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8 Herbal Coffee Alternatives, Including 2 You Can Grow

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11 Ways Coffee Impacts Your Hormones

By Magdalena Wszelaki of Thyroid Diet Coach

Black magic. Black medicine. Morning elixir.

If you had to give up either coffee or the internet for 2 weeks, which one would you choose? How about either coffee or sex for 2 weeks? If you’d rather relinquish anything to keep your coffee, you’d be on par with the majority of the people around you.

Taking steps to remove gluten, dairy or sugar from your diet can feel like a breeze compared to giving up coffee. However, as with anything that makes us feel that good, there is another side to your java fixation, and you need to know about it.

Benefits of coffee

Many reliable studies are often cited in confirming that coffee is full of antioxidants and polyphenols. However, these same antioxidants and polyphenols can also be found abundantly in many fruits and vegetables.

In addition, there are also a variety studies showing coffee’s role in the prevention of cancer, diabetes, depression, cirrhosis of the liver, gallstones, etc.

Beyond science, there is also the undeniable feeling of comfort in a morning routine, a stop at a favorite coffee shop, the smell, the buzz, and the energetic boost and mental clarity that come with a good cup of joe.

Everyone reacts differently

Is coffee bad for everybody? Not really. Each of us can have a different reaction to coffee. Some people get jittery and nervous, while others feel uplifted for hours. Many coffee drinkers report feeling good for the first two hours (mainly due to a dopamine spike), but eventually their energy and mental alertness will start dropping rapidly.

Coffee is metabolized in Phase I of the liver detoxification pathway, and some people have a harder time breaking it down – we call them “slow metabolizers.” This can either manifest immediately, presenting shaky and jittery feelings, or in a delayed fashion, such as poor sleep and digestive issues.

What is so worrisome about coffee?

If you are suffering from thyroid issues, Hashimoto’s, adrenal fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, hot flashes or hormone-related conditions, it’s important to be fully aware of the “other side of coffee” and make an educated decision whether it is good for you.

Here are some of the lesser-known facts about coffee:

  1. Increases blood sugar levels

According to this study, caffeine increases blood sugar levels. This is especially dangerous for people with hypoglycemia (or low sugar levels) who feel jittery, shaky, moody and unfocused when hungry. Blood sugar fluctuations cause cortisol spikes, which not only exhaust the adrenals, but also deregulate the immune system. This is highly undesirable for those of us with adrenal fatigue, Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease. Such cortisol spikes are also highly inflammatory (read more below).

  1. Creates sugar and carbohydrate cravings

As the result of the above (increase in sugar levels), when our blood sugar levels come down, we need an emergency fix to bring them back up. This is why people who drink coffee at breakfast or indulge in sugary and processed breakfasts crave carbs and sugar by 11am or later in the day.

  1. Contributes to acid reflux and damages gut lining

Coffee stimulates the release of gastrin, the main gastric hormone, which speeds up intestinal transit time. Coffee can also stimulate the release of bile (which is why some people run to the bathroom soon after drinking coffee) and digestive enzymes.

In a person with a healthy digestion, this is not a big deal. However, for people with autoimmune conditions, compromised digestion (such as IBS, or “leaky gut”), this can cause further digestive damage to the intestinal lining (source).

  1. Exhausts the adrenals

Coffee stimulates the adrenals to release more cortisol, our stress hormone; this is partly why we experience a wonderful but temporary and unsustainable burst of energy.

What many of us don’t realize is that our tired adrenals are often the cause of unexplained weight gain, sleeping problems, feeling emotionally fragile, depression and fatigue. Drinking coffee while experiencing adrenal fatigue is only adding fuel to the fire.

  1. Worsens PMS and lumpy breasts

It’s well-established that coffee contributes to estrogen dominance (source), which can mean one of two things: we either have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, or we have an imbalance in the estrogen metabolites (some are protective and some are dangerous).

PMS, lumpy breasts, heavy periods, cellulite and even breast cancer (which is an estrogenic cancer) can be symptoms of estrogen dominance.

  1. Gluten-cross reactive food

50% of people with gluten sensitivities also experience cross reactivity with other foods, including casein in milk products, corn, coffee, and almost all grains, because their protein structures are similar. Cyrex Labs provides a test for gluten cross-reactive foods.

Many people report having a similar reaction to coffee as they do to gluten.

  1. Impacts the conversion of T4 to T3 hormones

Coffee impacts the absorption of levothyroxine (the synthetic thyroid hormone); this is why thyroid patients need to take their hormone replacement pill at least an hour before drinking coffee.

The indirect but important point is that coffee contributes to estrogen dominance, cited above, and estrogen dominance inhibits T4 to T3 conversion.

  1. Can cause miscarriages

This study showed that women who drink coffee during their pregnancy are at a higher risk of miscarriage.

  1. Is highly inflammatory

Any functional or integrative doctor would say the majority of modern diseases are caused by inflammation – a smoldering and invisible fire found on a cellular level.

This study found that caffeine is a significant contributor to oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Chronic body pains and aches, fatigue, skin problems, diabetes and autoimmune conditions are just some of the conditions related to inflammation.

  1. Can contribute to and even cause osteoporosis

It is well-known that coffee changes our body pH to a lower, and thus more acidic, level. A low pH (which means a more acidic body) can contribute to osteoporosis.

This study has confirmed that habitual coffee drinking among postmenopausal women was the leading cause of osteoporosis.

  1. Can cause insomnia and poor sleep

This study showed that 400mg of “caffeine taken 6 hours before bedtime has important disruptive [sleep] effects.”

This, again, is dependent on the individual and his or her ability to metabolize caffeine. Some people experience deep and restful sleep whether or not they drink coffee, while others do not, even if they stop drinking anything caffeinated at noon.

How sensitive are you and how does coffee impact your sleep? You will only find out when you give up caffeinated drinks for 5 days – then your body will tell you!

What about decaf?

It’s a disputed area, but many health practitioners don’t suggest it for two reasons. For one, many manufacturers use a chemical process to remove caffeine from the coffee beans. The result is less caffeine, but more chemicals. Secondly, it is the caffeine in the coffee that has the health benefits we discussed above. Without it, you are left with little benefit.

The change we resist the most is often the change we need the most

Many people who have made extensive dietary changes will admit that coffee was the last and hardest thing to eliminate from their diets. Coffee is our ritual; it’s our best friend.

But is it really? It is often said that the change we resist the most is the change our body needs the most. Let your intuition be your guide.

Bottom line

You will only know how you really feel without coffee when you get off it for 3 to 5 days (and please don’t say it does not impact you until you try this experiment). The first 2 days will be tough, but that tells you something important about this addictive substance, does it not?

Many women who have given up coffee and caffeine report better sleep within days, fewer hot flashes, less depression and anxiety, and many more other benefits over time.

What are some substitute options?

If you feel like you still need a slight kick, go for less-caffeinated options, such as green tea. Use the below infographic to guide you. For eight caffeine free herbal coffee alternatives, check out part one of this post.

How much caffeine is in your drink?

 

Magdalena Wszelaki is a Thyroid Diet Coach who specializes in treatment of thyroid conditions using the power of foods. She successfully reversed her autoimmune thyroid disease and helped hundreds of people to heal their thyroid with foods.

Disclaimer:  I am an affiliate of Thyroid Diet Coat, which means I do receive a portion of any sales from this site. I allowed Magdalena to share this information because I think she has a valid approach that will be of value to some of my readers. As some of you may know, I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. Until I was diagnosed, I didn't have a clue what was wrong, I just felt lousy. You can read part one of my thyroid journey here. I found a different doctor and am now on Armour Thyroid, but I hope to be able to slowly heal my immune system. I can tell you from experience that my diet has made a HUGE difference in the way I feel, with or without medication.

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48 Comments

  1. I love coffee but I still go between coffe beans and a mixture like the Happy Liver root coffee. I buy my supplies from Rose Mountain herbs and grind it myself. It has a really nice coffee flavor, is not bitter and like the name implies is good for the liver. Try it! You will be pleasantly surprised. P

  2. Wonderful post! I stopped drinking coffee at the end of October of last year and sometimes I still get a craving. These will make perfect substitutions. Many thanks!

  3. hi there!
    Have you tried the “Altrei coffee” from baker creek seeds? It’s the seeds of some special kind of lupine from Italy- they grow it specifically for drinking like coffee. It looks pretty hardy too.

  4. I’m glad to see this post as I’ve been battling my first attack of acid reflux and find I can no longer drink coffee OR most teas. Tried Chamomile and can’t even handle that. But I do miss my coffee. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. I am not a coffee drinker (jmo, bleh) however I have children who find the aroma enticing. That being said, a few years ago I went on a search for alternatives and happily came across a post for taking organic roasted chicory root & organic roasted dandelion root and boiling in a pot of water to create your own “coffee”. My kids call it their gingerbread coffee =)
    I haven’t tried it, but a couple times a year I give in and buy the Frontier roots needed for their drink (rather spendy, but worth it). Thank you for offering other options with this post.

    1. I started drinking coffee back when we had the family catering business and were putting in 16 hour days. I’ve never been a big coffee drinker, but the bitter winter cold just makes me crave something a little stronger than herbal tea. I think the dandelion and chicory make a good combination, too, just like the kids. 🙂

    1. Yerba Mate does appear to have a more nutrients than coffee, and some caffeine but not as much caffeine as coffee, so it may be a good choice for some. Looks like I have to work my way through test tasting a few more options.

      1. Yerba mate is definitely an acquired taste! Guayaki out on the west coast is a good source. And if routine is part of why you love coffee, try using the traditional gourds and “straws” to drink your mate. I can’t quite remember the terms but it supposedly doesn’t have caffeine but it has another “eine” substance that mimics caffeine without the potentially negative effects. Thanks so much for this thread!

        1. From the Guayaki website: “Brewed from the naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaves of the species of holly native to the South American Atlantic rainforest (Ilex paraguariensis), it contains 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant polyphenols.”

  6. I have an allergy to chicory. Did you come across any coffee substitutes that did not have chicory?

  7. We also drink chickpea/garbanzo bean coffee. it is completely natural and prepared in the same way as regular coffee. i discovered it in my village and started to sell 🙂 they just roast it as coffee beans and grind..

  8. Delicious Obsessions Etsy Shop isn’t selling their blends anymore. They are selling an ebook guide for DIY coffee substitutes. I have had the Teeccino which is pretty good but I am going to try the Pero brand since I can buy that at my local grocery store. I stopped drinking caffeine a few years ago but am finding that now I am having trouble with too much coffee causing me heartburn so I need to find an alternative because I really love coffee.

    1. Thanks for the note on that. I need to update the post. Jessica stopped selling because of the stupid FDA regs – food is a drug because it may improve your health. Heck – if you’re eating the right food, all of it should improve your health! I really liked the convenience of the premade blends.

  9. One coffee in the morning is fine, but later in the day not so much, but I do crave it! Nice to have alternatives. I am going to try roasting various grains and seeds like thistle and see what I come up with, since believe it or not, dandelion doesn’t grow around here! (S Fl)

  10. I love coffee, very good quality coffee to be more precise (who does NOT? 🙂

    To be honest the “for” and “against” coffee voices out there are not so clear. BUT one thing seems clear to me (at least 🙂 drinking one cup a day wont kill you.

    For the rest of the time I drink either herbal teas, or coffee alternatives. The coffee alternatives all claim they taste like coffee – unfortunately majority don’t resemble it even. Some are still nice to drink though lol

    My favorite coffee like beverage is actually made from palm date seeds (http://www.dateseedcoffee.com) – it tastes like mild coffee but still nice and rich in flavors.

    My suggestion unless you can not drink coffee at all – keep to one or two cups (no later than 16:00 for the last cup) for the rest of the day enjoy the HUGE variety of teas out there – you are bound to find something you like 🙂

  11. Has anyone tried Capomo? Made from the Maya nut. 100% caffeine and gluten free. No barley, or other grains. It’s expensive (imo) but it sounds tasty. I’m trying to find a gluten-free, grain-free coffee alternative that actually tastes like coffee. 🙂

    1. I’m looking for a gluten free alternative, as well. I loved Postum and Roma, but all those grain beverages are out, now, since I was forced to give up gluten, and contrary to some reports, Teecino and Dandy Blend are *NOT* gluten free. Molecules matter.

      I’ll look for the Altrei and Capomo. I sure would like to find something earthy, roasty and full-bodied, without caffeine or gluten.

      Chicory is so sour it curdles every coconut milk creamer I try.

        1. Dandy Blend, made from roasted water derived extracts of all ingredients, is actually gluten free because gluten and gliadin are both totally insoluble in water, so don’t pass to the beverage. Go to http://www.dandyblend.com. click on downloads, and print out the lab test results from Elisa Tech Labs, on of the pre-eminent gluten testing labs in the US. Recent questions about the possibility of partially-hydrated gluten passing through was tested by University of Guelph, and the conclusion was that there are no chemical processes involved that could fractionate the gluten and make it water soluble, so, in 2016 with those data in hand, Health Canada approved it as gluten free. There may be other properties that make Dandy Blend troublesome for people, but it is NOT gluten. The Dandy Blend company offers free samples to those who want to try it before buying to see if they will have problems, so contact them through their website above.

    2. I have been drinking Capomo in conjunction with regular coffee for a couple months. I am slowly decreasing the coffee to wean off it. Capomo tasted just like coffee but it is pricey. It is supposed to have a natural energy boost but does not give a “kick” that I needed to start every morning. I am still searching for a GF substitute that has the same effects of coffee (without aggravating my acid reflux) but not so expensive as the Capomo.

    3. Yes, I think Capomo is the best of all options I’ve tried (Dandy blend, Teecino, Postum, Caffix, Pero! I would like to try the Ayurvedic one though. So far Capomo is my favorite – most like coffee, but pricey.

  12. I tried Teeccino. I loved it for the first few days. But then I think all the inulin caught up with me… not a happy tummy! Has anyone else had that effect that you’ve heard? Did I drink too much of it?

    1. Interesting. I haven’t had a problem with it, but I usually only drink a cup or two per day. Do you take probiotics? Over time your system should adjust to an increased prebiotic load, but it’s likely best to cut down consumption and increase slowly.

  13. I am also looking for an alternative to coffee. Many moons ago I enjoyed a Pioneer brand – chicory, barley & figs. I’ve recently found out that I am allergic to barley. I’ve made note of Frontier dandelion, Altrei & Capomo. ty for the tips..

  14. I am looking for a caffeine coffee without the coffee. I love coffee but it doesn’t love me. I have become allergic to it over time but still need my morning caffeine fix and a hot coffee type drink. I love tea but tea isn’t coffee especially in the morning. I see most of the products on the thread are caffeine free. Any suggestions?

    1. These are herbal coffee alternatives, so yes, they are caffeine free. When you say coffee doesn’t love you, what do you mean? Acid reflux, or something else? If you still want coffee flavor with less acidity, you might try mixing half herbal coffee and half actual coffee. My husband has hated coffee all of his life, but he likes caffeine.

      When he’s home on the weekends, I make half hazelnut Teeccino and half organic breakfast blend coffee (I like Equal Exchange Organic Coffee, Breakfast Blend. The finish on it is smoother and less acidic than many coffees I have tried.) I finish the coffee with a scoop of collagen peptides, a dose of heavy cream, and a dab of honey in each cup. He still needs to sip it, not slug it down, but the guy who hates coffee will drink this option.

  15. I recently came down with IBS-d, so chicory, caffeine, and gluten are out. Le sigh. That Ayurvedic one sounds nice, though it does contain rye. Hoping the gluten’s in a small enough amount that it won’t trigger my stupid bowels. Starting a teaching job soon and won’t have time to spend half the morning in the bathroom! But I gotta have my morning stimulating beverage! Haha what a dilemma, eh.

  16. I like Runa tea as a coffee alternative. It doesn’t taste at all like coffee, but it is made from the leaf of a South American tree that is stimulating, but not as harsh as coffee. It comes in a couple of flavors (peppermint is one, cinnamon/lemongrass is my favorite).

  17. I just discovered Celestial Seasons Roastaroma tea. Wonderful herbal tea coffee substitute, caffeine free

  18. I’m looking to make recipes that taste like coffee without any actual coffee and that are 100% caffein free. Which of these alternatives do you recommend may work best in cakes and coconut ice cream? Thx.

    1. For flavoring, I’d opt for the Dandy Blend, Pero or Cafix instant beverages. Which one would work best for you depends on your taste preferences. All are caffeine free.

  19. Thanks for this article. I really need to cut down on coffee – not just for my health but coffee is getting more expensive and should be drinking less anyway. I will try some of these

  20. I recently found this thread, and have been enjoying DelighTeas Ayurvedic Morning Blend – Herbal Coffee. It’s made with chicory, carob, dandelion, and cardamom. I find it to be a wonderful alternative to my regular coffee. Sometimes I’ll even make a ‘half caff’ with part regular and part herbal coffee.

    Great option for vegan, caffeine-free & gluten-free. Hope it helps!

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