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The Dark Side of Coffee

One of the things that many people struggle with when transitioning to a raw diet is an addiction to caffeine, more notably, coffee. Heck, I even struggled with it and every once in a while, I’ll be honest, the habit sneaks back into my health routine and I have to cut it out again.

Isn’t it funny that what started out as a European delicacy has turned into one of the most craved substances and addictions in the world. People drink coffee more than any other beverage including soft drinks or tea. Second only to oil in world trade, annual coffee consumption worldwide was estimated in 2003 to be over 400 billion cups, with Brazil as the largest producer globally. Americans consume more than 400 million cups a day! So you can be sure that I have more than a few readers who drink the stuff.

Whether you drink or don’t drink coffee is a personal choice. But it should be a choice that is made with complete knowledge of the adverse effects rather than just being influenced by commericals and ads that promote it as a pleasurable cup of comfort, relaxation, rejuvenation, and source of health. The truth is coffee is really a caustic placebo that can lead to major side effects, health complications, and disease but you don’t ever see a commercial about how that morning cup of java actually adds to the rise in health problems, do you?

Here’s an unknown fact:

Reliance on coffee to jump start your day is actually depleting your physical, emotional, and mental state.

According to Gayle Reichler, MS RD CDN, “Within five minutes after you drink your morning coffee, the caffeine begins to stimulate your central nervous system, triggering the release of stress hormones in your body, causing a stress (‘fight or flight’) response. Within the next hour or so, after the stress response dissipates, you will probably feel more tired and hungry.’ So what appears as “quick energy” is in reality a stress response triggered by the adrenal glands!

Dangers that lurk in the cup:

The major ingredient in coffee, caffeine (or otherwise known as 1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) is the most widely consumed pharmacologically active substance in the world. Its major action is to stimulate the central nervous system. Excessive amounts in turn, increase the chance for negative side effects such as:

  • mood swings
  • depression
  • chronic fatigue
  • irritability
  • accelerated heart rate
  • panic attacks
  • dilated pupils
  • and high blood pressure

Caffeine can also have the same mind altering effect that similar psychoactive drugs such as morphine and nicotine have on the body creating pseudo-benefits. That’s why you’ll sometimes see someone smoking a cigarette alongside drinking coffee, because it acts as a double stimulant. That’s why, people who try to quit smoking, often need to give up caffeine and nicotine at the same time – and often fail as a result of the double whammy to their addictions.

Caffeine may also wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, causing it to dip and rise which can masks true hunger and cause you to overeat (if your blood sugar is low) or undereat (if your blood sugar is high). You’ll find that diet aids such as Hoodia list caffeine as one of the ingredients. Caffeine also increases respiratory rates, and for people with tight airways, it can open breathing passages. Caffeine is also a diuretic and a mild laxative. Again, two effects that are helpful to people who are trying to lose or control their weight. But it’s not wise to turn to caffeine when trying to make dietary changes in your life.

Caffeine is the biggest culprit behind the coffee addiction. It contains hydrocarbons (PAHs), theobromine which increases the stimulating effect of 40 milligrams. The only means of detoxifying the body from caffeine is to release it through the liver to eliminate the stored blood sugar releasing insulin. For people suffering with epilepsy, it can be even more dangerous, since it drops the blood sugar below normal and can trigger a seizure. It can cause hypoglycemia and increase the appetite not to mention aggravate or further complicate pre-existing conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, acid reflux, Crohn’s, or migraines (just to name a few.)

Coffee also contains tannin which is the same thing used to make leather soft and shiny. Tannin blocks the orifices of tiny cells in the body and aids in indigestion and constipation, adding stress to and diversely affecting the liver. Caffeine teamed with tannin increases the risk of neuro-genetic disorders.

According to, there are 21 compounds contained in coffee, including, chlorogenic, caffeic, cytric, malic, and lactic acids which contribute to indigestion and buildup of toxic waste, cardiovascular diseases, auto immune disorders, arthritis, and rheumatism. Additionally, when caffeine is broken down, it produces uric acid which can lead to kidney stones, gout, and other prostate conditions. Drinking coffee and other caffeinated substances can also lead to a loss of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and trace minerals.

Let’s not forget the adverse affect caffeine has with medication.

According to the Mayo Clinic, some medications and herbal supplements(such as Cipro, Noroxin, Theo-24, and Ephedra) can negatively interact with caffeine causing such side effects as nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, and raise the risk of heart attack, stroke, seizure, and even death!

While raw food consumption actually reverses health issues, increases vitality, slowing down or reversing the aging process, and weight loss, drinking coffee long-term can produce the opposite. Plus, for women, long-term coffee use can lead to osteoporosis and anemia.

For the raw foodists who still make coffee a part of their day, they may find themselves experiencing an even greater hypersensitivity to the effects of caffeine.

Healthy Alternatives:

Apart from drinking warm water with lemon, there are many non-caffeinated herbal teas you can drink as well as teecino (order at which is made from all natural ingredients, is caffeine free, contains no chemical residue, is high in potassium, is alkaline, and rich in inulin that improves digestion and elimination.

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.