve always known to take meds and wait 20-30mins before having anything, but the first thing I do is have a coffee, so thanks for the tip.

  • K

    I don’t drink coffee, but I’m definitely the odd one out because everyone else I know loves it and drinks it daily!

    Last year there was a study conducted by a research team at Harvard, about how genetics affects the way each person’s body ‘handles’ caffeine, which in turn influences their coffee consumption.

    Researchers discovered the six “coffee genes” after reviewing 28 previous studies on the genetic makeup of more than 120,000 coffee drinkers. They compared each person’s genetics to how much coffee they said they regularly drink each day.

    “Out of 2.5 million variants in the genome, we found a handful that were strongly linked to coffee consumption,” Cornelis says.

    Two of the genes are related to the way a person’s body metabolizes caffeine, the study reports.

    “Individuals who consume larger quantities of coffee may metabolize caffeine more quickly than others, and this could be due to their genetic makeup,” Poole says.

    Another two genes appear linked to the kick that a person receives from caffeine. These genes are tied to the brain’s pleasure centers and likely influence the amount of stimulation or enjoyment that caffeine provides, Cornelis says.

    The final two genes “were really unexpected,” Cornelis says. Those genes previously have been linked to metabolism of fats and sugars, and they had not been suspected as influencing the body’s response to coffee.

    This indicates that the genes might affect the brain process that senses blood glucose levels, which may, in turn, influence a person’s response to caffeine.

    “Coffee and caffeine have been linked to beneficial and adverse health effects. Our findings may allow us to identify subgroups of people most likely to benefit from increasing or decreasing coffee consumption for optimal health,” said Marilyn Cornelis, research associate in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

    Another thing I found interesting was that the head researcher said that she hates the taste of coffee, but has actually started making herself drink it because of the increasing amount evidence that she’s seen relating to the health benefits.

  • Melz

    Like you Sarah and others who have commented, my body tells me that I shouldn’t drink coffee – I’m recovering from adrenal fatigue and candida (yeast) overgrowth – and coffee doesn’t help either. Also I’m sure it’s the cause of my weight gain, stomach upsets etc. So on January 2nd 2015 I quit coffee – cold turkey- and switched to decaf lattes instead while letting go of my addiction (Now I don’t even need the decaf). It was tough, especially dealing with ‘detox/die-off’ symptoms and the emotional/habit I’d formed with coffee. It’s strange because even though I knew coffee was not good for me, I was totally addicted and that was the hardest part of giving up.
    A month later, I feel fantastic. I’ve got increased energy. I wake up refreshed instead of groggy and feeling like I NEED coffee. And my tummy feels much better. And I’ve started to lose weight/lost my bloated tummy.
    I’ve had 2 cups of coffee since 2nd January 2015. One of them was today. I thought I’d feel shaky and strange – but I don’t. Oddly I didn’t really enjoy it. And it definitely has messed with my tummy – it feels slightly acidic and I definitely feel much hungrier today.
    Like you Sarah I’ll probably revert back to 1 or 2 cups a week. But for now my body doesn’t want, it’s much happier without it and I’m enjoying not being addicted.
    To anyone else thinking of quitting coffee – I strongly encourage you to do it! The first 1 or 2 weeks will be tough while you are recalibrating, dealing with the habit and addiction of coffee. But after that you will feel much better.

    • Annie

      This is me to a T. I have Hashimotos, and possibly in a pre-Lupus stage as tests have indicated. I know coffee is my nemesis as I love the stuff – willing to give up absolutely everything else before caffeine (sugar, dairy, grains). So thanks for sharing your story as it has inspired me to let go of the one thing that is probably the most dangerous thing for me and my AI conditions.

    • Michelle

      I quit for a couple years but I love the smell and flavor of good coffee so sometimes I would have it, and regret it. It would make me nauseous and my heart would race. Recently I started supplementing with nascent iodine and interestingly coffee sits much better. I still can’t have it every day but one cup a couple times a week seems fine. I think iodine helps the body alkaline. I’m still learning about it and experimenting. Maybe I should just give up coffee and let it go, but it’s tough when your spouse has it daily and we have an awesome coffee shop in town that microformats with an old school Turkish roaster.

  • alexalexalexLA

    I used to not be able to tolerate it because it would make me feel jittery and ultimately hypoglycemic and I would crash shortly after. The only thing that works for me is having bulletproof coffee, I can tolerate it fairly well and the fat seems to stop me from crashing. But, always an experiment : )

  • Janelle

    I don’t have AI but I have food intolerances and an imbalanced hormone system (from stress at work and age i guess) and am trying to balance everything with food, not drugs. I found coffee was making my heart rate increase and causing me to sweat so i cut it out. I stopped because it inhibits the absorption of the essential vitamins (since particularly) needed to make hormones and heal/build skin layers (related to eczema). I have also cut out dairy and gluten for the same reasons, and have found massive health improvements in just 3 months. definitely think coffee is not as good as people make out, totally overrated, even though the smell still drives me crazy and i still like to steal the froth off my husbands cappuccino 🙂

  • Rose

    Hi Sarah, I have recently been diagnosed as having Addison’s Disease and Hypothyroidism, I have stopped drinking coffee and switched to green tea. Would love to know if this is a good idea for me or not. just purchased I quit sugar 8 week programme and I am so inspired! Thank you 🙂

    • Stay tuned for my next post on this…I’ll wriggle it along. Tell me, how does coffee and green tea leave you feeling?

      • Rose

        I have been a heavy coffee drinking since my teens so I don’t have any physical reaction after a cup that I notice, also I feel great after green tea but that might be because I was so used to caffeine.

        • K-Lo

          Hi Rose, I just wanted to post and say Hi. I also don’t produce any cortisol, but in my case, due to an underactive pituitary gland, and have an underactive thyroid. How are you feeling on the replacement steroids for the Addisons? I can say 3 years post diagnosis, I am well on the steroids, they are life sustaining ( I take cortate). I remember feeling very alone when I got the “no cortisol” diagnosis, so I just wanted to say – you are not alone, and you can ask Sarah for my email if you need a sounding board because our situations are rare. On the coffee issue, I have a few a week. I certainly go light on it, but its also important not to give up everything you like. The main thing in the this heat though is to keep yourself reasonably hydrated. Kate 🙂

  • beth

    I have been diagnosed with Coeliac disease for a year. After being
    glutened last November I had exactly the same symptoms occur when I had coffee or quinoa (this took me a while to figure out until a friend suggested I google ‘cross reactivity’ and gluten). I went grain free and dairy free from January 1 and was heaps better within about six days.

    Now getting back on to rice… I spoke to a
    gastroenterologist who stated that it would usually take up to three months to recover from the gluten damage and that during that time you could have symptoms from foods/drinks that you usually tolerate. Haven’t tried quinoa or coffee yet…I have the fear…

  • beth
  • LJ

    I find that my one cup of coffee per day gives me muscle and joint aches the next morning. And I am addicted to the one cup of coffee.The symptoms build up if I continue daily consumption and it becomes quite debilitating. If I stop coffee it take bout 4 -5 days for the joint and muscle symptoms to subside. Anyone else experience this side effect of coffee consumption? Its worse also if I have sugar in coffee, which now I have stopped over the last 3 weeks.

    • Yes, I know what you mean. I get restless legs that night. Not always, but sometimes.

    • K

      Yes L.J., I get such sore hips from my leg muscles getting tight that I have to quit running if I stay on caffeine. I crave it though so I fall off the wagon at times. It also worsens my teeth grinding.

  • Tegan Barlow

    Hey Sarah,

    How do you feel about the caffeine in raw cacao in relation to auto immune disease and the endocrine system/hormone imbalance? I’m finding it difficult to access info on this.xx

  • Sophie

    Thankyou so much Sarah – Did NOT know that about Thyroxin absorption.. I need to follow the guidelines more and take it on an empty stomach and possibly leave the coffee for several hours .
    ( Completely addicted to my 1 per day ..)

  • Brooke J

    great post Sarah – i am a coffee lover from way back so this is a very interesting post for me and really given me food for thought.
    a follow up post would be fantastic on this especially around others is disrupts other diseases or conditions. I have also wondered about the coffee caffiene versus tea caffiene debate

  • Karla

    More in another post please. I have RA and my gut is telling me to leave caffein. 🙁

  • Jess

    Great post Sarah. I also have Hashimotos. I used to be a barista and drink 3-4 coffees a day when working in a cafe. I found when I was on my feet and using a lot of energy that I didn’t have a problem with absorbing caffeine. Then when I got a desk job and continued drinking espresso coffee in the mornings I started feeling extremely ill. Stomach cramps, nausea, racing heart, jittery… I decided to give it up. In 3 years I’ve probably had about five cups, and always experience the same adverse reaction. I miss the taste and coffee culture, but my body firmly rejects the stuff!!

  • Jenny

    I have Hashimotos and was thinking oh no I can’t give up my coffee as well as sugar. I have had an addiction to sugar all my life and am amazed how well I am going on the 8 week program. Was pleased to read that coffee can be tolerated. But I need to curb my coffee drinking.

  • Kelly Adams-Blackman

    Hi Sarah thanks for the research. I definatley notice the effects of coffee-dehydration, also sometime vision migraines if i haven’t been sure to drink alot of water. I used to get a low crash if i had 2 a day after the high. Also sluggish digestion,bloating. The last few days i was averaging 1-2 a day and got a slight vision migraine. I usually try to order decaf but been a bit slack on ordering thinking,ah it will be ok. That’s my experiences with it. So I’m putting coffee on freeze as of now too, to give my body a break. Kelly 43

  • Michael

    I’m a two cup daily consumer of coffee and I have MS, and was diagnosed back in 1999. I’m 100% fit, and probably fitter than I was when diagnosed, and have no issues at all. I do however actively avoid stress and any form of virus if possible to ensure my immune system remains its best, and hence minimises the opportunity for an MS “attack” to take hold. I do exercise a lot and get as much sun as possible though so, with zero scientific facts to back my personal plan to maintain health, maybe I offset the sugar/caffeine affect. Dunno Sarah.

  • Kylie

    I’m lactose intolerant and don’t want to drink soy so I thought I would go back to my Italian roots and stick to a short black or short Mac as I’m fine with a drop of milk. Now it sets off my reflux! I’ve never liked instant coffee but I did love the odd coffee when I’m out. So frustrating! Guess we can all enjoy smelling coffee though!

  • Maddy Gray

    Thanks Sarah, This was what I need to have a break from coffee for a while too. Love your work!

  • Kristie

    I’m confused about the Tumeric?? I thought it decreased inflammation in the body…can you please elaborate a little I haven’t read any of that.

    • sugarfreekiwi

      I agree. I am totally confused by that statement. Sarah can you please elaborate as I was of the same understanding that Turmeric decreased inflammation in the body. What’s your source?

  • emily

    Just started thinking about this – I can drink up to 8 cups a day of coffee! And have Th2 AI disorders. Would love to know more as I am struggling with flare ups.

  • Emily

    Thanks Sarah, this was a very timely post! My eczema has been flaring recently, so a week ago I decided to take some time off coffee. The awful withdrawal symptoms I experienced for the first few days really affirmed my decision. I’m intrigued by the potential link between inflammation and green tea/turmeric in eczema sufferers- here I was thinking turmeric was an anti-inflammatory! As you say, what a complex issue.

  • JB

    Great post Sarah. I wouldn’t mind reading more about the T-cells Th 1 and Th 2. I had never come across the notion of dominance of one of these in AI conditions. Your examples of T2 dominant conditions were interesting because I suffer from all three (lupus, asthma and eczema) and not surprisingly, they are all in the same set of T2 dominance.
    I gave coffee away a long time ago. Coffee is a stimulant and because I suffer chronic pain, I am trying to settle down the nervous system and not stimulate it. I gave away coffee as part of a pain management strategy and I feel better for it. After being without coffee for months and years at a time, when I occasionally do have a cup, my body’s reaction is quite marked, reminding me that coffee is something my body should steer clear of, and your T-cell/coffee theory supports that. Thanks for the interesting information, Sarah. I hope this message finds you as well as can be,

  • I gave up 3 years ago because of Hashis. Just started one or two a week again. And I literally had a ‘should I shouldn’t I moment’ down the street and walked back in sheepishly with one (long black) to read this article. Great timing thanks Sarah. Off again as of next week.

  • Jamie

    I am an extensive coffee drinker and I know it’s doing me harm, I’ve been known to drink up to 6 cups a day! And as a chronic psoriasis sufferer I’ve always wondered if decreasing/ quitting caffeine would have an effect on my skin!

    • Debs

      would love to see what you come up with! I have scalp psoriasis – I have given up coffee (not all caffeine) for a week or two at a time but haven’t noticed much improvement.

    • Gosh Jamie, I’d LOVE to see you cut back and then potentially cut it out to see if it fixes things? Would you try it and report back?

      • Jamie

        Of course! I’d love to see if it helps! I just don’t know where to start! Do I simply cut down by a few cups a day or is it more complicated than that?!

  • mojo

    For those who have given up dairy – what are you doing now for calcium? Ive always been wary of supliments but obviously need to get decent dose of calcium somehow.

  • Christine

    I haven’t had coffee for almost 7 years now when I was first diagnosed with Thyroid issues. Coffee tends to make me vibrate from the inside out. I did attempt a 1/4 strength decaf about 2 years ago and it was a no go. My adrenals just cop a beating with caffeine. Out of everything I’ve given up in the name of health and wellbeing, coffee is still the only thing that I can smell and my pupils dilate with delight. I can’t stand the taste or the after affects, but damn that coffee smells gooooood.

  • angela

    yes yes yes to the th1/2 issue…never heard of it before, but I’d love to know more.

  • Chery Gillanders

    I have Lupas Anticoagulant disease the tests for Lupas came
    Back inconclusive parts of it came back negative n positive
    N i have also been diagnosed with grovers disease.
    How will coffee affect that. I don’t drink alot of coffee only
    When i go out maybe 3-4 times a week. I don’t drink coffee
    At home only tea.

  • Thank you for this. I have two auto immune illnesses (thyroid and pernicious anaemia) and anxiety and depression. Over the years with experimenting and tests… I know I feel best when I am lactose, sugar and gluten free. I often feel deprived and coffee has become my daily treat and ritual. I hate the thought of giving it up but you have opened my eyes to some interesting links there especially about thyroxine so first step is changing the timing of my coffee xx

  • nelly

    Hi
    I have multiple sclerosis. .. have you had much feedback as to how people with ms react to caffiene?
    I made lots of changes to feel well, and i have 2-3 single shots daily and i feel good… but im always open to ways to feel even better?

  • Jade

    Thanks Sarah, I have recently been diagnosed with Hasimotos and still getting my head around my side affects and treatments… I take my medication every morning before breakfast and usually have my coffee 1 to 2 hours after taking my medication – is there any specific time allowance I should be waiting for my body to process the Thyroxine before I have caffeine?

  • Timothy

    Very informative article.

  • Laura

    Yes! Sarah, please expound on this : you have a Th2-dominant disease (like Lupus, asthma or eczema) then coffee might increase inflammation, as can green tea and turmeric. This is a complex issue and I’d be happy to discuss it more in another post if it interests? Yes? – yes!!

  • Sara H

    Thanks Sarah, love how you spell this out for us! I haven’t had coffee for around 5 years now…but like you Sarah, I started noticing how racy and anxious I became after drinking it. And even when I moved to decaf, I felt the same! Such a turn around for me without it…it made me realise how much my body actually lets me know when things are not working and not supportive. I love this little audio excerpt that questions, do we actually ‘love’ our coffee?…I used to say this over and over, that I love my coffee, but on reflection I actually ‘needed’ it. My body didn’t love it at all… http://www.unimedliving.com/voice/editors-choice/do-you-need-or-love-your-coffee.html

  • Kim

    Interesting regarding the difference between the Th1 and Th2. I was unaware of this. I have sarcoidosis and trying to keep an anti-inflammatory diet. So reading this has just confused me…off to do more research now.

  • svala joh

    Two weeks now without coffee and I don’t feel tense and irritated and my thinking is more focust. Have decided to have a good cup occasionally but not regularly. I do like an odd green tea cup and was dissappointed to read that it’s got a negative side

  • Sarah – I typically have been the same as you. 2-3 cups per week. I am a self confessed ‘coffee wanker’ so travel for them too. Lately it has turned into 1 a day. I think this is psychosomatic more than anything, its my treat. Since my raft of AI related stuff has become more acute and my diet more simple I don’t really have sweet ones so coffee it is! It completely satisfies that urge too. Like you I need a rest from it and will reintroduce, slowly… Thx for raising. 🙂 Jess

  • Martin Hammelmann

    I had serious autoimmune problems culminating into an even more serious thyroid disfunction. Coffee was my drug for years! Swapping to
    alkalised water every day is one of the best things you can do for your
    body. . Now I have 90% of my health back and loads more energy.

  • Zara

    Thank you for this post Sarah. I am currently battling a chest infection, something i have thankfully not had very often as an adult only as a child despite having asthma since I was a toddler (I am now 40). I love coffee but reluctantly gave it up 4 months ago (along with black tea) and now I don’t miss it. I did this for anxiety and digestive issues and it has helped me greatly. I have had the occasional decaf socially, which seems to go down ok I also take incorporate much of your invaluable advice about sugar and fat into my diet and I regularly do yoga and I walk everywhere . All this has empowered me no end with my breath as an asthmatic with animal allergies, which has left me feeling quite vulnerable at times (also people think I don’t like their pets which is upsetting as I do they just make it hard for me to breath but people really don’t get this). I am a bit exasperated as to how I have had two chest infections in a year after not having them for years and years and so I am doing a lot of research. I am sure there is an emotional element…Your suggestion that turmeric is in fact inflammatory for asthmatic has left me confused after eating carrot and turmeric soups thinking it was a get well tonic. Eeek but thank you again 🙂

  • Caroline

    Really good article! I never knew Thyroid issues were classed As an auto immune disorder, it’s something that all the females in my family suffer with apart from me… Although I have vitiligo which is also classed as an autoimmune disorder. Is there a connection between between Thyroid and Vitiligo do you think? It’s given me something to think about ???

  • Olley

    Would certainly like to know more about how caffeine might affect TH-cell types – and it would be great to have a reference and/or link to the actual research.

  • Eva

    I stopped drinking coffee in October and have noticed huge improvements in how I feel. I stopped because I was feeling very stressed and anxious at the time and coffee makes it worse for me. But when I stopped I also noticed other things. I used to get super hungry and like shaky before lunch (I had coffee at around 10am) and that’s gone now. I also feel less thirsty, dehydrated and my lips are no longer dry. Nowadays I have a coffee maybe 1-2 a month when I really feel like it. I say go for it!

    • Michelle

      Eva I’ve had the same experience. When I drink coffee my lips are always dry. It’s like I can’t keep up with the water my body wants. it also makes the anxiety and stress worse and sometimes I swear it makes me more angry.

  • Sally

    I don’t believe I have a autoimmune disease, I just want to eat and stay healthy. I am cutting down on sugar and processed foods. However I love love coffee, strong and hot. Drinking maybe 4 cups per day! Over the past 6 months my tummy is bloated I look 5 months preggers. (Not a good look for a size 10 54yr old) Could coffee be part of the problem or a combination of issues? Advice will be welcome.

  • Emilia

    Hi Sarah, i also have Hasimotos ,diagnosed at 23. My father 7years after that. We definatley think the soy milk we drank in the 2000s definatly sped up our AI.On his recent visit from syd i read his pharmacist label on his thyroxine. Its was very different to my label that says the standard 1/2 hour etc. His said do not consume anything for 2 hours after taking as all iron ,calcium , antioxidants , caffeine will inhibit the medicine from absorbing correctly and store at 2-8 degrees. He has purchaced a small portable fridge to have next to his bed to take at 5 in the morning , so when he wakes up he can eat and drink knowing the thyroxine has been taken to its optimum. He is also doing the paleo diet and at 65 i can see what he is doing is working. Unlike myself with too much jiggly bits that seem to refuse to leave my tummy. He has inspired change in me. I really wish there was alot more information available from doctors i learnt more from my client at the salon than from a doctor. But thank heavens there is a voice like yours to help open this converstaion and try all these new ideas!!!

  • judy

    Could you please provide references for the information you’ve provided? I’d like to see the science behind these claims, and I’m sure other conscientious people would be interested too.

  • Michelle

    First off, damn you autocorrect because my last post to this was riddled with errors LOL! But anyway I had mentioned having less issues with coffee once starting iodine supplementation…then the very next day I started having issues again. So obviously that short reprieve was not meant to last. I had some serious digestive problems that pretty much put me out of commission for a whole day, not cool with me! I think that it’s time to just let coffee go and just stick with tea. I drink mostly herbal tea but green and black don’t seem to bother too much so long as I’m not guzzling the stuff all day. I think the combo of coffee’s acid and caffiene is the kiss of death as far as I’m concerned. And coffee with anything chia…OMG that’s a painful one. So bottomline I’m giving up coffee again. I’m feeling great on the iodone and low fructose diet and I do fine with a glass of wine or beer every couple of days. It’s just not worth the anxiety that goes along with coffee (will I be fine today or will I feel horrible?) Good luck with taking a break, I hope you feel better!

  • Biljana

    I always wanted to share this story with you Sarah as I fill you were the insperation for it. I still remember that destined day when I watched you on 60 minutes, 10th June 2012 talking about quitting sugar. There and then I decided to stop drinking coffee, it was my way of cutting back on sugar (I only had 1 tsp of sugar per coffee, but it was a start). That next day I went cold turkey and haven’t looked back since and I always fill grateful to you for the inspiration. I don’t have any health issues as some of the ladies here, however the amount of difference and change it has made to my overall health and wellbeing by giving up coffee has been unbelievable. I drank only 2 coffees a day, but this was enough to see the difference. When I was a coffee drinker, I had to have my coffee fix first thing in the morning before I could function or do anything else productively, I felt like a zombie. Then came 5 pm I had to have my afternoon fix before I could continue on.
    Once I quit coffee I started noticing the changes in me almost immediately. Now I wake up in the mornings filling fresh and alert, the bags under my eyes have disappeared and my face has cleared. My husband still comments on how much my face has changed Its the best filling, so here are my 10 reasons for quitting coffee, and like I said I dont have any health issues:
    1. You wake up in the morning filling like you’ve had the best sleep
    2. Not filling like a zombie or grumpy
    3. You fall asleep quick, no caffeine keeping you up
    4. You don’t get the dreaded afternoon fatigue, need for coffee fix
    5. No craving for sweets with your coffee
    6. Now I love green tea
    7. No bags under your eyes
    8. Your face will clear up – look fresher and younger
    9. No mood swings and Save money
    10. Good example to your friends, when they see all the positive changes in you they will quit too. 🙂
    PS I still miss coffee and love the aroma of it, but all these benefits keep me safe and away from it. Good luck to everyone x

  • Sylvia

    Hi Sarah,
    I’d definitely be interested in finding out more about t-helper cells as I have a th1 dominated disease – type 1 diabetes. Would love to learn more!
    Thanks Sylvia

  • sylvia

    Hi Sarah, i’d be interested in finding out more as I have type 1 diabetes which are related to the T1 helper cells. Any information on foods to avoid/or will help would be greatly appreciated. Sylvia.

  • Sarah

    Hey Sarah,
    I just wanted to say how much I enjoy both this blog and your I Quit Sugar blog. As a gal who also deals with mild hypothyroidism (since my early teens) both blogs have been a refreshing resource for me and are just enjoyable to read. These are the only blogs I check on a daily basis so please keep up the good work.

    Best,
    Sarah L.
    Chicago, IL

  • Kelli

    It was only yesterday I was having a MRI of the brain and spine to ascertain why I was having muscle twitching (moreso ruling out more nasty diseases) but I know coffee causes anxiety for me and in turn causes muscles twitching which can be caused by caffeine. PLUS everything you’ve just pointed out. Great article!

  • Lisa Scully

    I drink decaf because I can’t give up the ritual, caffeine is high in salicylates as is tea so that’s my option!

  • Amy

    I don’t have a diagnosed AI disease, but I do have reflux, IBS and excema (usually after I’ve been stressed and only on my hands) and I had glandular fever about six months ago, which really knocked me around. Despite the low energy levels I’ve dealt with since then, I DO NOT drink coffee. I gave it up a couple of years ago and since then I’ve only had it a couple of times. I just don’t enjoy coffee enough to justify the effect it has on both my body and my mind. It rips through my gut, my body shakes and my heart pounds, and I sweat, all of which leads to dehydration. It’s not at all fun. And I always feel like I need to eat my body weight in carbs after coffee to combat the shaky feeling/give all that stomach acid something to soak into it, and feel grounded again. Coffee is a known trigger for reflux and IBS, so I avoid. Agree 100% that your gut is the best indicator of your health!

  • Carla

    I only have the odd cappuccino when I’m out at a cafe with friends, so only once every week or two. At home though, I usually drink green tea with lemon. However, I’ve recently started brewing Crio Bru. It’s from cacao beans and contains theobromine, rather than caffeine, which gives you less of a high/low, more of a sustained energy release. Apparently it’s good for a lot of other things (details are on their website http://www.criobru.com.au/bru-benefits/). I would be very interested to know if it still has a similar effect to coffee on AI sufferers though. I have pyroluria and adrenal exhaustion as my main concerns at the moment…

  • Mark Williams

    Another great article Sarah. Thank you. I gave up caffeine about 18
    months ago and it has changed my life. I had taken constant anxiety to
    be my norm even though it was creeping on more and more each year.
    Shortly before I gave up I had the second of two completely irrational
    anxiety attacks, this time walking to the Sydney Opera House from
    Circular Key to see an opera. Absolutely one my my favourite things to
    do. (The other one was walking on Hyams beach one beautiful long weekend
    day.) I thought this is ridiculous and so quit coffee and tea. Within a
    month I knew I wouldn’t go back. I haven’t had a panic attack since and
    my genberal level of anxiety had just plummeted back to a normal that I
    now remember from earlier in my life. On the back of this I have taken
    up daily yoga and now daily meditation and am currently on week four of a
    self led IQS journey which I am loving. I drink the occasional decaf
    from a coffee shop now and I have actually drunk caffeinated coffee
    again and found that I do have tolerance for it again, but it’s not on
    my menu. Love your work Sarah.

  • Courtney H

    Woaaah this is me!! I’ve been trying to figure out what is wrong (there is something going on there) and having cut out everything (sugar, grains, dairy, alcohol, limited red meat) I couldn’t let go of coffee. However, I finally did two weeks ago and it made such a difference! No bloating, no constant sore stomachs and limited IBS.
    I just tested with a decaf coffee now…and I feel awful, am sweating, my stomach is in agony and I have a headache.

    Who knew that my favourite drink was one of the triggers behind my illness ;(

  • Damn! Looks like I have some research to do! I have been having a serious eczema flare (the only since I was a young kid), and until the last week or so, I’ve been drinking at least a cup of coffee a day. Right up til, well, now (she said, mug in hand) I’ve also been drinking a significant amount of green tea and eating at least a knob of fresh turmeric a day… huh. Time to google and p’raps take a little break from the three!

  • zacerella

    Hi, thanks for this post! I suffer from Behcet’s disease (only recently diagnosed after 10 years of struggling with what seemed to be random, crazy health problems). Would really appreciate knowing more about turmeric. ..I had heard all good and now with Bechet’s I don’t know if that’s a sensible path. I have ditched sugar but don’t know if I should also be waving goodbye to gluten and dairy :'(

  • Waltzing Raynolds

    Damn it! I’ve been tossing up with it for a long time and you know the universe is trying to tell you something when this post pops into my news feed. Thanks for the encouragement Sarah – I have such a strong sense that I need to have a break from it, even more so because I’m struggling with letting go of coffee – usually the things we don’t want to let go of the most, we must!

  • Sue

    Great post to raise the awareness Sarah…After finally being diagnosed with Hypothyroidism in December 2013 by an endo (after two years of seeing 5 different GPs prescribing me Xenical, water retention pills, and the last straw being referred to a psychiatrist “because it was clear i have depression”), I started on my own research about how to manage my condition. I came across the issues of caffiene consumption early on and kicking coffee cold turkey was one of the first things i did that got me back on track. A lot of the posts here have noted that “i cant give up my coffee or 1 a day etc etc” but the way i look at it is this: i want to be better – mentally and physically. if drinking coffee is going to jeopardise that, then it’s a no brainer to quit. it’s simply not worth feeling [email protected] for the sake of a fix.

  • Brenda

    This is really interesting to me, that you quit sugar with regards to your autoimmune illness. I too have autoimmune, and have developed thyroid issues, autoimmune. I have never eaten much sugar, I dont like it, and my thyroid values go up, but always regulate back down to normal. So as yet, my doctor has not treated me for it : D. Now , I am wondering if , the fact that I dont eat sugar is what helps my body regulate the thyroid hormones back down to normal. This has been occuring for the last 5 years !

  • Tash

    Hi , I have been contemplating this for a very long time. Does pure black coffee, like turkish, greek, serbian have the same effect? Or is it these latte’s, cap’s etc..? I have been wanting to know for a very long time. I always thought that pure black coffee in small amounts is actually good for you

  • Nate

    So true! I also have recently diagnosed Hashimoto’s. I used to have really bad anxiety attacks and didn’t know how to stop them. I was a constantly PMS-ing monster. I never drank that much coffee but I noticed that I get super stressed few hours after drinking a cup. Once I stopped completely my anxiety basically vanished. Not even going much into details, I recommend people with anxiety to try one day without coffee and see if it works for you too!

  • jo

    Enjoy reading your blog, but I don’t know where people get the info on caffeine in coffees – I see it wrong time and time again.
    As a barista we are taught that arabica beans that are commonly used to produce espresso coffee actually have less caffeine than robusta coffee beans which are used to produce instant coffee.
    Therefore a standard long black will have less caffeine than a black instant coffee (provided your espresso is 100% arabica beans & the instant is the common robusta beans)

  • We’re in the grip of a caffeine epidemic, using it as a crutch to get through the day – through life. Better to get to the root cause of the exhaustion.

  • Lisa

    Yes please! Re #10 – I’d love to know more about tumeric and AI – thanks!

  • Stacey Clark

    What are your thoughts on yerba mate? I’m off coffee and caffeinated green, white and black teas for three months now. Had a small cup of coffee a few days ago and it definitely affected my gut. But yerba mate has no affect on my gut, although it does contain caffeine.

  • Jennifer

    I too have Hashimotos, and other unusual digestive issues that result in ibs symtons. I currently drink at least 4 instant coffees a day, often more, plus tea….I think the time has come (I am in the right place ) to rid myself of this addiction. There is no better day than today (although I have already had 2). It’s never too late to make important changes to your health. Thanks for the inspiration x

  • Margreet

    I have just been diagnosed with Hashimotos and trying to get my head around what to do about it. About to start my 2 clean weeks/ elimination diet of no stimulants (coffee, alcohol, sugar) or allergens (gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and corn) and reintroduce some things to see how it affects me and go from there. Thanks for sharing so many A.I. specific blog posts. Quitting, coffee, bread and good cheese won’t be easy! Good thing I love veggies. Will eat lots of I Quit Sugar recipes. Thanks

  • marihari

    I’m interested in the part about Th1 and Th2 as related to MS. I’m not sure which the MS would correlate with, but I’ve always thought that turmeric was highly anti inflammatory so now I’m extra confused

  • joslyn

    Thank you for your great blogs and interviews! I was recently diagnosed
    with Hashis and I eat organically and healthily, but learned more things
    from your interview with Andrea and on your blog. I drink a small
    cappuccino, organic which is made with organic, low acid coffee, and
    organic 2% milk and two teaspoons of raw organic sugar. (No spike in
    energy or stomach pains like I had when I used to drink even a 4oz cup
    of starbuck’s coffee years ago.) I do have one daily, along with a
    veggie protein powder drink with seeds and coconut oil. Otherwise, that
    is the only sugar I generally have. How would decaf organic coffee be,
    would that be better or is what I’m doing now, ok? Thanks so much for
    any feedback!

  • coffeelover

    Hi Sarah
    im on the NB in sydney and have followed you for ages, i just liked what you do. but…now i find myself with a doctor telling me i have hashimotos and it’s “treatable but not curable, you’ll be on hormone replacement the rest of your life”. i dont even like to take panadol. my worst vice is an espresso, now im gutted. lost. confused. scared. and no idea to when to turn for info. then i remembered your blog/books i have. would love any suggestions on this you have. who to see.. what to read..? the interwebs pretty terrify and overwhelming…
    thx in advance x

  • Marie

    I have lichen planopilarus – very red irritated scalp resulting in scarring and permanent hairloss. Sounds like I might be best to forgo my 2-3 cups of coffee a day. I’m sugar, gluten and wheat free and still can’t get rid of the painful rash anyone else know something that might help? ?

  • Carol

    I am being tested for an Autoimmune disease. At this time I have additional tests to focus on which disease is causing such widespread symptoms. I usually drink about three cups of coffee per week. Yesterday I had to go to the office after my Doctor’s appointment and I was so weak, I decided a good cup of coffee was a necessity. Wow, what a mistake. By lunchtime, my whole body was hurting so badly, I drove home and went straight to bed. I am now researching a more “gut-friendly” diet to improve my overall health. I’m 54 and had a Cervical Disc Replacement in C4/C5 in 2015 so I have spinal issues as well. Sarah, your comments are excellent!!

  • Jennifer

    I would love to see you discuss in further detail H1 & H2 AI diseases. I have celiac & not sure which category this falls under. I’ve been drinking 1 cup of coffee a day, but thinking that it’s triggering some symptoms for me. I will go off it for awhile & see. Thanks for the informative post!

  • Rhyschenda Owens

    You didn’t mention decaf coffees or that darker roasts have less caffeine than medium or lighter roasts.

  • Becky Wilcox

    I have alopecia universalis as well as asthma- both autoimmune diseases. I’m going to give up coffee for a while after reading this and see how I feel. Im not expecting to get a full head of hair back but it may help my sleep and overall well being!

  • Connie

    I quit caffeinated coffee 8 weeks ago and even though I only had one cup per day back then, I still crave it, and still have lower energy than I used to. However, now I sleep through the night, a solid 7-8 hours every night. It feels like a miracle and I’m pretty sure it’s due to giving up caffeine. I still drink a decaf in the morning.

  • Elise Moir Wilson

    Hi Sarah, I realize this is a couple years old but it’s current for me. I was just googling coffee and auto immune diseases and came across your blog. After doing the Whole 30 and not drinking alcohol for over 30 days, my thyroid numbers still didn’t improve. While my T3 and T4 are ok, my TSH is 5.9. Think quitting coffee might help with that? I don’t have Lupus, but do have hashimotos, sojourns, and low white blood cell count. Thoughts? I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.

  • Anise Leinen

    This was a while back, so who knows if anybody is still reading it– but I would LOVE to know if this author ever did that piece on T2 type disorders and their reaction to coffee. You mentioned green tea and turmeric as causing problems too for this type, and that’s EXACTLY what’s always happened for me!! I thought I was just nuts, because everyone says tea and turmeric are so great! If you’re still reading this, please PLEASE let us know if this piece was ever written and where we could find it.

  • Justine F. Elle

    I’m wondering how much of what you’ve written about coffee is really about caffeine, and how much is about the coffee itself. While I know that decaffeinated coffee is never truly caffeine *free*, it does have between 85-95% less caffeine than regular, and so at least for numbers 1,2,3, and 5, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Could you expand on that a bit?

  • Ann Sharman Jarvis

    I’ve been looking for some information on this Sarah! I’m a holistic nutritionist in Canada. I also have Crohn’s Disease, but keep it quiet through a paleo diet and very conscious living 🙂 You mentioned in this post that if there was further interest that you’d write more about this. Could you? This is great information. I’d love for you to go more into the caffeine/autoimmune connection. Thanks so much!!! Love your work 🙂