The Dark Side Of Coffee And It's Not What You Think.
The science and study of caffeine’s effects on our bodies are pretty involved--and pretty interesting, as you’ll see below. Before I get to what’s found under the microscope, I’ll ask you to answer the question first. What do you think it does to your skin? I once had a client who figured out that if she drank a third cup of anything caffeinated (she’d typically drink two cups, but had gotten so tired at work that she would sometimes go for a third) she’d feel the onset of a welt of swelling somewhere around her nose, deep under the surface, and mostly invisible to anyone but her: the onset of cystic acne. Wisely, she did not freak-out or attack it in any way. She drank plenty of water, applied a topical probiotic acne solution and within a day or two it went away.
I love telling that story because it touches upon one of my favorite practices: Teaching my clients to be their own skin detective. Some clients get topical acne from caffeine and related stress--we all react differently to different foods, vices or activities in different amounts. For some of us, one cup of coffee is too much. Others can handle multiple cups. We all hear about the benefits of green tea, but another client of mine swears that while she can drink a moderate amount of coffee, when she tried switching to green tea she, too, had a case of cystic acne.
Now let’s talk about what’s going on in your body that could cause outbreaks or skin damage:
Dehydration: Like sodium and alcohol, caffeine dehydrates our bodies. Alone or in concert, they make the liver work in overtime which causes toxic build up in the body. When our bodies are on toxic overload, the presence of low-level toxins that make their way to your skin disrupt healthy skin function. While we can sing coffee’s praises as a laxative, it is a diuretic, and losing hydration has a direct effect on skin. Dehydrated skin causes inflammation (redness) and premature aging (collagen loss). And without enough water flushing your system, toxic buildup in the skin can also cause acne.
Creamer Clogging: When you consume caffeine in the form of light or sweet coffee--cappuccinos or lattes, let’s say--you also run the risk of consuming additional acne boosters. Coffee triggers acne because of the milk and sugar we consume with it. There are many other triggers outlined here such as reduction in gut flora and the presence of mycotoxins. According to clear skin forever, milk is the worst thing to consume if you want to maintain clear skin, thanks to its hormones, its effect on the production of sebum, and it's terrible quality of gluing dead skin cells together.
Destructive Sweeteners: Aside from causing dehydration and creating acne, sugar causes glycation which causes inflammation and premature aging. Around the holidays, did you eat more sugary foods and sweets? You may have noticed your skin looked less luminous, and more slack. Yup, eating those extra cookies and cake make your skin less healthy. Your skin loses elasticity thanks to glycation and contributes to a lackluster appearance. You are then pedaling backwards in order to go forwards. What do I mean by that? You have to spend your time repairing your skin when you should be maintaining its strength. It’s ok. We all slip every once in a while.
Morning Cup of Pesticides:
According to Sara Fiore from the Equal Exchange, Fairly Traded, conventional coffee is among the most heavily chemically treated foods in the world. It is steeped in synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides. Not only does the environment suffer from this overload, but so do the people who live in it. Farmers are exposed to a high level of chemicals while spraying the crops and while handling them during harvest. The surrounding communities are also impacted through chemical residues in the air and water. These chemical presences are not just unpleasant; many are highly toxic and detrimental to human health. Another sad truth about conventional coffee is most conventionally grown coffee plants are hybrids developed to flourish in open sun. Coffee naturally prefers the shade, but a crop grown in thick forest is more difficult to tend and harvest, and cannot be planted as densely. Forests are cleared to make room for open fields in which to grow mass amounts of this sun-loving coffee variety. Production increases, but the wild ecosystem of flora and fauna is demolished. Natural pest-deterrents, like birds and lizards, are left without a habitat – and coffee-ruining insects overpopulate, leading to more pesticide use. And without the natural fertilizer of these ecosystems (bird droppings, leaf litter, and natural decay) the use of chemical fertilizer increases. Can you imagine what these chemicals on top of all the other chemicals we come in contact with are doing to our skin?
There is Good News!
Tannins: A close male friend likes to joke that his English/Irish grandparents lived well into their 90s because they drank so much tea, their internal organs were preserved and turned into supple leather. While there’s absolutely no science behind that anecdote, it does point to the fact that tannins--which are present in coffee and black teas--are used to tan animal hides into leather. And where does all that tannin end up? Being processed by your liver, which filters gunk for your body. Sadly, your liver also retains a fair amount of these toxins over time, which can contribute to liver spots on your skin. Republic of Tea has a “tea finder” so you can order fair trade, organic, biodynamic, non-GMO, etc.
Adaptogens in Organic, Fair Trade Coffee. YES PLEASE!
According to Dr. Tieraona Low Dog MD, adaptogens are a category of plants that act in a general and gentle way to support the body’s natural response to stress. Whether the stressor is external (e.g., demanding job, worrying over finances, caring for parents/children) or internal (e.g., poor diet, lack of sleep) – adaptogens can help bring your body back into balance. Some adaptogens are calming, others are mildly stimulating, some are supportive of focus and working memory, while others help support a healthy immune response.
Adaptogens are set apart from other medicinal plants by their ability to bring your body back into balance. Feeling wound up? Adaptogens can calm you down. Can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed in the morning? Adaptogens provide an energy boost. Because there are such a wide array of adaptogens, no matter your challenge, adaptogens can meet you where you are, centering you without disrupting your body’s normal functions. With such a wide array of benefits hidden inside adaptogens, it’s important to be cognizant of the type of adaptogen you take and the time of day you take it. Recognizing the subtle differences between how these plants work is crucial for unlocking the power from within them
Tieraona Low Dog, MD has gathered, grown, studied and used botanical medicines for more than 40 years. Wildcrafter Botanicals was born in the northern New Mexico fields, gardens and apothecary of Dr. Low Dog. She is a scientist, clinician, educator and author. Dr. Low Dog is considered one of the nation’s leading experts in botanicals.
Dr. Low Dog sources her coffee from women and community owned coffee cooperatives in Colombia. Their practices ensure that our coffee is Fair Trade and our blends are certified organic. Choose from Energy, Focus, Defend and Calm or try them all!
- Balance and Moderate.
- Listen to your Body!
- Read your Skin.
- Investigate your Coffee Wisely!